Longevity of British breeds of dog and its relationships with sex, size, cardiovascular variables and disease

British study of lifespan averages for dog breeds

source: A.R. Michell
Veterinary Record vol 145 no 22, November 27 1999
starts p 625, 5 pages long

A British study has recorded links between dog breeds and longevity, using a questionnaire covering 3,126 dogs. The dogs lived for a mean average of 11 years 1 month, rising to 12 years 8 months for those dying of natural causes, while the median average was 12 years for all dogs, and 13 years 2 months for dogs dying of natural causes. One dog survived to 22 years, and 8% of dogs survived to be over 15 years, while 26% reached 14 years or more. Neutered bitches lived longest of dogs dying of all causes, though entire bitches lived longest of dogs dying of natural causes.

Neutered females dying of all causes (720 bitches) lived 12 years on average, compared to 10 years 10 months for entire females (833 bitches). Neutered females dying of natural causes (57 bitches) lived 12 years 11 months on average compared with 13 years 3 months for entire females (71 bitches). Neutered males dying of all causes (291 dogs) lived 10 years 8 months on average compared with 10 years 11 months for entire males (1,277 dogs) Neutered males dying of natural causes (15 dogs) lived on average 11 years 11 months, compared with 12 years 2 months for entire males (110 dogs). Neutered dogs and bitches were less likely to die of cancer, and more likely to die of heart disease than entire dogs and bitches. Neutered bitches were also more likely to die of liver disease than entire bitches.

Cancer was the most common cause of death in the groups as a whole, accounting for 44.9% of deaths of entire males, 34.7% of deaths of neutered males, 50.2% of deaths of entire females, and 39.6% of deaths of neutered females. Heart disease accounted for 34.7% of deaths in neutered males compared to 22.5% for entire males, and 23.6% of deaths of neutered females compared to 20.3% of entire females.

Jack Russells and Staffordshire bull terriers were overrepresented among dogs killed in traffic accidents, with such accidents accounting for 3.2% of all deaths. Corgis, Staffordshire bull terriers, and weimaraners were overrepresented among those euthanased due to behavioural problems, with German shepherds and rottweilers underrepresented. Only 2% of all the deaths were due to euthanasia as a result of behavioural problems. Irish wolfhounds, rottweilers, and Afghan hounds were overrepresented among dogs dying of cancer, in descending order, while beagles, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, and Dachshunds were underrepresented, in ascending order, with no cases at all recorded for the beagles.

Breeds vary greatly in terms of longevity. Breeds recorded as having a median age at death of 14 years or over were Bedlington terriers, miniature dachshunds, miniature poodles, Tibetan terriers, toy poodles, and whippets. Breeds with a median age at death of between 13.0 - 13.9 years were beagles, border collies, border terriers, Cairn terriers, chihuahuas, chow chows, collies, cross-breeds, dalmations, greyhounds, Jack Russells, Pekineses, Shetland sheepdogs, shi-tzus, English springer spaniels, and wire-haired fox terriers. Breeds with a median age at death of 12.0 - 12.9 years included golden retrievers, labrador retrievers, rough collies, West Highland white terriers, and Yorkshire terriers. Cocker spaniels, Irish setters and old English sheepdogs were in the 11.0 - 11.9 year range, and boxers, cavalier King Charles spaniels, German shepherds and Staffordshire bull terriers in the 10.0 - 10.9 year range, while deerhounds, dobermanns, flat-coated retrievers, Lhasa apsos, Rhodesian ridgebacks and rottweilers were in the 9.0 - 9.9 range. Breeds with a median age at death of under nine years were Bernese mountain dogs, bulldogs, bullmastiffs, great danes, Irish wolfhounds, miniature schnauzers and St Bernards.There does not appear to be a link between blood pressure, heart rate, and longevity.

There have been studies carried out in other countries of breeds and longevity, and there are both similarities and differences with this British study. Euthanasia for behavioural problems is more common in the US. Data based on national populations show breed differences. A study of Swedish dogs also found Irish wolfhounds and boxers to be vulnerable to cancers, though the Swedish study found greyhounds and some other breeds more vulnerable than did this British study.