Can dogs live longer?

Professor’s search for dogs’ healthier living, longevity drives Dog Aging Project

Ruple with dog

Audrey Ruple, a veterinary epidemiologist and assistant professor of One Health Epidemiology in Purdue University’s College of Health and Human Sciences, with Bitzer, a Great Dane.(Purdue University photo/Rebecca McElhoe)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Audrey Ruple loves Great Danes so much that, while in the middle of Texas on a family vacation in 2012, she made the decision to get another one.

“We were lucky that we had a vehicle large enough to hold an extra passenger,” says Ruple, recalling how Bitzer, a purebred Great Dane that eventually grew to 140 pounds, came to live with her family.

Despite the rocky trip back to Colorado, he became rather mellow and the go-to animal for cuddles and chuckles.

“He was the best dog. He was my heart dog,” Ruple says.

Bitzer recently died after living a large life. He was almost 8 ½ years old.

“He was old for a Great Dane, but much too young for a dog to die,” says Ruple, who is an assistant professor of public health and a veterinary epidemiologist. She researches dog longevity through the Dog Aging Project.

Being a licensed veterinarian who knows the ins and outs of animal health doesn’t make the loss easier. Read more.