Commentary: Five Key Findings from a Huge Study of Dog Life Expectancy

by Ross Pomeroy


Veterinary scientists associated with National Taiwan University and The Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom have completed a massive study of pet dogs’ life expectancy in the United Kingdom, providing unprecedented, evidence-backed estimates of how long owners can expect their pooches to live.

The researchers made use of the VetCompass database for their study. VetCompass is composed of anonymous patient data from primary-care veterinary practices in the UK. During the study period from January 1st, 2016 to July 31st, 2020, the researchers monitored 876,039 dogs from 18 recognized breeds as well as crossbred dogs, observing a total of 30,563 confirmed deaths.

Here are six of the key findings:

1. Small Terriers Claim the Longevity Crown. Jack Russell and Yorkshire Terriers can be expected to live 12.7 and 12.5 years respectively. A few terriers in the study nearly made it to age 20.

2. Bulldogs and Pugs Live the Shortest. Bulldogs and Pugs usually live no more than eight years on average. This almost certainly owes to their squashed snouts, a result of inbreeding, which can severely hamper their ability to breathe. Disturbingly, the researchers found a life expectancy of just 4.55 years for the smaller French Bulldog. They noted, however, that this could be a statistical anomaly owing to the fact that French Bulldogs exploded in popularity within the UK over the past decade, meaning that the study would have registered the deaths of a lot of young dogs, skewing the findings. An update to the data with a longer study period would likely find that French Bulldogs live about as long as other Bulldogs.

Life expectancy and the 95% confidence interval for dogs of different Kennel Club breed groups under primary veterinary care in the UK. (Credit: Teng et al. / Scientific Reports)
3. Neutering Seems to Boost Life Expectancy. Neutered females lived about a year and a half longer than their fertile counterparts, while neutered males lived about a year longer. This is in keeping with prior research suggesting that neutered dogs are less susceptible to infection and have fewer behavioral issues, making them less likely to get into fights with other dogs or be euthanized for being dangerous to humans. The researchers warned that this finding should be treated with caution, however. “Neutering may also act as a proxy for stronger owner responsibility and better care, as it is often considered responsible dog ownership,” they wrote. “Thus, neutered animals may benefit from additional survival advantages related to enhanced owner care.”
4. Mixed-Breed Dogs Are Generally Long-Lived. Diverse genetics is generally a good thing, and this shows in the life expectancy of mixed-breed dogs – around 11.8 years. Only Springer Spaniels, Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers, and Yorkshire Terriers can be expected to live longer.
5. Females Outlive Males. Females can be expected to live about four months longer than males. This seems partly due to neutering, however, as female dogs tend to derive more of a longevity advantage from the procedure.

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Ross Pomeroy reports for RealClearScience.
Photo “Pug” by Pharaoh Hound. CC BY 2.0.









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