Dog Life Expectancy Closely Linked To Breed, Says Study

Dog Life Expectancy Closely Linked To Breed, Says Study
Dog Life Expectancy Closely Linked To Breed, Says Study
dog life expectancy
dog life expectancy

Photo by cynoclub via Getty

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t think about our dogs’ life expectancy. Unfortunately, the truth is that our pups live much shorter lives than us. But what is the average lifespan for a dog?

An April 2022 study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that dog life expectancy is closely linked to breed. After analyzing 30,000 dogs that died from 2016 to 2020, the study “calculated the average life expectancies of 18 breeds and crossbreeds in the United Kingdom,” according to LiveScience.

Using a new approach to determine life expectancy

In their introduction, researchers explain that previous research to determine dog life expectancies has some flaws. Instead of simply noting the dogs’ age at the time of death, researchers constructed a life table. 

Primarily used by insurance companies, life tables predict the probability of death at different ages for individuals in a population. According to the study’s team, “A life table provides much more detailed information and inference than a single summary average age at death across all ages.”

Interestingly, researchers found that the dogs’ average life expectancy was 11.2 years. However, this number varied considerably by breed. Fascinatingly, the study’s findings suggest that small breeds live longer than larger dogs. Of course, these statistics only represent averages and should be treated with caution. For example, the study found that Jack Russell Terriers have an average life expectancy of 12.72 years. Contrastingly, French Bulldogs have the lowest life expectancy, at only 4.53 years.

Breeding practices have affected life spans within breeds

According to senior author Dr. Dan O’Neill, historical breeding practices with dogs disrupt what scientists would normally expect to find. “ The life expectancy advantage for small dogs actually flies in the face of the basic rules of life expectancy across species in the natural world, where smaller species generally live shorter lives than larger species,” he said.

 Alarmingly, Dr. O’Neill suggests that certain physical traits may be a culprit in explaining shorter life spans. “Sadly, while many breeds did retain a basic healthy body shape,” he says, “…several other breeds followed a pathway to extreme body shapes. The serious health issues linked to these extreme body shapes started to become apparent.”

Most importantly, what the study suggests is that our concept of dog years is “no longer useful.” Instead, O’Neill recommends creating a concept of dog years for each breed. “This is much more likely to be accurate,” he says.

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