Jack Russell terriers have the longest lifespan among pet dogs, study suggests

·3-min read

Jack Russell terriers have the longest life expectancy of pet dogs in the UK, while French bulldogs can expect the shortest, a new study suggests.

The overall average life expectancy for pet dogs was 11.2 years, the research found.

As in the human population, there was also a difference between the life expectancies of male and females, with male dogs living on average four months shorter (11.1 years).

According to the research, Jack Russell terriers had the greatest life expectancy at 12.7 years, followed by border collies (12.1 years) and springer spaniels (11.92 years).

In comparison, four flat-faced breeds were found to have the shortest life expectancy with French bulldogs expected to live only 4.5 years, followed by English bulldogs at 7.4 years, pugs at 7.7 years and American bulldogs 7.8 years.

Researchers say the findings support experts’ warnings that people should stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog – those with short snouts.

The lower life expectancies of flat-faced breeds are heavily associated with the animals suffering from a number of conditions including breathing problems and spinal disease, the experts suggest.

Dr Dan O’Neill, associate professor in Companion Animal Epidemiology at the Royal Veterinary College, and co-author of the paper, said: “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 much longer 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’.”

Animal Welfare Act
A four-month-old pug (Clara Molden/PA)

Dr Justine Shotton, British Veterinary Association president, said: “These life tables offer an important insight into the life expectancy of popular dog breeds in the UK and will be a useful tool for vets and pet owners in assessing dog welfare.

“A concerning finding is the lower life expectancy for flat-faced breeds.

“While the study doesn’t prove a direct link between these breeds’ potential welfare issues and shorter length of life, the findings serve as a fresh reminder for prospective dog owners to choose a breed based on health, not looks.”

The analysis is based on a random sample of 30,563 dogs that died between January 1, 2016 and July 31, 2020, from 18 different breeds and crossbreeds.

Other key findings were that among the Kennel Club breed groups, terrier had the longest life expectancy at age 0 at 12.0 years, followed by gundog (11.7 years), pastoral (11.2 years), hound (10.7 years), toy (10.7 years), and utility (10.1 years).

In both male and female dogs, neutered dogs were found to have a longer life expectancy than their non-neutered counterparts.

The new research from the RVC’s Veterinary Companion Animal Surveillance System (VetCompass) programme means owners can predict the remaining life expectancy of their dog from different ages.

Previously life expectancy was approximated using only the average age of death of dogs overall or for a particular breed.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

But the researchers say using life tables – tools that list the remaining life expectancy and probability of death across a range of age groups in any given population – allows owners to estimate accurately how much longer their pet dog may live.

While they are commonly used for humans, life tables are a novel concept for dogs, the researchers say.

The authors conclude their work now enables dog life expectancies to be tracked at different ages, similar to humans, and may improve predictions for different breeds in the UK.

There could also be other practical benefits such as helping dog shelters to provide accurate estimates of a dog’s remaining life expectancy during rehoming.

The study, conducted in collaboration with researchers from the National Taiwan University (NTU) in Taiwan, is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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