It’s almost every dog owner’s wish that our cherished four-legged companions could live forever. After all, there’s nothing quite as fulfilling as having a loyal, loving canine to go through life with.
While we all agree that dogs make every day better, it’s hard to swallow the harsh fact that they have a shorter lifespan than us. If you have, like most dog parents, ever looked up your pup’s average lifespan, chances are, you silently hoped their life expectancy miraculously winds up on the much higher end of the spectrum.
Well, here’s some good news: there are scientifically proven ways to help your canine stick around much longer. A new study suggests that you have more control than previously thought over how long your dog lives.
So, you’re probably wondering how exactly to go about maximizing your time together. Let’s unpack the research and ensure Fido has many more years left to spend by your side.
Unpacking life expectancy in dogs
Research shows that a dog’s life expectancy is mainly influenced by these two factors: breed and size. In terms of size, smaller dogs have a longer life span than both medium and large dog breeds. To be more specific:
At the same time, mixed-breed dogs like Cavachons and Labradoodles tend to have a longer life span than purebred dogs. However, the difference in life span between these two types of breeds reduces if the mixed-breed dog is also a large breed.
Contrary to what many dog owners think, though, a canine’s life expectancy isn’t only determined by their size and breed.
According to findings from a 2023 study carried out by scientists from Arizona State University (ASU), the University of Washington, and the Texas A&M Schools of Medicine, factors such as a household’s total income, a dog owner’s age, time spent with children in the household, and a dog’s social network have a huge impact on dog health and longevity.
The research team drew their conclusions from a detailed survey involving more than 21,000 dog owners. Interestingly, the researchers found that the impact of social networks on a dog’s health and longevity was five times stronger than the impact of the other factors.
5 science-backed ways to increase your dog’s life span
Here are five scientifically proven ways to increase your pooch’s life expectancy based on the new study.
Let them socialize with other dogs more often
Turns out, our furry friends may live longer if they routinely socialize with other canines. Adding another canine member to your household or letting your dog socialize more with other dogs outdoors can increase their life span.
Research findings from the 2023 “The Dog Aging Project” study revealed that improving a dog’s social connectedness results in better health outcomes, which translates to an increased life expectancy.
“This does show that, like many social animals — including humans — having more social companions can be really important for the dog’s health,” Bri McCoy, one of the scientists involved in the study, said.
Our furry companions are pack animals by nature. So, it’s safe to say that they thrive best when they interact positively with other pups. To help your dog live longer, try and provide them with more opportunities to socialize and bond with other dogs.
Spend more time with your dog
Scientists also established that dogs whose owners spend less time with them but dedicate more time to their human children experience negative health outcomes.
As a result, these dogs are likely to have a reduced life span.
McCoy noted, “Having a good network, having a good social connectedness is good for the dogs that are living with us.”
Spending more time with your dog provides an array of emotional, mental, and physical benefits that can prolong their existence. For this reason, be intentional about having more one-on-one time with your furry family member.
Strive to improve your financial well-being
Surprisingly, findings from the study showed that a dog owner’s financial well-being plays a big role in their canine’s health and longevity.
In fact, dogs from wealthier households are likely to have better health outcomes, which means increased life expectancy.
Dogs with more financially secure owners have an advantage when it comes to accessing better medical care. According to scientists, wealthier dog parents can comfortably pay for costly diagnostic tests to help their canines achieve better health outcomes in the long run.
Keep your dog physically fit
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine confirmed that overweight dogs have shorter life spans than physically fit ones.
Scientists examined over 50,000 male and female dogs across 12 popular dog breeds — some overweight, others with normal body weight.
The research team established that the risk of premature death in overweight dogs is greater than in dogs with a healthy weight. As per their findings, obesity shortens the lifespan of overweight dogs by more than two years.
Obesity in dogs is linked to life-threatening illnesses ranging from kidney disease to pancreatitis, cancer, heart disease, and more. Here are a few tips to prevent your canine companion from becoming obese as they grow older:
- Keep them on a portioned, vet-recommended diet.
- Incorporate physical exercise into their daily routine.
- Keep track of their weight.
- Consult your vet in case of any weight-related concerns.
Don’t skip vaccinations
As the old adage goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Vaccinations help keep dogs protected from serious — but preventable — illnesses that can potentially reduce life expectancy.
To help your canine live longer, always stay consistent with their vaccination schedule.
It’s also a great idea to consult your vet about any infectious diseases in your area that your dog may need to be vaccinated against.
A 2017 study published in Vaccine Journal revealed that shots like the rabies vaccine could reduce the risk of premature death in dogs aged 0–3 months by 56%, by 44% in dogs aged 4–11 months, and by 16% in dogs aged one year and above.
You can help your dog live longer
Sure, death is an inevitable part of life for our four-legged companions. Even so, it’s our responsibility to ensure they live healthy, happy lives, as this directly affects how long they may live.
It’s possible to maximize your dog’s odds of living longer than their average life expectancy. All it takes is incorporating a couple of science-backed tips that involve staying proactive in their health and well-being.
Providing your dog with more opportunities to interact with other canines, spending more time with them, keeping them physically fit, and prioritizing vaccinations can go a long way in prolonging their time on earth.