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Body Size and Face Shape Help Predict A Dog’s Lifespan, Study Reveals


Dogs that are small and have a long nose are said to live longer than others, according to a recent study published on Thursday, February 01.

Researchers in England set out to finally determine what impacts our pooches life expectancy.

The researchers looked at data from more than 500,000 dogs located in the UK. They found that a dog’s body size, sex, parental lineage, and the length of their snout, helped determined what influences our pooches’ life span.

Long Haired Shetland Sheepdog, Side View. Outdoor Shoot
Jagodka / Shutterstock.com

Kirsten McMillan, a data scientist at Dogs Trust, the largest canine humane society in the U.K., and lead author of the new study, tells Scientific Reports, “If you have a medium-sized, flat-face male dog, like an English bulldog, it’s nearly three times more likely to live a shorter life than a small-size, long-face female of a breed like a miniature dachshund or an Italian greyhound.”

While the researchers were unable to find direct risk factors that contribute to the early death of dogs, they did discover a few interesting things.

First, female dogs (across all breeds) tended to outlive male ones. The median life expectancy of females was 12.7 years, while males was 12.4 years.

Second, which was a bit surprising, was that, pure breeds tend to live longer than crossbreeds. Pure breeds’ average lifespan was 12.7 years, while crossbreeds’ was 12 years.

While not involved in the new study, veterinary epidemiologist at Virginia Tech, Audrey Ruple, also found this specific result surprising.

“We often assume that there is an advantage for crossbred dogs because they’re less likely to have a genetic predisposition to particular types of disease,” she tells Scientific Reports.

And finally, the researchers were able to determine which breeds were prone to dying young and which ones lived longer.

As it turns out, smaller, longer-nosed breeds such as the Shetland sheepdog had the longest life expectancy with a median of 13.3 years.

And medium-sized dogs with a flat face, such as Bulldogs, loved the shortest with a life expectancy of 9.6 years for females and 9.1 years for males.

French Bulldog Side View At The Park
Diondra Filicetti / Shutterstock.com

The researchers also mentioned that the popularity of flat-faced breed has been rising, despite the number of health problems associated with them.

This result was a cause of concern that Dr Dan O’Neill, chair of the Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG), highlighted. He said that the health issues associated with flat-faced breeds have “triggered a health and welfare crisis for flat-faced dog breeds”.

He also said, “This new research underlines these major health issues by revealing that flat-faced dogs live 1.5 years shorter lives than typical dogs,” Bracknell News reports.

However, the researchers found that while many flat-faced dogs were more prone to dying young, there were a few exceptions to this, like the Tibetan Spaniel that could live until 15.2 years.

While these findings give us a glimpse of what impacts dog breeds’ life expectancy, the researchers emphasize that these results are solely linked to dogs in the UK.

Nonetheless, the researchers hope that their study can help regulators and organizations ensure responsible breeding practices. And to also help potential dog owners understand what they are getting into when they choose a certain dog breed as their pet.

“I want people to use this paper as a platform for improving the lives of companion dogs,” McMillan says.



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