Anti-aging pill for dogs? Yes, that’s right. According to BuzzFeed News, some people are getting their vets to prescribe rapamycin for their dogs. Rapamycin is a drug that has been around a long time and used primarily during organ transplants to suppress a person’s immune system; it can be extremely dangerous. But, studies have shown that it can extend lifespans of yeast, worms, flies, mice and dogs.
In low doses, rapamycin does not appear to have serious side effects for dogs; its only noted side effect is that some dogs drink more water. And, researchers are now testing it on some dogs with serious health conditions. University of Tennessee researchers, who have tested rapamycin on 40 dogs with aggressive blood vessel cancer, say that it has extended their lives by five to six months.
The risks and benefits of rapamycin are not fully understood. There’s lots more to learn about the drug. But, if your dog’s health is failing, rapamycin could be an option. Any vet can prescribe it. But, like many prescription drugs, the cost is steep–about $200 each month.
If you’d like to include your dog in a University of Washington study that is looking at aging in dogs and ways to extend the healthy life of dogs, check out the Dog Aging Project.
If you’re wondering whether rapamycin is being tested on human beings with health conditions, it is (see box below). It is not being studied in healthy people because of adverse side effects. But, a Nature article explains that a number of experts in the biology of aging “believe that pharmacological interventions to slow ageing are a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.” And, rapamycin and derivative compounds may be drugs that both slow down age-related health conditions and extend people’s lifespans.