Female dogs who keep their ovaries longer also live longer, according to a new study led by David Waters, DVM, executive director of the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation, based at the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette. The foundation is home to the Center for Exceptional Longevity Studies, which tracks the oldest living pet dogs in the United States.
The findings, according to the researchers, challenge almost four decades of standard operating procedures used in female pets as well as women. Purdue Research Park reports that this is the first investigation to look for a link between retaining ovaries and reaching exceptional longevity in mammals.
“A female survival advantage in humans is well-documented — women outnumber men by four to one among those who reach 100,” said Waters, who is also an associate director of Purdue University’s Center on Aging and the Life Course and a professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.
“Like women, female dogs in our study had a distinct survival advantage over males. But taking away ovaries during the first four years of life completely erased the female survival advantage,” Waters said. “We found that female Rottweilers who kept their ovaries for at least six years were four times more likely to reach exceptional longevity compared to females who had the shortest lifetime ovary exposure.”
The researchers collected and analyzed lifetime medical histories, ages and causes of death for 119 canine “centenarians,” exceptionally long-lived Rottweiler dogs living in the United States and Canada who survived to 13 years, about 30 percent longer than average Rottweilers. These dogs were compared to a group of 186 Rottweilers who had usual longevity, about nine years.
“Clearly, we have tapped into a unique resource with our Exceptional Longevity Database,” Waters said. “We like to think of it as the pet dog equivalent of the New England Centenarian Study. We want to better understand the biology of aging. Our quest to validate pet dogs as a model for the study of healthy human aging is at the core of this research.”
Taken together, the emerging message for dogs and women seems to be that when it comes to longevity, it pays to keep your ovaries, according to Purdue Research Park.
“What we have here is a compelling convergence,” Waters said. “The data from women and dogs, together with reported longevity benefits from ovary transplants in mice, are pointing in the same direction — the notion that a network of processes regulating longevity is under ovarian control.”
The study was recently published in Aging Cell.