Small, long-nosed dogs might outlive their flatter-faced friends

Having a small body but a long schnoz spells good things for our precious pups, according to a new report in the journal Scientific Reports.

The study of UK dog breeds found that, at 13.3 years, small, long-nosed dogs such as whippets and miniature daschunds boast the highest life expectancy.

But in a blow for English bulldog owners, flat-faced pooches had the lowest – 9.1 and 9.6 years for males and females, respectively.

Researchers from Dog Trust and Liverpool John Moores University in the UK assembled a database of over 580,000 individual dogs sourced from breed registries, vets and pet insurance companies. Each dog was classified to a pure or cross breed, and collected information about characteristics such as sex, date of birth and death.

Dogs were also classified according to the ratio between the width and length of their skulls as either: brachycephalic (short-nosed), mesocephalic (medium-nosed) or dolichocephalic (long-nosed).

They found small, long-nosed breeds – such as Shetland sheepdogs – had the highest median life expectancy. Medium brachycephalic dogs, those whose face and nose have a pushed-in appearance, had the lowest.

The median survival for pure breeds was 12.7 years, slightly higher than that of crossbreeds at 12 years. The finding challenges the widespread belief that crossbred dogs are much healthier than purebreds.

However, the authors caution the results of their study cannot identify direct risk factors for early death, saying “whilst this study provides evidence to inform discussions around canine pedigree health, it is important to note that unbiased lifespan data necessarily requires the inclusion of live dogs whose cause of death is yet unknown, and furthermore, for those deceased – reason for death is not included within our dataset”.

“Death may be due to euthanasia (based on physiological or behavioural concerns), trauma, disease, or natural causes.”

The study could be used to inform discussions regarding pedigree health, whilst helping dog owners, breeders, policy makers, funding bodies and welfare organisations improve decision making regarding canine welfare.

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