When you look at your dog, you certainly wonder how long he can live. How many more years can you play with him?
A new scientific study, recently released, has looked at the life expectancy of several popular dog breeds in the UK.
Research shows, for example, that a jack russell terrier can live an average of 12.7 years. Border collies live 12.1 years and springer spaniels 11.9 years, on average.
On the other hand, some of these popular dogs can die sooner than you might think.
Four snub-nosed breeds have the shortest life expectancy – French Bulldogs live an average of just 4.5 years. English Bulldogs, 7.4 years, and pugs, 7.7 years. American Bulldogs live 7.8 years.
These breeds are prone to a number of life-limiting disorders such as breathing problems, spinal ailments and difficulty giving birth – all of which limit overall longevity.
Life expectancy of dogs (in years)
- Jack russell terrier: 12.7
- Yorkshire terrier: 12.5
- Border Collie 12.1
- Springer spaniel: 11.9
- Mestizo: 11.8
- Labrador retriever: 11.7
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier: 11.3
- Cocker Spaniel: 11.3
- Shih tzu: 11
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: 10.4
- German Shepherd: 10.1
- Boxer: 10
- Beagle: 9.8
- Husky: 9.5
- Chihuahua: 7.9
- American Bulldog: 7.7
- Pug: 7.6
- English Bulldog: 7.3
- French Bulldog: 4.5
Age lists like this (for 18 selected breeds and crossbred animals) have been produced before, but the current version is the most sophisticated yet because it’s based on an analysis of a large database of veterinary records called VetCompass.
Administered by the RVC (Royal Veterinary College), this surveillance system currently contains information on 20 million animals.
Kendy Tzu-yun Teng’s research team was allowed to compile what are called “life tables”. Simply put, they are graphs that organize a population into age groups, with each group showing the probability of death.
Many factors affect how long your dog will live, making the average lifespan only partially useful.
Take for example the chihuahua. The life expectancy of the animal is 7.9 years.
But veterinary records show that many chihuahuas die even younger, lowering that average life expectancy. And that means a Chihuahua that has reached six is likely to live much longer than eight. There are Chihuahuas that reach 15 or 16 years.
“It’s that ‘damn lies and statistics’ phrase,” said study co-author Dan O’Neill.
“Sometimes a stat that is a single value, giving you the mean of a curve, is technically correct, but there’s a lot more nuance in the data and distributions. And the Chihuahua is the perfect example of where that nuance matters. knowing the mean age distribution can be misleading,” the RVC veterinary epidemiologist told BBC News.
This approach will be very helpful for people who are considering adopting a mature pet or who need to decide whether to seek expensive medical treatment for their aging pet. With pet insurance becoming more common, actuaries will be avid readers of the new tables.
Justine Shotton, President of the British Veterinary Association, commented: “These life tables provide important insight into the life expectancy of popular dog breeds in the UK and will be a useful tool for veterinarians and pet owners in assessing -being of the dogs.”
“A worrying finding is the shorter life expectancy for the flat-faced breeds. While the study does not prove a direct link between the potential welfare problems of these breeds and shorter lifespans, the findings serve as a fresh reminder to that future owners choose a breed based on health, not appearance.”
O’Neill agrees with Shotton’s view of snub-nosed breeds, but adds that the very low life expectancies for the French Bulldog in particular are likely influenced to some degree by their rapid rise in popularity in the country. As numbers have skyrocketed in the breed’s population in the UK, it’s still difficult to realistically assess its longevity.
The number of French Bulldogs registered with the Kennel Club in the UK has increased from 2,771 individuals in 2011 to 39,266 in 2020.
“This means that there are more young animals in this population, on average, than in other breeds. So there are more young animals ‘available’ to die,” explains O’Neill.
“Over time, as we collect more data, their life expectancy probably won’t be that low. But I doubt it’ll go any further than the pug and the English bulldog have gotten.”
Tzu-yun Teng is affiliated with National Taiwan University. Her and O’Neill’s study was published in Scientific Reports.