Senior dogs’ health, wellness focus of new research projectsMorris Animal Foundation funding will support four projects exploring age-related disease in canines November 24, 2022 Age-associated inflammation, the potential impact of exercise on frailty, and the effect of heavy metal exposure on cognition in senior dogs are among the topics set to be explored via funding from Morris Animal Foundation. To advance the life and health span of older and aging canines, the organization has bestowed its Mark L. Morris Jr. Investigator Award to four researchers, all of whom will focus their projects on issues related to the well-being of senior canine populations. The selection of four proposals is a departure from previous awards, which were given to a single individual. “We’re inspired by the number of high-quality proposals we received for this call and thrilled we can award four grants,” says Morris Animal Foundation’s vice president of scientific operations, Kathy Tietje, PhD, MBA. The recipients are: Freya Mowat, BVSc, PhD, DECVO, DACVO, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who will study the effect of toxic heavy metal burden on cognition and sensory decline in older dogs. Anne Avery, VMD, PhD, of Colorado State University (CSU), who will study age-associated inflammation and links to disease in aging dogs. Andrei Gudkov, PhD, DSci, of Vaika Inc., who will study genetically programmed aging “clocks” and anti-aging strategies in retired sled dogs. Natasha Olby, VetMB PhD, DACVIM (neurology), of North Carolina State University (NC State), who will conduct a clinical trial to assess if exercise can improve frailty and health span in elderly dogs. “The diversity of projects allows us to address key health problems affecting aging dogs from several different angles,” Dr. Tietje says. “In total, results can help improve not just the lifespan but the health span of older dogs.” Projects are slated to begin in 2023 and will take two to three years to complete. Established in 2016, the Mark L. Morris Jr. Investigator Award is designed to support impactful companion animal research with the potential for quick and meaningful progress. The focus area for this cycle was determined following a survey of researchers and veterinarians, which suggested the need for studies regarding the health and well-being of aging dogs.