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Previously, veterinary experts were able to crudely “guesstimate” the life expectancy of a given hound based on the average age of death of dogs overall, or a particular breed. Using recently-acquired large-scale dog population data, however, the researchers were able to compile so-called “life tables” — which are commonly used for humans. These allow researchers to look up the remaining life expectancy and probability of death for a range of age groups in any given population. While life expectancy obviously decreases with age, it does not always do so linearly, and therefore the life table can provide more accurate estimates that account for this.
In their study, animal epidemiologist Professor Dan O’Neill of the Royal Veterinary College and his colleagues analysed the lifespans of a random sample of 30,563 UK dogs from 18 different breeds and crossbreeds who died between January 1, 2016, and July 31, 2020.
The data revealed that the average life expectancy for companion dogs in the UK is 11.2 years — with Jack Russell Terriers having the greatest life expectancy at 12.7 years, followed by 12.1 years for Border Collies and 11.9 years for Springer Spaniels.
The shortest life expectancies, however, were found among four so-called brachycephalic, or flat-faced, dog breeds.
French bulldogs typically only live for 4.5 years, while English Bulldogs have a life expectancy of 7.4 years, Pugs 7.7 years and American Bulldogs 7.8 years.
Prof O’Neill said: “Dogs have helped many humans to get through the loneliness and isolation of the Covid pandemic.
“These new VetCompass Life tables enable owners to now estimate how much longer they can benefit from these dogs.
“The short life expectancies for flat-faced breeds such as French Bulldogs shown by the VetCompass Life tables support the UK Brachycephalic Working Group’s call for all owners to ‘Stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog’.”
Brachycephalic breeds tend to be afflicted with such life-limiting disorders as breathing problems, spinal disease and dystocia — a disorder that leads to difficult births.
The researcher’s analysis also revealed that male dogs live for 11.1 years on average — four months less than their female counterparts.
Life expectancy was higher, however, among neutered dogs of both sexes, boosting the average lifespans of female dogs by 1.48 years and male dogs by 0.91 years.
Among the breed groups used by the Kennel Club to classify dogs, Terriers were found to have the longest average life expectancy at 12.0 years, followed by Gundogs at 11.7 years, Pastoral dogs at 11.2 years, Hounds at 10.7 years, Toy dogs at 10.7 years and Utility breeds at 10.1 years.
According to the Royal Veterinary College, “the life tables have the potential to drastically improve dog welfare by helping inform treatment plans and end of life decisions.
“This also can benefit potential dog owners, particularly those looking to adopt, by helping them estimate the remaining length of ownership commitment and potential medical care needs of different breeds and differently aged dogs.”
Dogs with shorter lives, they noted, tend to have lower health generally.
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The Kennel Club’s health, welfare and breeder services executive Bill Lambert said: “This new tool, funded in part by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust VetCompass grant, helps us understand and determine more accurately a dog’s life expectancy given different factors throughout their lives, instead of just based on historic breed estimates.
“This new approach helps us and others to identify particular conditions or events that can happen early on in life that may have an impact on a dog’s life expectancy, and we hope this will play a part in supporting owners to understand their dog, make responsible decisions and provide good care, and help would-be owners to select the right breed for them.
“Whilst some of these breeds have only recently become popular, and so we might not have such a full picture of their overall longevity as of yet, using information and research to create new tools like this is invaluable in our work to make a difference to the lives of such dogs and their owners.”
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
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