Calling all dog owners, Purdue University needs your help

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LAFAYETTE, IN –Purdue University wants your dog.

The university is joining more than 40 scientists and researchers from across the country looking at the general health and wellness of dogs.

“What we hope to accomplish with this study is to learn more about healthy aging,” said Audrey Ruple, assistant professor of One Health Epidemiology in the College of Health and Human Sciences’ Department of Public Health.

The study, called the Dog Aging Project, will take 10 years and track dogs through their regular vet visits. It’s not only designed to study and improve dog health but the health of humans as well.

“We have done a really good job of increasing our life span, we obviously live longer than we did 100 years ago. But we haven’t done a very good job of increasing our healthspan, so how much of that time that we’re healthy,” Ruple said.

Ruple says humans and dogs have shared genetic information, and experience something called convergent evolution. This means by studying one, they may be able to learn how to help the other.

“We’ve been companions for over 10,000 years. And so, as there have been different pressures put onto our genetic systems, we’ve actually experienced similar pressures,” she said.

Ruple says on average, men spend about 20% of their lifespan in poor health while women spend about 25% in poor health. The goal of the study would be to health increase the healthspan of dogs and humans.

“ This is the really important part of this study is by tracking animals in time, over time, we’re actually learning information in real-time. So then we can figure out things that are more causal, so in other words, the reason why diseases occur and why healthy and unhealthy processes happen.”

So far, Ruple says the study has already secured about 75,000 dogs as subjects. They’re hoping to get to 100,000, so they need more dog owners to volunteer.

“We are enrolling citizen scientists in our project.  So, every dog is coming and enrolling along with their owner.  I think this is a great opportunity for people to become a part of the scientific process,” she said.

Ruple says the information learned over the course of the study could make a big impact on the health of dogs and humans alike.

“We’re going to learn a lot of information, and maybe its information that isn’t going to help their dog today but it might help their next dog.”, she said.

If you’re interested in having your dog be part of the study, you can click here.

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