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Monday, May 23, 2022

Explained: What a new study says about life expectancy of dogs

The study has used something called a “life table”, which is a tool that lists the remaining life expectancy and probability of death across a range of age groups.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: April 29, 2022 7:41:56 pm
Among both male and female dogs, neutered dogs were found to have a longer life expectancy at age 0 in comparison to non-neutered dogs. (AP/Representational)

A new research from the UK’s Royal Veterinary College’s (RVC) VetCompass programme conducted in collaboration with researchers from the National Taiwan University (NTU) analysed a random sample of 30,563 dogs that died between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2020 to determine their life expectancy. These dogs belonged to 18 different breeds and crossbreeds and the results of the analysis revealed that the overall average life expectancy of these dogs was around 11.2 years.

The study also used a tool, a life table for dogs, which helps determine dogs’ life expectancy more accurately than using something like average lifespans.

In 2020, research described the common rule of thumb of determining a dog’s age by multiplying it by 7 as a myth. The number 7 comes from the 1:7 rule of thumb as per which, a dog’s age in human years can be determined. For instance, a dog born on April 29, 2015 is on the brink of middle-age today (7×7= 49), when its age is thought in terms of a human’s age.

Instead of this rule of thumb, this research suggested that the relation between a human and dog’s age is not linear. Even so, the study has its limitations since it only used a single dog breed (a labrador) to come to this conclusion.

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The four dog breeds with the least life-expectancy are flat-faced breeds that are heavily associated with several life-limiting disorders such as breathing problems, spinal disease and dystocia (difficult birth). Other key findings from the study say that the average life expectancy for male dogs at age 0 is 11.1 years, which is four months less than female dogs.

The four dog breeds with the least life-expectancy are flat-faced breeds that are heavily associated with several life-limiting disorders.

But among both male and female dogs, neutered dogs were found to have a longer life expectancy at age 0 in comparison to non-neutered dogs. However, even among non-neutered dogs, females’ life-expectancy was greater than their male counter-parts.

The study has used something called a “life table”, which is a tool that lists the remaining life expectancy and probability of death across a range of age groups. This is different from just using life expectancy, which is estimated by only using the average age of death of dogs for a particular breed.

The life tables are especially useful to determine the remaining life expectancy, which does not necessarily follow a linear decline with age. Further, because different factors affect a dog’s life expectancy throughout life, life tables provide a more reliable estimate.

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“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 long more that they can benefit from these dogs. The short life expectancies for flat-faced breeds such as French Bulldogs shown by the VetCompass Life tables supports the UK Brachycephalic Working Group’s call for all owners to ‘Stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog’”, Dr Dan O’Neill who is the co-author of the paper was quoted as saying in a release.

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