IMAGE: Large-sized breeds have a 20% increased risk of shorter lifespan than small-sized
New research sheds light on the life expectancy of our canine companions.
The study, led by dog welfare charity Dogs Trust and featuring expert input from Liverpool John Moores University, explores how different factors such as breed, body size, face shape and sex affect how long our pooches live for.
The study, published today (1st February) in Scientific Reports, used data from over half a million* UK dogs from over 150 breeds and crossbreeds to highlight those dogs most at risk from an early death and found that median life expectancy of all dogs was 12.5 years.
The longest living breeds were found to be the Lancashire Heeler (15.4 years), Tibetan Spaniel (15.2 years), and Miniature Dachshund (14.0 years).
Researchers found brachycephalic dogs, those with flat-faces, like popular French Bulldogs (9.8 years) have a 40% increased risk of living shorter lives than dogs with typical shaped faces e.g., Border Collie (13.1 years).
The team also found large-sized breeds have a 20% increased risk of shorter lifespan than small-sized breeds and that females had a slightly higher life expectancy than males (12.7 years compared to 12.4).
The data was collected from 18 different UK sources, including breed registries, vets, pet insurance companies, animal welfare charities, and academic institutions.
The nation’s favourite breeds according to Dogs Trust’s National Dog Survey, Labradors (13.1 years) and Cocker Spaniels (13.3 years), lived longer than the average age.
The dog breeds with the lowest median lifespans are the Caucasian Shepherd (5.4 years), Presa Canario (7.7 years) and Cane Corso (8.1 years).
Lead author Dr Kirsten McMillan, Data Manager at Dogs Trust said: “We found life expectancy varies between breed, body size, face shape and sex - this is the first study where all of these elements have been compared and contrasted alongside evolutionary history.
“Many of these factors interact to compound the issue, for example medium sized, flat-faced male dogs are nearly 3 times more likely to live shorter lives than small sized, long-faced females.
She said the findings have important implications for the canine pedigree health debate: although this study does not determine risk factors for early death, it does highlight groups that require further investigation.
“We hope this study can help breeders, policymakers, funding bodies, and welfare organizations make informed decisions to improve the welfare of companion dogs, as well as helping owners understand the range of factors that influence health and longevity, especially when acquiring a dog,” she added.
Dr Dan O'Neill, Chair of the Brachycephalic Working Group, which comprises of veterinary, breeder and welfare organisations to tackle the health and welfare issues facing flat-faced breeds, said: “Issues related to their huge popularity and serious health problems have triggered a health and welfare crisis for flat-faced dog breeds such as the French Bulldog, Pug and English Bulldog. This new research underlines these major health issues by revealing that flat-faced dogs live 1.5 years shorter lives than typical dogs.
“It is crucial that the public prioritises health over what they might think looks ‘cute’ and we urge anyone considering getting a flat-faced breed to ‘Stop and think’ and to ensure that they acquire a dog with the best chances of a long and happy life.”
Dr Jon Bielby, an expert in animal welfare and Conservation at LJMU’s School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, said: “With an estimated population of 12 million companion dogs in the UK, dog welfare is of huge importance. Our results provide evidence that a range of factors are associated with the lifespans in a popular companion animal in the UK, and provide an important contribution to discussions around decision-making and policy discussions on dog breeding, ownership, and management styles.”
For more advice on getting a dog responsibly, visit the Dogs Trust website. ENDS For more information, please contact Charlotte Newell or the press office on the details above.
*The study was of 584,734 dogs, including 284,734 deaths.