Ever heard of the dog aging project? Well, even if you haven't yet, you should! In this episode, Dr. Jen the vet and Dr. Jason Chatfield are joined by Dr. Kate Creevy, the Chief Veterinary Officer for the dog aging project.
"The Dog Aging Project is an innovative research initiative that brings together a community of dogs, owners, veterinarians, researchers, and volunteers to carry out the most ambitious canine health study in the world. The Dog Aging Project team will follow tens of thousands of companion dogs for ten years or more in order to identify the biological, lifestyle, and environmental factors that maximize healthy longevity. We expect to gain insights that will increase our ability to prevent, diagnose, and treat age-related diseases, thereby helping our dogs, and by extension, ourselves, live longer, healthier lives."
- From the dog aging project website
More on Dr. Creevy: https://vscs.tamu.edu/person/6067/
More on the dog aging project: https://dogagingproject.org
To nominate your dog to join the study: https://redcap.dogagingproject.org/surveys/?s=DYYDHK8HAP
V shares her view from vet school at the 13:55 mark and she tells us all about her very first surgery (complete with pics of the cute dog as well!).
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Hello and welcome to chats with the Chatfields. This is a podcast expand your idea of what impacts veterinarians, pet owners, and basically all animal lovers in the galaxy as humans. We are your hosts. I'm Dr. Jen the vet. And I'm Dr. Jason. If you have not yet subscribed to our show,
just go to Chatfieldshow.com or our YouTube channel, @Chatfieldshow and subscribe today. And if you want to reach us and you've got a message full of love and positivity, you can find me at Jen@Chatfieldshow.com
And for all the folks who like to keep it real you can find me at Jason@Chatfieldshow.com
Okay, today, friends into the chat room. I'm super excited. I have been waiting for weeks for this episode, because we have Dr. Kate Creevy. Coming to the chat room to talk all about this incredible new thing. Maybe you've heard about it. I guess maybe you've been living under a rock. It's possible to Jason Have you heard of the dog aging project
I had I had heard it mentioned but I really didn't know what it was. So as per the usual, I'm going to be learning along with the chatterboxes today.
Well, let me introduce our guest because she needs an introduction. Okay, this lady. She is a full professor of small animal clinical sciences at Texas a&m University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
Do all kinds of crazy stuff. That's right.
And she's also the Chief Veterinary Officer for the dog aging project that I mentioned. And how did she get there? Well, she's a board certified small animal veterinary internist. She has a primary research interest in longevity healthspan morbidity and mortality within and among dog breeds. Whoa. As well as wait for it. Secondary research interest in infectious disease.
Oh my god, that was too long of a pause. No. That's good. That's your jam. This is your person right here. Sit back and drink my coffee.
Okay. So secondary research interests include infectious disease and pedagogical theory and science education. But since 2007, she had been collaborating with Dr. Daniel promise, Lo, he's a geneticist whose research focus is aging in order to study the genetic and environmental determinants of aging and companion dogs. There recently funded dog aging Project is an ambitious one. And it will undertake the largest prospective study of companion dogs ever performed. I feel like we should have an echo when I say yeah, ever. Yes. I know. They are going to they initially were going to follow 10,000 Dogs across the nation for at least five years. 10,000 dogs consternation for at least five years, but I think it's gotten even bigger. Dr. Creamy, get in the chat room. Will you tell us all about this?
I mean, please tell us, Dr. Creevy! Welcome!
Thank you guys so much for having me. And thanks for fun and kind introduction. It's fun to be here. And I love talking about the dog aging project. So fire away, I'll tell you anything you want to know.
Okay, so you've expanded, so it was you were going to initially you guys were gonna have 10,000 dogs, right. But now you have how many?
over 42,000 Dogs currently enrolled. And so what happened was our initial plan included a relatively carefully constructed group of 10,000 dogs, whom we would recruit and identify and have owners provide information about. And so many people were excited about participating that once we built the online platform that enables us to collect this information from dog owners, there was no reason to limit it. Right. So there was no reason to limit it. So we currently have unlimited enrollment, and it's still ongoing. Within that unlimited enrollment, we do still have some of these groups that we call cohorts that are carefully constructed to represent a range of dogs sizes and breeds and ages and those sorts of things within that overall group. But there's no reason that we can't just take everyone who wants to participate. So currently, you can still sign up your dog dog agent project.org Nominate your dog, and that that site will walk you through a series of steps to enroll your dog in the project.
What is the deadline? Is there got to be a deadline, right? Is there a red line that has
no no deadline? As long as as long as we are able to sustain funding we plan to continue so our initial grant was funded for five years from the National Institute of Aging. We've recently submitted for an additional five years of funding and we're waiting to hear back but we're also cultivating other grant support and donors support. And so it is our goal to build this into a forever study that doesn't that doesn't stop on the grant cycle that just keeps going.
Wow. And that is kind of the holy grail of research, right one that doesn't stop on a grant cycle. Oh my god, I love it. Okay, so now. So for people who are listening who are like dog aging project, what dog's age? That's it, like who get like, why? Like that already happens whether you want it to or not. And honestly, we don't want it to, right, like they just don't they don't live long enough. So, so what like, why, how come? What's the point of gathering all this information? Yep,
great question. So as a veterinarian, specifically, as an internist, my patients are old dogs, most of my patients are old dogs, the kinds of things that you see an internist for are usually diseases of aging. And so I have a personal interest in old dogs, because we love our old dogs, our dogs who've become members of our families, and they fit into our lives. And they're important to us in so many ways. When we see them age, we want to help them have the best possible experience as they age, and enjoy their lives fully as long as they possibly can. Of course, it'd be great for dogs to live longer. And that's a goal of the project. But more important to me is for dogs to live better when they're old. You know, most of us given the choice, would you rather live to 100 with a lot of disease? Or would you rather live to 85 and excellent health, many of us would choose a period in excellent health. And so this is the concept known as health span, which is different from life span. So lifespan is just the period of time that you're alive or the period of time your dog is alive. health span is the portion of your life that is spent in good health free from chronic disease or debilitating disease. And so for me, I want to maximize the health span of my own dogs and of the dogs that I see in my practice. So as a veterinarian, the goals of this project pretty straightforward. The question that we get a lot is, why would the National Institute on Aging care about aging dogs, because the NIH and the NIA are for people. And the reason that the NIA is interested in aging dogs is because studying aging in dogs is an excellent opportunity to study aging and people. So this is what we call translational research, meaning something we learn in dogs translates is the same as the same problem or disease, or age related phenomenon as people. And dogs are the very best animals to study for aging, because they live in our homes. They eat our food, they drink our water, our air,
oh my gosh, they live with me live
with us. So all of the things in our environment that can influence our age experiences can influence our pet dogs, aging experiences, they also experience a lot of the same age related diseases as people, they get arthritis, they get kidney disease, they get cognitive disease, they get cancer, they get cancer, and we treat them as individuals, right? If you're do you take your dog to the vet, and your dog gets specific, individualized treatment. And that's not true for a group of mice in a cage. And that's not true for a school of fish. Right. So how
does that hate you? And how does it work? Exactly? Do I sign my dog? Okay, I got three
dogs. So I nominate Jason, you don't just sign up, you nominate your dog.
That's even better. I nominate my dogs. And for whatever reason, you guys had a moment of weakness and you let them in to this. skew the data because I'm such a terrible. But in any case, you send me questions, do I send you videos do the stipend or what's happened? Oh, sorry. Maybe that's not true. At all, honestly, what happens how does
so here's how it works. First of all, right now we can only have one dog enrolled per household. There are a couple of scientific reasons for that a couple of logistical reasons for that we don't want people to get mixed up about which dog is which. And also, we want as many possible environments as we can. And so if my my household environment is a little bit different from yours a little bit too short, because we want to represent as many household environments as we can. So you would have to tell us which of your dogs you want to nominate. And we walk you through some steps to help you choose. The very first thing that you would do is create a password protected online research portal. And from then on, anytime you interact with the study, that's where you go, and it's password protected. So nobody else can get access to your information and so that it's expected it's exclusive and unique to you. We will ask you then to fill out a pretty long survey about your dog imagine Yeah, so it's, it's called health and life experiences survey and it is all about your dog's health and life experience. And so this survey is broken into about 10 sections and you have six weeks to complete it so you can fill some away and come back and if you get tired of it, fill some out and go away and come back and we will ask you all about every thing that happens in your dog's daily life? What does he eat? Where does he play? What kinds of activity does he get? Who else is in the household? Other people, other animals, other dogs will ask you about all the health problems your dog has ever had, and what kind of preventive care your dog receives? And does he get vaccinated? Does he get dental cleanings? And has he been castrated and those kinds of things. And we'll also ask you to tell us the kinds of studies you would be interested in because as I mentioned, within this big unlimited size group, we have a couple of smaller groups where some people might collect cheek swab from their dog for DNA analysis, or might take their dog to the vet to have blood collected that sent to us for blood analysis. So we asked you what kinds of things like that you'd be interested in. And that's it, if you can complete that survey, your dog becomes a member of the dog aging project pack for the rest of the dog's life and the life of the study. And that's it. Now, if you do that, we're going to keep coming at you.
That's just the beginning. Because
that is the entry point. But truly, that dog becomes a member of the pack. And as a permanent member of that member of the pack. That's what gets them kicked out or anything like that. out, yeah, they're in there totally. But we will come back in the future with additional questions or additional surveys on particular topics, or we might come back and say your dog meets the criteria to be in this sub study would would you be interested in that or not interested in that. And so we will follow up with our pack members over time.
So I read online, hold on Dr. Jin, I read online, this is concerning you now you tell me this is true or false that you actually take every single breed of dog except French Bulldogs. Nobody cares about
is that not right? Not true. Okay,
false. Okay. So that is a
that is a false statement.
You take them, but then you throw the information away, because you really don't want to miss it.
Jason, Look, she's sleeping right now. But I'm going to cover up cuz that's very large,
right? No, I don't want to get all all dogs, all ages, all everything. Right. Yeah. Otherwise it wouldn't do any good. Right. Great.
That's right. And you know, that's a great point. Because some people say, Oh, well, my dog must be too young to be in an aging study. But you start aging the moment you get born, unfortunately, right? For those who are experiencing. Right, it starts right away. And so we do want puppies. And we do want young dogs and we do want intact dogs and spayed and castrated dogs and big dogs and small dogs and rural dogs and urban dogs. We want all the dogs,
all the dogs. We want all the dogs. Okay. All right. So when we come back, we're going to take a short break. When we come back, we're going to we're going to talk about how does this translate to science, it's translational, but how does it translate to actual science? What are we going to what data are we going to glean from this so hang with this, because we're gonna get to the really smart part after a break. Dr. Jenn the vet, and I'm here with my friend and colleague, Dr. Ki platsen. He's got an incredibly interesting story all about full bucket health,
my college roommate and that school, housemate. Dr. Rob Franklin and I were collaborating on some cases, both of us were struggling with diarrhea in some of our patients, whether it was after a procedure or after after an illness. So we created a formulation but we didn't want to just create a formulation. We also wanted to create a movement and animal health, for being able to help animals in need through the use of bar products that we developed that really has resulted in our one for one giving program, which we're really proud of, as much as we are our formulations for dogs versus cats.
And so if you want to know more about there one for when giving full buckets, or if you're interested in better supporting your dog, cat or horses, digestive health, head over to full bucket health.com to learn more.
Let's check out what B's view is today.
These view from that school brought to you by the AVMA trust veterinarian inspired coverage protecting you through it all.
Hi, I'm V. This my view kind of get rid of that. Well, surgery so it finally happened. I did my first surgery on my own. Well, kinda but we'll get to that later. Yep, I spade this sweetest little mixed breed shelter dog you ever did see? She's beautiful. I love her. This is a milestone friends. And while I just removed what seems like an entire outfit, kind of getting there. I think I still need to change more clothes. Like my pants. I was so nervous and excited and anxious or nervous. Um, it is in possible to describe the weight of responsibility of doing surgery on an otherwise totally okay creature. And by that I mean that this is an elective procedure. Plus I know her I met her Monday and took care for all week until surgery. And she's just wonderful. Wow, the awesome trust and responsibility are nearly paralyzing. Thank goodness for surgical drapes covering the patient so I can focus and not worry about her as the incredible animal I know her to be. This surgery is a big deal for vet students because we all get to do it. And even though we are heavily supervised, So make no mistake. That's what I mean when I said, Yeah, I did my first surgery by myself, let's face it, I have a doctor standing over me making sure I don't screw up in any way, shape, or form. It's still scary, but it's confident building like our teacher even told us we didn't realize the difference between our first surgery and our second surgery, we're doing a completely different part. But after feeling like I could conquer the world, after I put it in the last stitch, I mean suture, I started to reflect a bit. This surgery is also the first step in building my mental resolve to step over a wall in my brain and my heart and be able to perform surgery and other critical life saving procedures on animals that I may have known since birth, or at least since they found their human families. This may be the hardest part of vet school yet this mental and emotional management in order to do the things I know to believe to be necessary to help save the creatures we all love. Yeah, that made us hard, but totally going to be worth it.
These view from vet school, brought to you by the AVMA trust, veterinarian inspired coverage protecting you through it all.
Okay, all right. Thanks for that. Friends, we are here with Dr. Kay Creevy. She's the Chief Veterinary Officer for the dog aging project. That's right. And in the break, she was just telling us that even Dr. Jason's dogs might be allowed in even Leroy,
like the word she used was especially. Now, I think so especially Leroy, everybody wants a dog named Leroy.
Okay, so 42,000 dogs and counting. And people can still go to the website and don't do not drive off the road. If you're listening right now. We're gonna put a link in the show notes. Everyone remain calm. Don't worry, all the stuff that she lays out for us, you'll find in the show notes. But you can go to is it dog aging? project.org? Is that right? That's right, and nominate your dog. Now my question is, okay, so that's great. I do like I get it. We want to follow the dogs, you want to see what their aging process is. But I mean, what are we going to? Like? I guess what I would say is a how do you control for all the variables, right? Because in elementary school, we all learned in the scientific method, you want to have everything the same, except for the one thing you're testing, right? The one variable you're testing. And so I gotta tell you, my epidemiology students, right, shout out to St. George, would be like asking me, but wait, what about all those variables? How do you control for that?
Yep. So this is a great question. And this is the challenge of what we call clinical research. So you're absolutely right, when we learn benchtop research, and we learn the scientific method, and we imagine ourselves, you know, pipetting things in a laboratory wearing a coat and working at a bench, we are in perfectly controlled conditions. And that's an extremely valuable way to do science and studying things in laboratory settings, including laboratory animal models, allows us to learn important things about the basic biology of aging, but also the basic biology of everything. The problem is none of us lives there. You are not aging. Our jobs are not aging in a laboratory setting. We're going in sometimes eating dumb things for dinner, and we're sometimes getting not enough sleep. And we're sometimes going to places where there's a lot of pollen or other air quality problems, right. So none of us is
limited. You hear that? I just came back from Colorado. Oh, no, that wasn't an air quality problem.
And so none of us is living in a laboratory. And so what we need to do is we take these basic biology understandings from a laboratory setting, but we have to actually study them in the complex natural environment for them to be meaningful. And you're right analytically, it's very difficult because there is so much variability among you know, the various dogs in our studies that get all kinds of different dog food and live at different elevations and have different kinds of exercise. One of the values of having a very large group of dogs that we can study is that those variations can sort of mute each other out, if we're focusing on one or two variables of interest, okay? Within this large population, sometimes we can select a subgroup of dogs and match them at all of those different variations of interest so that we know we're only looking at one thing that's different between two groups in a smaller study. But yeah, analytically, it's very complicated. And yet, if we don't study these things in the real world, we can apply them to ourselves, we can apply them to pet dogs, we can
Oh, yeah, that's right. I mean, like, I like I hear you about that, like, you got to do field trials, you got to see how it actually plays in the real world. I understand that. But I'm just thinking about everybody's house is so different, and all that, but I guess, if, if, if you can't control all of them, all the variables, then you're just overwhelmed with variables so that they just control each other. Okay, that's
right. I mean, this is yeah, this is the notion of, you know, the concept of a randomized clinical trial, right, so people could have a randomized clinical trial. So you take a bunch of people or a bunch of dogs or a bunch of elephants or whatever, and you say, Look, I don't know everything about you. But I designed some criteria that you've had to meet to be allowed in, and I have 1000 of you elephants have 1000 elephants. And the elephants have all the different things that elephants have, and they eat different food, like Elephants eat their big ones, and smaller ones, and fat ones, and skinny ones, and whatever. And I say, Well, I can't control for all of that. But here's how I'm gonna do, I'm going to start with this group. And they're all similar. They're all different from one another in a similar way. And I'm going to flip a coin and decide you guys go in treatment group A, and you guys go in treatment group B, and I'm counting on the fact that whatever the differences are, among those elephants, they're distributed equally among equally, because I made the two groups at random. And so that kind of approach to a randomized clinical trial that people are familiar with, is similar to how we look at this longitudinal study in our dogs,
that plus one four to 2000. That's, I took a giant data, but I'm sure that there's going to be, I would imagine that people are salivating at the amount of data that you're going to collect. And you can just kind of siphon off what you may be just saying this, but safe enough, what you want these dogs and compared with these, you just have so much information, I can only imagine the computing power that's gonna take to sort of sort of dig through this stuff, because you guys aren't you didn't sit? I don't think right? You didn't set out with a specific question. Right? You just You just ordered? Is there a specific question that you guys are trying to answer,
there is a specific objective, and that is to understand the genetic and environmental determinants of healthy aging in dogs. Environment in this context means everything about the environment, not just the physical or geospatial environment, but the social environment and the ecological environment and the exercise environment. Environment. So all of those external factors that influence the way the genes we were born with unfold,
you know, that's interesting, because they do say, like with humans, right, where they look at those blue zones, I think they call them where the people live for, like, you know, the average age is over, you know, I'm gonna make this up. But people live forever in those blue zones, they have a very long, but they have also a long health span, right? Like these are I'm trying to use the new words healthspan, right. The even though they're 95, there's still an incredible health, you know, they don't have high blood pressure, they don't have heart disease, they have, maybe they have some arthritis, but they're still very mobile, you know. And one of those key things that came out, at least on 60 minutes, was that those folks had a social network, they basically had a reason to get up in the morning, they either had a job to do, and it might have been, you know, walked down the pathway to pick up, you know, the rock that was delivered that day, every day, but they had something they had to do, that they were dependent on for. And they had their social network. Right. And so obviously, the rock that was delivered, or whatever, I mean, like, most of these things that they were, they were very rural, right. And so, the living, you know, they they didn't live in a hierarchy, the pressures are on society stuff that we have, right, but they also didn't have all of the conveniences, you know, and so, so i It'll be interesting to me to see how the social peace for dogs now that we have such social dogs weighs in or impacts or doesn't impact healthspan kind of thing, especially if you have working dogs versus Yeah, because
while you're not only taking one dog per household, you I'm sure one of the questions. Yes, yeah. Do you have another dog and then a few questions about those other dogs? So you can sort of I mean, I would imagine so you can sort of discern what's happening there. So
that's right. And not just what other dogs do they interact with. But of course, some dogs are very interactive with animals of other species, right. So you might have, or you might have guys got a lot of silly infection, of course, or Yeah, right.
So a lot of stuff.
Wait a minute, did somebody have to come up with an algorithm for this whole to do all this data analysis?
Yeah, so there, yes. So there are some extremely talented bias statisticians and computational statisticians on our team. The other thing about the dog aging project is that it's what we call an open science project. And that means to your point, Jason, that we are not the only ones who are going to analyze our data. On an annual basis, we make public data releases, through an online platform that anybody in the world can apply for access to the data and go online and analyze and do exactly whatever they want. It's anonymized. So none of the owner's names, addresses phone numbers, personally identifying information, dog's names, none of that is released, all the data are made anonymous. But our raw data are made annually publicly available. And that's important to us. That's a core mission of the project is, is that we believe we're creating these data as a public good. This is not Yeah, for us. It's for everyone. That's a collapse could
hear it. But my my pack is getting excited about the dog aging project. Apparently they
are. But but that's collaborative science at its best, right? When you're like we're collecting this data, and we want it for this reason. But we can only see this reason, because that's why we started. But hey, if you see six other reasons, here you go give us a valid reason you want to have access, we'll give it to you. That is so wonderful. I mean, there you go, folks, that's your feel good moment for today. That's like, there's some good karma Hatton in there with the dog aging project. So Jason, did you have another question burning? Or? I mean, I do, but I'm just I don't I don't I didn't want to monopolize that. No, okay, fine. Okay,
so wise away, like usual.
So, you might have to quiet the pack. So my next question has to do with a little bit about like, Have you been able to come to any hypotheses based on data collected thus far? Because how, because how long since 2007? That's not when you guys launched your project, is it?
Correct. So we were funded by the NIH and in 2018, we first started taking enrollments in late 2019. And then you may or may not have heard there was a pandemic, and so got a little bit derailed for a minute, but we're back in it to win it. And in the good news column, our project is exclusively online. So even during the worst of the pandemic, we could still communicate with our, with our participants. But why is it? Yeah, we've been heavily collecting data for just over two years at this point.
Okay, have you because I know, at least when I would do research, of course, nothing approaching the scale that you have. That's a fact. You know, I thought I had a ton when I had like, 14 research, you know, subjects. But I didn't have time when I was in data collection mode, to even start to look at trends or anything even guess, have you guys had time to do any of that? Because I know you have and we should wait, let me back up for a second for you. And so that massive shout out to your team. When she says team you guys on their website. It's not like a team of like, four or five or 10. Or it's incredible. There's so many PhDs, MDS D VMs. Other professionals on your team. It's just incredible. So shout out to your team. But yeah, have you guys had time to look at your data?
Yeah, great question. So yes, we are analyzing all the time. And as you mentioned, so the team right now is there are over 100 people who are either full time or part time staff that Wow. Which is really, really exciting. And as you said, it's a I mean, it's just a remarkable, delightful group of human beings that I get to work with every day. So I feel very, very fortunate. The The team includes a number of people who are themselves trainees. And so people earning PhDs and earning master's degrees in those sorts of things. And for those people, data analysis is critical. And so we are fortunate to have all of those folks on the team, because they are quick to jump in and start analyzing the data, even as you said, when many of us are still very much focused on collecting it. The kinds of data analysis that we've done up to this point, is what we call cross sectional. So what that means is, right now I have all of these people who fill out this survey, and they told me what's going on with their dog right now. But if two things are happening to their dog right now, I don't know which one caused the other, right, I only know that both things are true right now. So if I like lemons, and I like jogging, it's not clear that lemons made me go jogging or jogging made me eat lemons, I just know that I like lemons, and I like jogging. So that's the kind of publications that we've made so far, what we call cross sectional publications over time, the real power of this study is that we will increasingly be able to publish what we call longitudinal data. Longitudinal Data means I know where something started, and what happened next, and what happened after that. And that's the only way that we can figure out causes because you have to have that time piece in there. So that would enable you to answer the question, Did I eat the lemons before I went jogging? Or did I go jogging before I ate the lemons? And so it helps you figure out which thing came first. So we haven't yet gotten any longitudinal data published. because we're really just at the very beginning of long term, follow up with these dogs. But we have been already able to publish some of our cross sectional findings in this big group.
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