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FDA approves medication that extends the lifespan of dogs

New medication may extend dog lifespans
New medication may extend dog lifespans 02:43

Dog ownership is a long-term commitment, and for many, it never feels quite long enough. But the option to add a few extra years to your four-legged friend's life could be on the horizon, after a medication developed by San Francisco-based startup Loyal received conditional approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"I will take all the time that I can get and particularly all the time that they're happy and enjoy your life here at the dog park," Dr. Brennan McKenzie told CBS News Bay Area.

It's a sentiment shared with many dog owners, that the average decade with their four-legged friend is too short. But that healthy, happy time is on the verge of being extended thanks to new medication that could add at least one extra year to a dog's life.

"The reason that large breed dogs live a shorter life than small breed dogs has to do with the pensive breeding that we've done to get them to be big," McKenzie, Loyal's director of veterinary medicine, explained. "Some of the hormones and other mechanisms that make them large also, unfortunately, make them age faster."

Loyal has been working on the medication for four years with hopes to eventually give dogs several extra good years once the drug is ready for healthy canines. But the company for now is claiming the drug can extend a life span by at least one year.

"Aging is just biology like anything else, and it causes most of the diseases that adult dogs get," McKenzie said. "If you look at heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, they all seem like different diseases, but they're all really just manifestations of aging. And so our approach is to look at the basic mechanisms of aging and say, 'what can we target there to slow the whole process down and try to prevent as many of those diseases and give as much healthy life to dogs as we can?'"

In an industry first, the FDA agreed with McKenzie and his team on November 28th that the drug shows enough evidence to effectively extend the healthy years in dogs. It is not intended for use at the end of a dog's life.

"It's a sign, a mark of scientific legitimacy. You know, [veterinarians are] used to claims being made for things and not knowing whether they should leave them or not," said McKenzie. "And when the FDA puts you through the hoops and you go through them then you have a little more confidence."

A dog owner himself, McKenzie keeps one beloved pup at the top of mind as his medication gets closer to full FDA approval.

"Grommet was a 75 pound Akita-lab mix," he recalls. "Very, very sweet, very intimidating looking. And he lived to 16 which is a remarkable age for dog that size."

He explained that "ultimately I had to put him to sleep not because of any particular disease but because the wear and tear of age had made it hard for him to walk and just hard for him to go about his day to day life ... I do think a lot about him and the chance that we could maybe get other people's dogs a bit better ending."

The drug could come in the form of an injectable or daily pill and McKenzie says he's confident enough in the product that once it's ready for distribution, he'd give it to his own pup, 1 year old Malinois mix Kalani.

"Sure we want our dogs to live longer," said McKenzie. "What we really want though is for them to be healthy as long as possible. And that's really the focus of what we're trying to accomplish more than anything else."

The company hopes to receive full FDA approval in 2025 and have it ready for distribution as quickly and safely as possible. 

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