The Genetics of Canine Aging and Longevity

Sarah Canterberry 

It is a well known phenomenon among owners and breeders that purebred dogs exhibit a decrease in life expectancy as the breed size increases.  Researchers at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine believe that this is due in part to underlying genetic factors.  The long-term objectives of their work include assessment of genes most likely to affect the aging process in the dog.  These scientists plan to characterize genes in the dog that appear to be linked to the aging process in an attempt to increase not only the lifespan of our canine companions, but to also improve the quality of life for dogs in the geriatric population.

On-going work is focused on defining single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which are single base pair changes, in 7 genes of interest selected from the previously mentioned set of genes.  Analysis of these SNPs across various breeds has the potential to identify genes that cause larger dogs to experience a shorter life span in comparison with their smaller counterparts.  DNA samples have been collected, in the form of buccal swabs, from dogs of different sizes and different life expectancies.  These samples will be used to compare the aforementioned genes between these diverse breeds in hopes of discovering genetic factors that contribute to the aging process in the dog.

By now, you are probably wondering, “What can I do to help?”  These scientists are in constant need of willing participants, and are asking for your help.  DNA samples, to be taken in the form of buccal swabs, are needed from unrelated Giant Schnauzers (for research purposes, dogs are considered unrelated if they have no common grandparents).  Please email Sarah Canterberry ( to obtain a collection kit(s) which includes an information form, swabs, and postage paid return envelope.  Please indicate the number of dogs you would like to enroll in the study and include your mailing address.  Your contribution to this on-going research for the improvement of our pets’ lives is greatly appreciated.  For additional information on this and many other on-going canine research projects at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine see the Canine Genetics Research Laboratory website at  

We are particularly interested in the Schnauzers and are in need of DNA samples from Giant Schnauzers that can be taken in the form of cheek swabs.  We would prefer samples from unrelated dogs; however, the only requirement for participation is that dogs are AKC registered, or were eligible for registration, and have pedigree information.  If you would like to take an in depth look at our study, please visit our website at

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