Playful golden retriever puppyThe U.S. spends approximately $12.6 billion on pet supplies and over-the-counter medication annually, but a new drug treatment could potentially reduce that cost and add four years to the lives of dogs everywhere.

Scientists have recently found that the anti-rejection medicine rapamycin, a drug used in humans with kidney transplants, significantly improved heart health in canines.

The medication has been shown to extend the life of mice by more than 25%, and if it’s discovered to have a similar impact in canines, it could help dogs live for an extra four years, researchers said.

Scientists at the University of Washington are in the midst of conducting phase one trials to see if rapamycin could potentially extend the lives of countless dogs around the world.

Trials on 24 middle-aged Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and German Shepherds found that low doses of rapamycin have led to improvements in heart health.

Even more importantly, there were apparently “no significant side effects,” according to Dr. Matt Kaeberlein.

It’s no question that man’s best friend is truly treasured among all walks of life. In fact, approximately seven percent of employers in the U.S. now allow dogs in their offices.

While employees and employers alike rejoice at the prospect, the dogs’ health is often left out of the question.

“Most people do not understand dog body language,” said E’Lise Christensen, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist in Colorado. One major concern she — and many other professionals have with the rise of pet-friendly work environments — is the corresponding increased risk of behavioral problems, dog bites in particular.

“[People] can identify abject fear, and they can identify extreme aggression, but they cannot reliably identify things in between,” said Christensen.

Unfortunately, that wide area is where most people cannot interpret pet discomfort.

In addition, altering a dog’s schedule can contribute to anxiety and stress. Dogs thrive on routine. Bringing them in occasionally can hurt, causing more stress, than help.

Creating a stress-free environment is certainly a part of extending a dog’s life, but according to researchers, the newest clinical trials of rapamycin have shown promising results.

“There were statistically significant improvements in heart function in the dogs that received rapamycin relative to those that received the placebo,” said Kaeberlein.

Clinical trials will continue for the next three to five years.