Source: Mail Online (Extract)
Posted: October 13, 2023

They’re often referred to as ‘man’s best friend’, but a new study has revealed that when it comes to aging, not all dogs are equal.

Research shows that smaller dogs live twice as long as their larger counterparts.

However, these diminutive pups age much more rapidly than bigger pooches, according to experts from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.

Based on the findings, the experts recommend choosing dogs that weigh between 22lbs and 66lbs (10-30kg), such as Welsh Corgis, Whippets, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Schnauzers.

‘For those who want a smaller-sized dog but do not want to risk severe mental health problems in old age or want a larger-sized dog but do not want to risk physical health problems at 7-8 years of age, we recommend a dog from the 10–30kg size range,’ said Borbála Turcsán, lead author of the study.

While previous studies have shown that smaller dogs live longer, the team set out to understand how size impacts dogs, in terms of cognitive abilities.

The researchers analysed data on 15,000 dogs, including their age, behaviour, and cognitive function.

They also assessed each pup’s size, head shape, and purebred status. 

Their analysis revealed that on average, behavioural and cognitive aging in dogs begins at around 10.5 years.

However, the onset of aging, as well as the aging rate, depend on the dog’s body size. 

Dogs weighing over 66lbs (30kg) show an earlier onset of age-related decline (by age two to three years), but show a slower rate of cognitive decline.

‘Larger dogs experience a physical breakdown at an earlier age, and the accumulating illnesses, and degradation in sensory functions leads to “old-age behaviors” long before their mental decline would begin,’ Ms Turcsán said.

In contrast, dogs weighing less than 14lbs (7kg), were four times more likely to have cognitive decline in old age.

Delving deeper into the data, the team found that long-nosed dogs such as greyhounds, as well as purebreds, have a higher risk of cognitive decline in old age compared to short-faced dogs, such as pugs and French Bulldogs. 

Interestingly, the study found that owners start to see their dogs as ‘old’ around the age of six – regardless of their size.

‘Owners consider their dogs “old” four to five years earlier than would be expected from behavioral data,’ said Enikő Kubinyi, an author of the study.

‘This may be due to graying and barely noticeable changes.’

Overall, the findings suggest that body size not only influences a dog’s life expectancy, but also its healthspan.

If you’re considering getting a dog, the researchers suggest opting for a mid-size breed that weighs between 22lbs and 66lbs (10-30kg).

According to the American Kennel Club, this includes breeds such as the Shiba Inu (23lbs), Cocker Spaniel (25-30lbs), Whippets (25-40lbs) and Staffordshire Bull Terriers (28-38lbs).