© 2017, eLife Sciences Publications Ltd. All rights reserved. Life-long lack of growth hormone (GH) action can produce remarkable extension of longevity in mice. Here we report that GH treatment limited to a few weeks during development influences the lifespan of long-lived Ames dwarf and normal littermate control mice in a genotype and sex-specific manner. Studies in a separate cohort of Ames dwarf mice show that this short period of the GH exposure during early development produces persistent phenotypic, metabolic and molecular changes that are evident in late adult life. These effects may represent mechanisms responsible for reduced longevity of dwarf mice exposed to GH treatment early in life. Our data suggest that developmental programming of aging importantly contributes to (and perhaps explains) the well documented developmental origins of adult disease.