Do you love dogs? Well, I do love them, along with cats, because they’re such cuddly and loyal pets or home companions. But, have you ever looked at your dog straight in the eye, and wondered how long it might live? Yes, do you ever ponder on how many more years you will get to cuddle on the sofa, or go for a walk with your furry family member? Well, a new study conducted in the UK, but applicable to dogs everywhere, reveals amazing new details about dog lifespan. Read on to learn more on what this new study reveals about canine lifespans.
Dog Life Expectancy at Birth
The British study hopes to assess the life expectancy of canine pets not just in the UK but all around the world. Okay, let’s start with the first surprise – A newborn Jack Russel Terrier can be expected to live at 12.7 years on average, with Border Collies living 12.1 years, Springer Spaniels at 11.9 years.
The study also found that four flat-faced breeds were noted to have the shortest life expectancy at age zero. Like French Bulldogs were only expected to live 4.5 years on average, followed by English Bulldogs at 7.4 years, Pugs at 7.7 years and American Bulldogs at 7.8 years.
These dogs are also likely to be associated with a number of life-limiting disorders like spinal disease, breathing problems and difficulty giving birth, all of which limit dog lifespans.
Okay, so let’s breakdown dog lifespans by breed. I’m sure you’ll either be happy, or pissed, by the numbers that I am going to enumerate. So, let’s start the show! A Yorkshire Terrier is expected to live 12.5 years, Border Collies at 12.10 years, Springer Spaniels at 11.9 years, Crossbreds at 11.8 years, Labrador Retrievers at 11.7 years, Staffordshire Bull Terriers at 11.3 years and Cocker Spaniels at 10.4 years.
We continue with Shih-tzus at 11.05 years, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels at 10.4 years, German Shepherd dogs at 10.16 years, Boxers at 10.04 years, Beagles at 9.85 years, Chihuahuas at 7.91 years, French Bulldogs at 4.53 years and Huskies at 9.5 years.
The above-listed dog lifespans have been produced before, although this is one of the most “sophisticated” yet because it is based on an analysis of a huge database of veterinary records called VetCompass.
Run by the UK’s Royal Veterinary College (RVC), this veterinary database holds information on 20 million (repeat: 20 million) animals, which has allowed researchers to compile what are called “life tables”.
To put it simply, these are actually charts which organize a population into age bands, with each band showing the probability of death before the next age grouping. I’m not sure if you’ll be pleased, or outright sad, with the number that I just showed you.
Many Factors Affect How Long a Dog Lives
Well, to be honest, a lot of factors affect how long a dog will live, which makes average dog lifespans only partially helpful, or useful.
Just take a look at the Chihuahua. Its life expectancy from age zero is 7.9 years. You probably might assume that there isn’t much point in rescuing a six year old Chihuahua at a dog shelter because the average age at the death for the breed suggests that you will only get to spend less than two fruitful years with it. How sad.
However, veterinary records show quite a lot about how Chihuahuas die at a relatively young age, pulling down that average life expectancy. And, this also means that a Chihuahua that’s already reached 6 years will likely live a lot longer than 8. But then again, I’ve known of some Chihuahuas who lived till 15 or 16 years!
According to some members of the British study team, sometimes a statistic that is a single value, giving you the middle of the curve, may be correct technically. However, there’s so much more nuance in the data and distributions than that. And the cute Chihuahua is actually the perfect example of where the nuance is important. Just knowing the middle of the distribution of ages can lead you astray.
The president of the British Veterinary Association also commented that these “life tables” offer a crucial insight into the life expectancy of popular dog breeds, and will be a quite useful tool for vets, as well as pet owners, in assessing dog welfare and dog lifespans.
But, the study shows a concerning finding about the lower life expectancy for flat-faced breeds. While the Brit study does not prove a direct link between these breed’s potential welfare issues and the shorter length of life, these serve as a good reminder for prospective dog owners to choose a dog based on health, and not just looks.
The Dog Aging Project
There’s actually another trailblazing study about dog lifespans, and I think it was done in the United States, and it’s called The Dog Aging Project.
Founded in 2018, the study is considered by far to be the most ambitious of projects, as it tackles the questions of canine longevity, and it has enrolled tens of thousands of dogs of all sizes, breeds and backgrounds to thoroughly understand canine aging.
The Dog Project’s open-source database will provide veterinarians and scientists will all the tools needed to assess how well a specific dog breed is aging, and this will hopefully set the stage for further studies in healthy aging in dogs, and even people.
The Dog Aging Project’s study team have detailed their project and its potential implications for both human and veterinary medicine in an article published in the current issue of the journal Nature. One of the most eye-opening avenues of inquiry will analyse the DNA of exceptionally long-lived dogs, who are dubbed the “super-centenarian” dogs of the planet.
The Dog Aging Project is indeed a truly large, ambitious and wildly interdisciplinary undertaking that has the potential to be a quite powerful resource for the broader scientific community in general.