Research Suggests Lifespan In Dogs Varies By Breed

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis

The saddest thing about dogs is when they leave us. We never have enough time with them, and it seems like the average lifespan of our furry best friends gets shorter and shorter. A recent study found that the average lifespan may be intricately connected to breed type.


Why do some dogs live to age 18, and others barely reach ten? If there’s one thing we could change about all dogs, it would be their lifespan. We’d of course want them to be with us for as long as they could, and research from the United Kingdom suggests that breed type has something to do with lifespan.

The study, published in Nature’s Scientific Reports found that dog life expectancy is closely linked to breed. The researchers analyzed 30,000 dogs that died from 2016 to 2020 and calculated the average life expectancy of 18 breeds and crossbreeds.

The scientists claimed that previous research looking into dogs' life expectancies has a few flaws. The researchers decided to construct a life table for their work, as opposed to simply noting the age of the dogs at the time of their death.

Insurance companies typically use life tables, and they predict the probability of death at different times for the creatures of the population. According to the research team, a life table gives much more detailed information than a single summary average age of death across all dogs. 

The researchers found that though dogs' average life expectancy was 11.2 years, that age varied considerably based on breed. Not surprisingly to many veterinarians and those who know and love dogs, smaller breeds generally live longer than larger dogs do. 

That said, the data should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, Jack Russell Terriers have an average life expectancy of 12.72 years, but French Bulldogs have a low life expectancy–4.53 years. Jack Russell Terriers are typically larger than French Bulldogs, but other factors like brachycephalic features on a bulldog come into play as well. 

Dr. Dan O’Neill is the study’s senior author.  He’s also an associate professor of companion animal epidemiology at the Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire, England.

He said that historical breeding practices between dogs likely disrupt what scientists would generally expect to find. He bases this on the fact that in the natural world, smaller species typically live shorter lives than do larger species–the opposite of the dog world. 

According to Dr. O’Neill, the sad finding is that many breeds follow a pathway to extreme body shapes with serious health issues linked–brachycephaly for instance. It’s something to think about when going out to buy or adopt a dog.

And the study didn’t take into account other factors like whether different diets and adherence to natural or holistic ingredients make a difference in lifespan. He said that the study suggested that the concept of ‘dog years’ is no longer really useful, and instead, paying attention to the dog years of different breeds is much more likely to be an accurate predictor of general lifespan.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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