In 2022, roughly half of all dog-owning households in the United States had a senior pup, according to data from Packaged Facts. This is thanks, in part, to an explosion of pet care innovation that has transformed the way people feed their furry companions and solidified pets as part of the family.

As these advancements allow our dogs to live longer lives, it’s incumbent upon industry innovators and pet owners alike to ensure they enjoy their extra time.

“There’s no point in extending the length of life without regard to its quality,” said Jonathan Willbanks, chief executive officer of Austin, Texas-based Arterra Pet Science.

Most dogs are considered geriatric once they hit age 7, although it really depends on breed, size, lifestyle and other factors. While pet owners have historically waited to address signs of aging until they manifest physically, pet owners today are increasingly taking preventive measures to preserve their pets’ health. This includes purchasing diets that target specific need states or administering supplements to fortify the myriad systems in the body that deteriorate with age.

Leap Years aims to afford dog owners "more life in your dog and more dog in your life," according to Ginny Rentko, VMD, DACVIM, chief veterinary medical officer of parent company Animal Biosciences.

Leap Years' goal is to give pet parents "more life in your dog and more dog in your life," according to Ginny Rentko, VMD, DACVIM, chief veterinary medical officer of parent company Animal Biosciences.

Source: Animal Biosciences Inc.

The end goal of administering these types of products is to impact a dog’s health span — that is, how long they remain healthy, rather than just alive. This is a relatively new concept, but the idea is by extending health span, we can also expand lifespan.

“The definition of aging in and of itself is an interesting one,” said Nick Sinclair, chief executive officer, Animal Bioscience Inc., Boston. “We’re talking about the effects of aging, and about health span, longevity and lifespan — there are so many different ways to look at it.”

Emerging science is beginning to fill in the blanks about how the body ages, and what can be done to slow the process — both for people and for their canine companions.


Aging on a cellular level

Like in humans, various cells and tissues in a dog’s body work in tandem to support skin health, digestion, metabolism, skeletal structures, cardiovascular health, the nervous system and other vital systems. The resilience of these systems, however, declines over time.

“As dogs age, it can get harder for their joints, muscles and other bodily functions to recover from daily wear and tear at the cellular level, and this is due to a natural decline in NAD+,” explained Claudia Hartel, senior marketing director for Zesty Paws.

NAD is an enzyme found in mitochondria. Commonly referred to as “the powerhouse of the cell,” mitochondria is the natural mechanism through which cells repair themselves from damage or mutation, Sinclair explained. Around mid-lifespan, NAD begins to decline, meaning mitochondria becomes less equipped for self-repair.

“There’s no point in extending the length of life without regard to its quality,” said Jonathan Willbanks, chief executive officer of Austin, Texas-based Arterra Pet Science.

Herein lies a vicious cycle we know as aging, on a cellular level. However, it’s been shown that administering a NAD precursor can help keep mitochondria in tip-top shape.

“What NAD precursors do is replenish the NAD that ends up making mitochondria function better, knowing that overall mitochondrial function means increased energy and increased vitality within the cell,” Sinclair said.

Another symptom of aging is an increased presence of senescent cells — what Willbanks calls “zombie cells, or old and dysfunctional cells that accumulate over time.” As the body ages, the presence of these cells increases, and the body’s natural ability to rid itself of them declines.

“Usually, when cells are finished dividing, they die and are expelled by the body,” Sinclair explained. “But some of these cells don’t die and instead go into a senescent state. They start secreting inflammatory proteins, inflammatory cytokines — essentially, chemicals that promote inflammation. You need a few of them because they’re good for your immune system, but accumulating too many causes inflammation.

“Senescent cells also consume NAD, making the NAD problem worse,” he added.

One way to address these senescent cells is through senolytics — molecules with the power to identify and eliminate senescent cells in the body. Killing these zombie cells could result in immune-boosting benefits, and the early research in this area is promising for humans and pets alike.

Both NAD and senolytics have emerged as pathways for slowing cellular deterioration related to aging, and supplement brands in the canine longevity space are leveraging them accordingly. Aside from these two solutions, however, there exists a suite of other ingredients that are well positioned to address cellular degeneration and the biological symptoms of aging.

“We don’t yet have any one silver bullet for degenerative aging, but what we do have are dozens of individually well-studied molecules that can put a dent in the problem,” Willbanks said. “When you stack and layer those together thoughtfully and synergistically, the collective impact can be very significant.”

Pet supplement brands are coming in hot to this new trending area of pet health and wellness and, while each may have their own approach, all are working toward a common goal — keeping dogs healthier for longer.


Zesty Paws Healthy Aging 

In October 2023, pet supplement brand Zesty Paws officially entered the longevity category with its Healthy Aging NAD+ Precursor supplement for dogs. The formula is powered by NIAGEN®, a proprietary form of nicotinamide riboside (NR) by global bioscience company ChromaDex. NR is a naturally occurring member of the vitamin B3 family and precursor to NAD. According to ChromaDex, NIAGEN is “the world’s first and only known FDA-safety reviewed form of NR.”

Zesty Paws was an early entrant in the canine longevity supplement category, having launched its Healthy Aging NAD+ Precursor portfolio in the back half of 2023.

Zesty Paws was an early entrant in the canine longevity supplement category, having launched its Healthy Aging NAD+ Precursor portfolio in the back half of 2023.

| Source: Zesty Paws

The supplement benefits various areas of pet health including metabolic, heart and brain health, and provides support to cells and skeletal muscle, according to Zesty Paws. It does this by promoting mitochondrial health, cellular repair and metabolism, and energy production through the delivery of NIAGEN.

“Adding in this unique ingredient offers support for physical, cognitive and metabolic health for dogs, as well as cellular energy productions and self-repair,” Hartel explained.

Zesty Paws Healthy Aging NAD+ Precursor supplement is currently available in pill capsules with probiotic pill wrap formats for dogs, as well as a powder form delivered in single-serve sachets.

“In addition to the latest format of a powder released in early 2024, we are working on unique formulations to target specific areas that deteriorate in aging pets, as well as different form factors to offer a holistic set of options to pet parents worldwide,” Hartel shared.


Leap Years

Founded in 2017 and spun out as an independent company in 2020, Leap Years is the first product launched by Animal Bioscience. The company is focused on developing veterinary supplement longevity solutions for dogs and plans to offer similar products for cats and horses in the future.

Leap Years includes an NAD+ precursor and a senolytic to address aging at the cellular level in dogs. For the NAD+ precursor, the company has selected a natural molecule that is particularly stable at room temperature, and is used in combination with a natural senolytic compound.

The supplement is administered with a two-step approach. First, it delivers the senolytic compound to remove senescent cells from the body during the first two days of administration each month. Then, for the remaining 28 days of the supplement schedule, the formula replenishes NAD+ by delivering just the NAD+ precursor.

“Leap Years is a supplement that supports all the cells in the body. Every cell that has a deficiency in NAD+ and any organ with an accumulation of senescent cells would be positively impacted,” added Ginny Rentko, VMD, DACVIM, chief veterinary medical officer, Animal Bioscience.

Because of this whole-body effect, a dog’s response to Leap Years depends on several factors, including their existing activity levels and lifestyles, and how far along they are in the aging process already. Some dog owners may observe increased vitality or energy after administering the supplement, while others might notice an ease in mobility, according to Sinclair.

“Longevity is mostly an outcome of having a good health span — one would assume if your dog is healthier for longer, they’re going to be around for longer,” he added. “We are targeting the health of the dog, and that may be about longevity or simply quality of life.”

Leap Years delivers a senolytic compound and a NAD+ precursor on a controlled schedule to support cellular health in aging dogs.

Leap Years delivers a senolytic compound and an NAD+ precursor on a controlled schedule to support cellular health in aging dogs.

| Source: Animal Biosciences Inc.

According to a recent clinical study conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University, senior dog owners who administered Leap Years over three months observed significant improvements in cognitive function and increased attention and trends in increasing activity levels and decreasing frailty. The study is currently awaiting peer-review.

“When we have older dogs, we’ve lived with them for a long time and that human-animal bond runs deep,” Rentko said. “We like to say that, with Leap Years, there will be more life in your dog and more dog in your life.”



One of the latest players to enter the canine longevity supplement space is Arterra, which launched its first supplements in 2023. The brand started with two formulas — Adult Support for dogs between the ages of 18 months and 7 years, and Senior Support for dogs ages 8 years and older — and also offers a re-mineralizing toothpaste product for dogs.

For years, Willbanks leveraged his background in better-for-you foods and functional medicine to develop a longevity supplement for his own dog, Arturo, out of his own kitchen. As the dog showed new signs of physical or mental degeneration, Willbanks would tweak Arturo’s supplement formula to ensure he was getting exactly what he needed at each stage of the aging process.

“Ultimately, we got him to 16 and a half years old and in almost perfect health,” Willbanks said. “We exceeded his life expectancy by over 50%, he made it to the human equivalent of 117 years old for his breed, and with outstanding quality of life even up until his last week with us.”

These extra years with Arturo inspired Willbanks to commercialize the supplement. So, he connected with integrated veterinarians in the Austin area and pored over the formula, adjusting ingredients and levels based on toxicology data, anecdotal evidence of a pet health benefit, and what is safe and appropriate to extrapolate to dogs.

Arterra's formula for senior dogs provides immediate relief and lasting support, while its adult formula focuses more on long-term, preventive health support.

Arterra's Senior formula includes ingredients at levels that provide immediate relief and lasting support for various areas of health and wellness, while its Adult formula focuses more on preventive, long-term support.

| Source: Arterra

This due diligence was done for all 63 ingredients included in the Arterra Senior Support supplement. Arterra delivers all these ingredients through proprietary blends that provide a whole-body approach to canine health and longevity.

“Most supplements on the market today and historically have focused on addressing specific need states — hip and joint chews, gut health, skin and allergies — which are all important,” Willbanks explained. “But our philosophy is your dog has all of those systems and needs all of them to be proactively supported… I like to think of our approach in terms of the entourage effect, in which the impact is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Willbanks described the nutritional philosophy behind Arterra as a system that provides both “hardware support” — addressing physiological structures in key areas of the body like skin and coat, gut health and cognition — and “software support” — targeting things like cellular energy metabolism and mitochondrial health.

To provide this dual-action support, there are a few heavy hitters among Arterra’s extensive ingredient list. One of them is Magtein®, a branded, novel form of magnesium L-threonate that was developed by scientists at MIT. The ingredient has been shown to increase synaptic density in animals and humans, therefore enhancing cognitive performance, according to Willbanks.

The Arterra formula also touts six functional mushroom ingredients derived from fruiting bodies, which are the most potent source of nutrients in a mushroom. These mushroom ingredients are dosed three to six times higher in Arterra than most other supplements on the market today, while remaining under thresholds for toxicity, Willbanks said.

The formula also includes berberine, which plays a role in controlling blood sugar and can activate the AMPK pathway which, “when activated, is involved in healthy expressions of aging and shifts how the body utilizes energy at a cellular level,” Willbanks explained. Additionally, the inclusion of pyrroloquinoline quinone, or PQQ, in the formula supports mitochondrial health and can even stimulate the growth of new mitochondria within cells, he added.

Arterra is also fortified with senolytics, as well as flavonoids that support the conversion of vitamin B3 and tryptophan into metabolically active NAD+.


A trend to watch

Despite their different approaches, Hartel, Sinclair, Renko and Willbanks share a belief that the canine longevity space is still in its infancy, and that these nascent stages speak to an increased need for continued research and consumer education. Pet supplements are not as well regulated as complete-and-balanced pet foods, so building products and brands around proven research, transparency and authenticity will go a long way toward gaining consumer confidence.

“At the heart of every pet parent is the desire to have more and better years with their pets,” Hartel said. “Unlocking healthy aging support for dogs is the next frontier of pet supplementation.”

Keep up with the latest pet food trends on our Trends page.