What is Rapamycin? Everything You Need to Know

If you’re a pet owner, you’ve wanted your pet to live as long as possible. It seems like our pets’ lives are so short, but how many of you knew there was something that could extend their lifespan longer? That’s where rapamycin comes in. 

What is rapamycin? Rapamycin is a prescription drug with many proven benefits, including fighting cancer, cardiac disease, inflammation, orthopedic pain, and other age-related problems. Taken as a whole, these documented benefits may help mammals (like us and our dogs, for example)  live up to 20% longer

Many studies are surfacing on this new drug, and it can be hard to keep up with the facts. Luckily, we have the information you need with the science to back it up. Let’s get learning.

What is rapamycin? What can it do for my dog?

Originally developed as an immunosuppressive drug, rapamycin has been found to have many other potential benefits for both humans and pets. Current studies suggest that rapamycin is an effective and safe drug that can help pets live longer and healthier lives.

How does rapamycin work?

Rapamycin directly inhibits mTOR, a protein complex tied to many aspects of aging. The mTOR complex plays a central role in aging, cancer metabolism, and immune pathways.  We are still learning about optimal dosing and frequency, but to date rapamycin has been proven a safe and effective drug across all mammals.

What does that mean for you and your pet? It's simple.  Rapamycin appears to be the best way to extend health and lifespan in our pets... and it's safe.

What does rapamycin do?

Rapamycin has three main health benefits: it can help fight cancer, it supports heart function (e.g., improving heart disease like cardiomyopathy), and it can reduce inflammation in the body. That makes it a powerful and appealing option for pet owners because there really aren't any other drugs with this combination of proven benefits.

Rapamycin has also been shown to benefit chronic kidney disease, periodontal disease, and immune function.

Most of these benefits are still being studied, but many longevity specialists have been using rapamycin extensively in both humans and pets. Another benefit of rapamycin is its proven safety, with only about 3% of pets running into transient GI upset when first started on the drug.

Is rapamycin a supplement?

This is a very important question and the answer is a firm no. Rapamycin is not a supplement. It’s only available via prescription, either from your veterinarian or through a concierge consult with our veterinarian Dr. Kevin Toman. 

Benefits shown by rapamycin studies in mammals

While rapamycin might still be under continuing study, it’s shown many benefits for mammals, which is why it’s trusted by vets today. Let’s take a closer look at some of the drug’s most impressive perks.

Rapamycin has many cancer-fighting benefits

Many different studies have highlighted rapamycin’s ability to fight cancer, which is very exciting for pet owners since 6 million dogs get diagnosed with cancer every year. Here's what we know about how rapamycin fights cancer:

  • Rapamycin directly inhibits B and T cell metabolism, implying a benefit for lymphoma;
  • Rapamycin reduces angiogenesis, or the blood supply of solid tumors;
  • Rapamycin reduces tumor cell proliferation;
  • Rapamycin causes cancer cell apoptosis, or "programmed death"
  • Rapamycin has been shown to inhibit hemangiosarcoma in multiple ways
  • Rapamycin targets malignant mast cells without damaging "normal" mast cells
  • Rapamycin supports heart function

    Rapamycin has been proven to support cardiac function in aging pets. Since 10% of all dogs will suffer from heart disease at some point, it’s crucial to look out for their heart health. 


    Even more importantly, rapamycin has been proven to stop the progression of cardiomyopathy in both dogs and cats.  No other drug has shown this ability to date.

    Rapamycin has shown to help chronic kidney disease


    Studies have shown that rapamycin reduces the progression of kidney disease by reducing inflammation and the resultant fibrosis, or scarring, of the kidney cells. 


    Rapamycin improves immune system function

    Rapamycin has been shown to improve immune function via several mechanisms:


    Rapamycin reduces inflammation and pain in joints

    There is NOTHING more important to our aging pets than keeping them as comfortable as possible.  There are a number of approaches to this,and we have a whole blog post dedicated to that topic.  

    One important benefit of rapamycin is it's documented anti-inflammatory effects, which results in increased mobility and quality of life for older patients, both human and dog.


    Rapamycin has even shown to help with periodontal disease

    Periodontal disease is a major health challenge for dogs under 20 lbs and cats. If untreated, periodontal disease not only leads to daly pain but also to tooth loss, bone infections, and cancer.  In fact, human studies have shown that untreated periodontal disease can reduce lifespan by up to 15%.  To be clear, that is over a year of extra life for our dogs and cats.

    Interestingly, rapamycin has been shown to rejuvenate oral health in a study that demonstrated reductions in bone inflammation, strengthening of the periodontal ligament, and beneficial effects on the oral microbiome.  Pretty cool. 

    FAQs about rapamycin for dog longevity

    Can rapamycin reverse aging?

    Here's the problem -- we don't have measurable biomarkers of aging to test.   Rapamycin has clearly been shown to prevent age-related diseases, and there’s evidence that it can reverse the progression of certain conditions, including cardiomyopathy as mentioned above.  The working hypothesis is that it is the most effective approach we have to slowing aging in our dogs.

    Does rapamycin have any side effects?

    According to a recent study, rapamycin had no side effects on the dogs that had been prescribed the drug, which is great news if you’re considering it for your dog.  In over 400 dogs treated by Dr. Kevin to date, only about 3% ran into temporary GI upset as their intestines adapted to their new friend.

    Are metformin and rapamycin both anti-aging drugs?

    Rapamycin, along with both metformin and acarbose, are all widely used for their anti-aging benefits.  However, they act in different ways.  Metformin and acarbose act by reducing blood sugar levels, which is important not only in diabetic management but has  also been shown to reduce cancer incidence.

    Rapamycin has more direct and broad benefits in longevity, from inhibiting cancer to reducing inflammation, minimizing kidney disease, and improving immune function. 


    How do I get a rapamycin prescription?

    Any veterinarian can prescribe your pet rapamycin as long as they believe the off-label benefits will help your pet. Helping Pets Live Longer has an experienced veterinarian, Dr. Kevin, who can help you obtain a prescription through a concierge consult.

    He can also answer any questions you may have about rapamycin, how it works, and if it’s right for your pet.

    Find out more about obtaining rapamycin for dogs here.

    Want to get started? Schedule your concierge consult for a prescription and get your rapamycin for dogs or rapamycin for cats.  Let's get to work.