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Random vs programmed aging in a dog

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

old dog

Dr Ian Billinghurst author give your dog a bone

Dr. Ian Billinghurst, in his 1993 text “Give your dog a bone”, outlines both programmed ageing and Random ageing as the two forms of ageing which affect all dogs.

Programmed ageing is described as being an inherited ageing process which occurs from day one and continues through dogs' various developmental stages into old age and finally results in death. Its’ a process responsible for many of the health issues we see today and although we may treat those issues or their symptoms, we cannot stop this pre-programmed ‘clock’.

Random ageing relates to the way the body functions over time as damage occurs, reducing the way the body functions with healing to restore function a little less perfectly than before. Diet plays a key role in random ageing with some foods providing nutrients which support health and healing whilst other foods are deficient in helpful nutrients and may actually supply the body with molecules which harm the body. One example of this is antioxidants, including various enzymes. These anti-ageing factors are essential in the maintenance and repair of all tissue and organ systems and are found in abundance in fresh, raw food. Cooking destroys these anti-ageing factors meaning feeding a pet a diet of cooked food would directly contribute to a shortened life span.

There are many factors, in addition to food, which impact the health and ultimately lifespan of our pets, as such there is a lot we can do to extend or shorten our pets’ life. Vaccinating our pets against the variety of life threatening and debilitating preventable diseases such as feline Leukaemia or Canine parvovirus can prevent or minimise disease that would naturally occur if they were to come into contact with the pathogens without the benefit of added immunity. The use of anti-parasitic medications is another useful preventative tool, minimising any excessive parasite burden which would otherwise harm the pet. Perhaps the most important preventive health measure all our modern ‘pets are afforded over their wild counterparts is that of shelter, a warm dry place to sleep safe from predators and inclement weather. This requirement is so notable; it is regulated in many countries as a minimum requirement for today’s domesticated animals.

If you’re looking for an easy, well-informed read on dog nutrition, one author worth checking out is Dr Ian Billinghurst, the above article is based on his text “Give your dog a bone”,


Billinghurst, I., 1993. Give Your Dog a Bone. Bathurst, New South Wales: Warrigal Publishing.

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