Snouts and Lifespan: How the Shape of Your Dog’s Nose Predicts Its Longevity

Gray Whippet

A study analyzing over 580,000 dogs in the UK finds small long-nosed breeds live longest, while medium flat-faced breeds have the shortest lifespans. Pure breeds outlive crossbreeds, with females typically living longer than males.

UK research on over 580,000 dogs shows small long-nosed breeds have the highest, and medium flat-faced breeds the lowest, life expectancies.

Small long-nosed (or dolichocephalic) dog breeds such as Whippets have the highest life expectancies in the UK, whilst male dogs from medium-sized flat-faced (or brachycephalic) breeds such as English Bulldogs have the lowest.

The results, published today (February 1) in Scientific Reports, have been calculated from data on over 580,000 individual dogs from over 150 different breeds, and could help to identify those dogs most at risk of an early death.

Comprehensive Canine Database

Kirsten McMillan and colleagues assembled a database of 584,734 individual dogs using data from 18 different UK sources, including breed registries, vets, pet insurance companies, animal welfare charities, and academic institutions.

Dogs were from one of 155 pure breeds or classified as a crossbreed, and 284,734 of the dogs had died before being added to the database. Breed, sex, date of birth, and date of death (if applicable) were included for all dogs. Purebred dogs were assigned to size (small, medium, or large) and head shape (brachycephalic or short-nosed, mesocephalic or medium-nosed, and dolichocephalic or long-nosed) categories based on kennel club literature.

The median life expectancy was then calculated for all breeds individually and for the crossbreed group, and then finally for each combination of sex, size, and head shape.

Findings on Breed Lifespan Differences

Small dolichocephalic breeds of both sexes (such as Miniature Dachshunds and Shetland Sheepdogs) had the highest median life expectancies of 13.3 years. Meanwhile, medium brachycephalic breeds had the lowest median life expectancies, of 9.1 years for males and 9.6 years for females.

Amongst the 12 most popular breeds, which accounted for more than 50% of all recorded pure breeds in the database, Labradors had a median life expectancy of 13.1 years, Jack Russell Terriers had a median life expectancy of 13.3 years, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels had a median life expectancy of 11.8 years. Pure breeds had a higher median life expectancy than crossbreeds (12.7 years compared to 12.0 years), whilst female dogs had a slightly higher median life expectancy than males (12.7 years compared to 12.4 years).

Considerations for Future Research

The authors note that their results are representative for UK dogs only, and that crossbreeds were strictly defined as any dog that was not a kennel club purebred breed. They suggest that future research should investigate ‘designer breeds’ such as Labradoodles and Cockapoos separately to account for differing levels of genetic diversity between these dogs and mongrels.

Reference: “Longevity of companion dog breeds: those at risk from early death” by Kirsten M. McMillan, Jon Bielby, Carys L. Williams, Melissa M. Upjohn, Rachel A. Casey and Robert M. Christley, 1 February 2024, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-50458-w

1 Comment on "Snouts and Lifespan: How the Shape of Your Dog’s Nose Predicts Its Longevity"

  1. Mmm, long-e-vity. Although I never read the article, it’s clear from the title they’re trying to establish a relationship btw the length of a pet snout and their lifespan. Some science that is in 2024! I won’t say more…

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