Landmark Study for Dogs

Yesterday I saw an ad for Purina dog food that touted a “landmark” study claiming that Purina Dog Chow “extended dogs’ healthy life by 2 years.”  The word landmark  caught my eye since this term is well known in human medical research, generally reserved for a kick-ass randomized study trial reporting unassailable proof that immediately changes medical practice.  One example is the large MR FIT dietary study of 13,000 men demonstrating that lowering cholesterol reduces the risk of heart disease.  Cholesterol guidelines were built from that study, and a whole drug industry was born.  Then there is the study from the 1970s that showed that a lumpectomy is just as good as mastectomy, thus saving thousands of women from disfiguring surgery.  And of course study that established colonoscopy as a screening method for early detection of colon cancer, with results so compelling that it has convinced millions of 50 year olds to purge and submit themselves to the utmost humiliation at the hands of gleeful gastroenterologists.  Ooops, I’m exaggerating a bit on that last one, somehow nobody ever did the landmark study for colonoscopy screening.

What would a landmark study of dogs entail?  Purina provides a few workable facts on its web-page.  The study enrolled 48 labradors separated into two groups at birth and followed them until death.  Both groups were fed Purina, but one group got 25% less food.  Okay, a 14 year study would be considered quite a feat in the medical world particularly if you are trying to control the diet of free ranging humans.  But a mere 48 dogs, presumably in cages.  Wouldn’t meet my criteria for landmark.

The results of the study are perhaps not too surprising.   The dogs that got fed less had a leaner body and lower cholesterol, and showed fewer signs of aging.  It looks like they all died at the same time, but the leaner group compressed their morbidity into a shorter number of years.  Well that is an outcome that I can get enthusiastic about.  It did strike me as odd that Purina would use the study for marketing, since it did not try to prove that their dog food was any better than other brands, and the results suggested that you should just feed your dog less, i.e. buy less dog food.  It must have taken Purina a bit of time to figure out how to turn this dog of a study into an ad campaign.  The “landmark” results were published in 2002.

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