The Hamilton Spectator

Longer Snout, Longer Life Span

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All dogs go to heaven. But a bulldog might find itself headed there years before a Border terrier, according to a new study of nearly 600,000 British dogs from more than 150 breeds.

Large breeds and breeds with flattened faces had shorter average life spans than smaller dogs and those with elongated snouts, the researcher­s found. Female dogs also lived slightly longer than male ones. The results were published recently in the journal Scientific Reports.

There are exceptions to those trends, and the findings might not apply to dogs outside Britain, where breeding practices — and gene pools — may be different.

Some breeds are geneticall­y predispose­d to serious health problems, but breed-related difference­s in behavior, lifestyle, diet and environmen­t could also play a role in shortening some dogs’ lives.

“Now that we have identified these population­s that are at risk of early death, we can start looking into why that is,” said Kirsten McMillan, an author of the new study and the data manager at Dogs Trust, a dog welfare charity in Britain that led the research. “This provides an opportunit­y for us to improve the lives of our dogs.”

Most of the dogs were purebred, representi­ng one of 155 breeds; the rest were combined into a single crossbred category. The researcher­s categorize­d body size as small, medium or large and head shape as flat-faced, medium-proportion­ed or long-faced.

Across all dogs, the median life span was 12.5 years, the researcher­s found, but average life span varied “quite spectacula­rly” among breeds, Dr. McMillan said. Lancashire heelers, a breed of petite herding dogs, were canine Methuselah­s, living for 15.4 years on average. The much larger Caucasian shepherd dogs, though, had an average life span of just 5.4 years.

Small breeds lived for 12.7 years on average, compared with 11.9 years for large breeds. This was consistent with prior research on dogs and other mammals, which has found that within a given

species, smaller individual­s tend to outlive larger ones.

Flat-faced breeds, which are also called brachyceph­alic, lived for 11.2 years on average, while medium- and longfaced breeds had average life spans of 12.8 and 12.1 years. Some flat-faced breeds, like the French bulldog, have become wildly popular. But experts have warned that their extremely short snouts can lead to respirator­y problems,

heat stroke and other health challenges.

The researcher­s also found that purebred dogs, as a group, had average life spans of 12.7 years compared with 12.0 years for crossbred dogs. That survival advantage for purebred dogs contradict­s some prior research and could stem from the fact that all crossbred dogs — regardless of size or breed mix — were combined into a single category, scientists said.

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 ?? PHOTOGRAPH­S BY FRED R. CONRAD/THE NEW YORK TIMES ?? Flatter-faced dogs have shorter average lives than ones with longer faces. A Rottweiler and, left, a French bulldog.
PHOTOGRAPH­S BY FRED R. CONRAD/THE NEW YORK TIMES Flatter-faced dogs have shorter average lives than ones with longer faces. A Rottweiler and, left, a French bulldog.

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