Longevity drugs are intended for healthy dogs, which changes the risk-benefit calculus. “It’s one thing if a dog is on death’s door and you’re giving them some late-breaking treatment,” said Bev Klingensmith, a Great Dane breeder in Iowa who also has a Great Dane and a golden retriever of her own. “Giving my young, healthy dog a brand-new drug would seem a little scary.”
Even drugs that deliver on all their promises will raise ethical questions. “If animals are living longer, do we have the resources and commitment to provide lives worth living?” Dr. Anne Quain, a veterinarian and an expert on veterinary ethics at the University of Sydney, said in an email. “What if we see more dogs outliving their owners?”
Reforming the breeding practices that have contributed to life-shortening health problems in many dogs and expanding access to basic veterinary care might be a better way to improve canine lives, she added. “We can save many ‘dog years’ by ensuring that as many dogs have access to that care as possible,” she said.
And while scientists gather more data on potential longevity drugs, there are steps that dog owners can now take to foster healthier aging, experts said, including keeping their dogs lean and providing ample exercise and mental stimulation.
Ms. Halioua admitted to having a soft spot for senior dogs. “They just want a nice bed to sleep on,” she said, as her elderly Rottweiler, Della, napped. Della, who has lymphoma and dementia, is not on LOY-001 because enrolling her in the company’s studies would present a conflict of interest, Ms. Halioua said, but the dog seemed happy, she noted.
Ultimately, even if scientists can delay a pet owner’s heartbreak, they are unlikely to prevent it altogether. “These are definitely not immortality or radical life-span-extension drugs,” Ms. Halioua said in an email. She added, “Nothing we are developing could make a dog live forever.”