Veterinarian traveling cross-country to uncover secrets of long-lived dogs

Dr. David J. Waters, a veterinarian from Indiana, is extremely curious as to why some Rottweilers are able to live for 13 years or longer - more than 30 percent longer than the breed’s average lifespan.

Waters’ curiosity has inspired him to travel the country for 40 days to visit these “successfully aging” dogs and collect data and samples that could lead to better knowledge of how people and pets can age better and ward off cancer. The information he gathers will further the research being conducted at the Center for Exceptional Longevity Studies at the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation, where Waters serves as director.

During The Old Grey Muzzle Tour 2013, which kicked off March 4 and ends on April 12, Waters will visit 12 elderly Rottweilers, present two academic lectures, and attend nine celebration events, according to a news release from the Purdue Research Park.

Collecting valuable samples and data

Waters’ main objective during visits to the Rottweilers’ homes is to gather biological samples and information about each dog's history and lifestyle that can be added to the Center for Exceptional Longevity Studies’ database of almost 250 Rottweilers that have reached the human equivalent of 100 years of age.

By studying tissue samples and analyzing blood samples for markers, Waters said he hopes they will eventually be able to determine how some Rottweilers can live long, normal lives even while hosting certain types of cancer.

“A notable aspect of highly successful aging is the delay or avoidance of diseases such as cancer,” Waters said. “The exceptionally long-lived Rottweilers we are studying have figured out how to sidestep cancer, hold it in check. Our autopsy studies have shown that, although few of these dogs die of cancer, more than 90 percent of them are harboring one or more types of cancer at the time of death.”

The quest to learn how these dogs’ bodies give cancer the cold shoulder led Waters and his research team to create the Longevity Biorepository, where they collect serum, blood cells, DNA, and autopsy tissues from dogs that have lived long and healthy lives.

In addition to cancer research, the work that Waters and his team are doing can potentially lead to valuable insights about how healthy aging is impacted by aspects such as stress, ovaries, and obesity, according to the news release.

Tour itinerary

The following schedule lists Waters' planned tour dates as he travels throughout the country:

  • March 4: Homer, Alaska
  • March 6: Anderson Island, Wash.
  • March 7: Amboy, Wash.
  • March 10: Claremont, N.H.
  • March 11: Staten Island, N.Y.
  • March 12: Wyckoff, N.J.
  • March 13: Madison, Va.
  • March 15: Atlanta, Ga.
  • March 16: Louisville, Ky.
  • March 19: Lexington, Ky.
  • March 21: Parke County, Ind.
  • March 23: Ypsilanti, Mich.
  • March 26: Lomira, Wis.
  • March 28: Tulsa, Okla.
  • March 30: Tijeras, N.M.
  • March 31 and April 1: Albuquerque, N.M.
  • April 3: Fort Collins, Colo.
  • April 6: San Diego
  • April 7: Aguanga, Calif.
  • March 16, April 9: Pray, Mont.
  • April 12: West Lafayette, Ind.

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