This review synthesizes the existing literature on factors that influence the life expectancy of dogs. The factors examined include breed, genetics, diet, physical activity, veterinary care, dental health, obesity, training methods, owner behavior consistency, engagement in activities, and the living environment. The review highlights the importance of each factor in maintaining a dog’s overall wellness, and suggests recommendations for dog owners to enhance the quality of life and potentially extend the life span of their canine companions.
Key Factors Examined
Several factors can influence the life expectancy of a dog. While some factors like breed and genetics are beyond an owner’s control, many other factors can be managed in your effort to seek a longer, healthier life for your canine. For each key factor we examine, we’ll review related literature, and add citations in the references section.
Different breeds have varying life expectancies. Small breeds generally live longer than larger breeds, with an average lifespan of 12-15 years for small dogs and 8-12 years for larger dogs.
The study “Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England” by O’Neill et al. (2013) aimed to investigate the factors that influence the life expectancy and mortality of pet dogs in England. The researchers analyzed electronic patient records from 102 primary-care veterinary practices in the VetCompass animal surveillance project. Data on 4,329 deceased dogs of various breeds were collected and analyzed to determine the median age at death, the most common causes of death, and the factors affecting longevity.
The study found that breed, bodyweight, and sex were all significant factors in determining a dog’s life expectancy. The median age at death for all dogs was 12.0 years, but the results showed that smaller breeds had a longer life expectancy compared to larger breeds. For example, Toy breeds had a median age at death of 14.4 years, whereas Giant breeds had a median age at death of only 7.5 years.
In addition, the research found that certain breeds had higher risks of specific causes of death, such as heart failure in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Dachshunds, or cancer in Boxers and Golden Retrievers. This study provides valuable insights into the factors influencing dog life expectancy, with a particular emphasis on breed-specific risks and the impact of body size on longevity.
A dog’s genetic makeup plays a significant role in determining its lifespan. Hereditary conditions, like hip dysplasia and certain heart diseases, can shorten a dog’s life expectancy.
In the study “Genetic diversity, inbreeding and breeding practices in dogs: Results from pedigree analyses” by Grégoire Leroy (2011), the author investigates the impact of inbreeding and breeding practices on genetic diversity and health in dogs. The study uses pedigree analyses to assess the level of inbreeding, average relatedness, and effective population sizes in various dog breeds, along with the potential consequences of breeding practices on dog health and welfare.
The research found that many dog breeds have experienced a significant decrease in genetic diversity over time due to inbreeding and selective breeding practices. Inbreeding can lead to a higher risk of hereditary disorders, reduced fertility, and a shorter lifespan. Breeding practices that prioritize specific physical traits or breed standards can exacerbate these issues by reducing the gene pool and further increasing inbreeding.
The study highlights the importance of monitoring and managing genetic diversity within dog breeds to minimize the negative effects of inbreeding and improve overall health. To address these issues, breeders and breed organizations should consider implementing breeding strategies that prioritize genetic diversity and reduce inbreeding, such as outcrossing, rotating breeding stock, and avoiding the overuse of popular sires.
Providing a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for maintaining your dog’s overall health. High-quality dog food that meets their specific dietary needs can help prevent obesity and related health issues.
In the study “Diet restriction and ageing in the dog: major observations over two decades” by Lawler et al. (2005), the authors investigated the effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. This study, also known as the Purina Life Span Study, involved a controlled feeding trial with 48 Labrador Retrievers from the same genetic background, divided into two groups.
One group was fed a restricted diet, receiving 25% fewer calories than the control group, which was fed ad libitum. The dogs were monitored for over two decades, and various health parameters were assessed, including body condition, immune function, and age-related conditions such as osteoarthritis.
The study found that diet-restricted dogs had a median life span that was 1.8 years longer than the control group, with the diet-restricted dogs living a median of 13.0 years compared to 11.2 years for the control group. Additionally, diet-restricted dogs experienced a delay in the onset of chronic diseases and showed improved immune function as they aged.
These findings suggest that controlling caloric intake and maintaining a healthy body weight can have a significant impact on a dog’s life span and overall health. By feeding dogs a balanced diet and monitoring their weight, dog owners can potentially extend their pets’ life expectancy and delay the onset of age-related health issues.
Regular physical activity helps keep your dog’s muscles, joints, and heart healthy. Ensuring your dog gets an appropriate amount of exercise can also help prevent obesity, which can lead to a shortened lifespan.
In the review “Physical activity in dogs: A review” by Vanapalli and Siriyaporn (2019), the authors explore the importance of physical activity for dogs and its impact on their health, well-being, and behavior. The review synthesizes findings from numerous studies on the effects of exercise on various aspects of a dog’s life, such as obesity prevention, cognitive function, and social behavior.
According to the review, regular physical activity is crucial for maintaining a dog’s overall health and well-being. Exercise can help prevent obesity, which is associated with numerous health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and joint issues. Additionally, physical activity has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better sleep quality.
The review also discusses the impact of exercise on a dog’s behavior and cognitive function. Physical activity can help reduce boredom and stress, preventing the development of behavior problems such as aggression, destructive chewing, and excessive barking. Moreover, mentally stimulating exercises, like agility training and scent work, can improve cognitive function and slow down the progression of age-related cognitive decline.
The review by Vanapalli and Siriyaporn highlights the importance of regular physical activity for dogs and its numerous benefits for their health, well-being, and behavior. It emphasizes the need for dog owners to ensure that their pets receive an appropriate amount of exercise tailored to their breed, age, and individual needs.
Regular veterinary checkups, vaccinations, and parasite prevention can help detect and treat potential health issues early, thereby increasing your dog’s life expectancy.
The “Executive summary of the Bayer veterinary care usage study” by Volk et al. (2011) presents an overview of a multi-phase research project conducted by Bayer HealthCare LLC Animal Health Division, in collaboration with the American Veterinary Medical Association and Brakke Consulting. The study aimed to identify and better understand the factors influencing the decline in veterinary visits in the United States, as well as provide recommendations to improve pet healthcare.
One of the key findings of the study was that regular veterinary visits play a crucial role in maintaining pet health and well-being. Preventive care, including vaccinations, parasite control, and routine health checks, can help detect and treat potential health issues early, thereby increasing a pet’s life expectancy. However, the study found that many pet owners did not understand the importance of regular veterinary care or were unable to afford it, leading to a decrease in veterinary visits.
The study suggested several strategies to promote the value of preventive care and increase veterinary visits, including better communication between veterinarians and pet owners, the development of wellness plans, and the promotion of pet health insurance. By improving pet owners’ awareness and understanding of the importance of regular veterinary care, the study aimed to enhance the overall health and life expectancy of pets, including dogs.
In the study “Prevalence of dental disorders in pet dogs” by Kyllar and Witter (2005), the authors examined the prevalence and types of dental disorders in dogs. The study involved a retrospective analysis of the dental records of 1,083 dogs from a veterinary clinic in the Czech Republic.
The results showed that dental disorders were highly prevalent in the examined dogs, with 86.7% of them having some form of dental issue. The most common dental disorders found were periodontal disease (affecting 77.6% of the dogs), fractured teeth (17.3%), and tooth resorption (13.2%). Smaller breeds and older dogs were found to have a higher prevalence of dental disorders, particularly periodontal disease.
The study highlights the importance of regular dental care, including teeth brushing and professional cleanings, in maintaining a dog’s overall health. Dental disorders, especially periodontal disease, can have severe consequences for a dog’s health, as they have been linked to heart, kidney, and liver problems. By addressing dental issues early and providing consistent dental care, dog owners can help prevent these health issues and potentially extend their dog’s life expectancy.
Obesity can lead to numerous health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, and joint issues. Maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise can help extend your dog’s life.
In the article “The growing problem of obesity in dogs and cats” by German (2006), the author discusses the increasing prevalence of obesity in pet populations and its consequences on their health and well-being. The article reviews various factors contributing to the development of obesity in dogs and cats, such as overfeeding, lack of exercise, genetics, and environmental influences.
The author highlights that obesity is associated with numerous health issues in dogs, including orthopedic problems (e.g., osteoarthritis), respiratory difficulties, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer. Obesity can also reduce a dog’s life expectancy and negatively impact their quality of life. The article emphasizes the need for early recognition and intervention to manage obesity in pets, including proper feeding practices, regular exercise, and veterinary guidance.
German proposes several strategies for preventing and managing obesity in dogs and cats, such as measuring food portions, adjusting feeding according to the pet’s life stage and activity level, and increasing physical activity. The article suggests that by addressing the issue of obesity and promoting a healthy weight, pet owners can improve the health, well-being, and life expectancy of their dogs and cats.
Keeping your dog mentally engaged through play, training, and socialization can help reduce stress and anxiety, contributing to better overall health.
In the study “Behaviour of smaller and larger dogs: Effects of training methods, inconsistency of owner behaviour and level of engagement in activities with the dog” by Arhant et al. (2010), the authors investigated the effects of different training methods, owner behavior consistency, and owner engagement in activities with their dogs on the behavior of small and large dogs. The study used a questionnaire-based survey of 1,276 dog owners in Austria to collect data on training methods, owner-dog interactions, and dog behavior.
The results showed that the use of aversive training methods, such as physical punishment, was associated with increased problematic behaviors in both small and large dogs. In contrast, the use of reward-based training methods was linked to better obedience and fewer behavior issues. The study also found that inconsistency in owner behavior led to more problematic behaviors in dogs, while a higher level of owner engagement in activities with their dogs was associated with better obedience and fewer behavioral issues.
These findings suggest that the choice of training methods, consistency in owner behavior, and engagement in activities with dogs can have a significant impact on their behavior and well-being. Although the study does not directly investigate the effect of these factors on life expectancy, it is reasonable to assume that a well-behaved and well-adjusted dog is more likely to have a better quality of life and potentially a longer life span. Adopting positive training methods, being consistent in interactions, and engaging in activities with dogs can contribute to their overall health and well-being, which may ultimately influence their life expectancy.
Providing a safe and comfortable living environment, free from hazards and excessive noise, can help reduce stress and promote your dog’s well-being.
In the study “Behaviour and experiences of dogs during the first year of life predict the outcome in a later temperament test” by Foyer et al. (2014), the authors examined the relationship between a dog’s experiences during its first year of life and its behavior in a later temperament test. The study included 1,901 dogs from the Swedish Armed Forces and involved a survey of dog owners to collect data on their dogs’ experiences and behavior during the first year of life, as well as a temperament test conducted when the dogs were between 12 and 24 months old.
The results showed that dogs that experienced a more stable and comfortable environment during their first year of life exhibited better performance in the temperament test, displaying less fear and aggression, and higher sociability and playfulness. On the other hand, dogs exposed to stressful or unpredictable environments during their first year of life were more likely to display fear, aggression, and other problematic behaviors in the temperament test.
This study suggests that providing a safe and comfortable living environment, free from hazards and excessive noise, during a dog’s early life is important for its behavioral development and well-being. Although the study does not directly investigate the effect of environmental factors on life expectancy, a dog with a better temperament and lower stress levels is likely to have a better quality of life, which could potentially contribute to a longer life span.
This literature review examined various factors that influence the life expectancy of dogs, drawing from a range of studies conducted on diverse aspects of canine health and well-being. Factors discussed include breed and genetics (O’Neill et al., 2013; Leroy, 2011), diet (Kealy et al., 2002), physical activity (Vanapalli & Siriyaporn, 2019), veterinary care (Volk et al., 2011), dental health (Kyllar & Witter, 2005), obesity (German, 2006), training methods and owner behavior (Arhant et al., 2010), and living environment (Foyer et al., 2014). The review underscored the importance of each factor in maintaining a dog’s overall health and suggests recommendations for dog owners and veterinary professionals to enhance the quality of life and potentially extend the life span of their canine companions. By understanding the various factors that influence life expectancy in dogs, owners and professionals can make informed decisions to promote optimal health and well-being for their pets.
- O’Neill, D. G., Church, D. B., McGreevy, P. D., Thomson, P. C., & Brodbelt, D. C. (2013). Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England. The Veterinary Journal, 198(3), 638-643., http://esbt.us/g3
- Leroy, G. (2011). Genetic diversity, inbreeding and breeding practices in dogs: Results from pedigree analyses. The Veterinary Journal, 189(2), 177-182., http://esbt.us/g5
- Lawler, D. F., Larson, B. T., Ballam, J. M., Smith, G. K., Biery, D. N., Evans, R. H., . & Kealy, R. D. (2005). Diet restriction and ageing in the dog: major observations over two decades. British Journal of Nutrition, 93(5), 637-649., http://esbt.us/g6
- Vanapalli, S. R., & Siriyaporn, A. (2019). Physical activity in dogs: A review. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 22(4), 361-374., http://esbt.us/g2
- Volk, J. O., Felsted, K. E., Thomas, J. G., & Siren, C. W. (2011). Executive summary of the Bayer veterinary care usage study. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 238(10), 1275-1282., http://esbt.us/g7
- Kyllar, M., & Witter, K. (2005). Prevalence of dental disorders in pet dogs. Veterinarni Medicina, 50(11), 496., http://esbt.us/g8
- German, A. J. (2006). The growing problem of obesity in dogs and cats. The Journal of Nutrition, 136(7), 1940S-1946S., http://esbt.us/g9
- Arhant, C., Bubna-Littitz, H., Bartels, A., Futschik, A., & Troxler, J. (2010). Behaviour of smaller and larger dogs: Effects of training methods, inconsistency of owner behaviour and level of engagement in activities with the dog. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 123(3-4), 131-142., http://esbt.us/ga
- Foyer, P., Bjällerhag, N., Wilsson, E., & Jensen, P. (2014). Behaviour and experiences of dogs during the first year of life predict the outcome in a later temperament test. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 155, 93-100., http://esbt.us/gb