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Flat-faced dogs ‘have 40% higher risk of shorter lives than other breeds’

Flat-faced dogs such as pugs and French bulldogs have a 40% increased risk of living shorter lives than other breeds, researchers have said.

New study suggests the average life expectancy of all dogs in the UK is around 12.5 years, with the Lancashire heeler expected to live the longest at 15.4 years.

Caucasian shepherds, meanwhile, were found to have the shortest expected lifespan, averaging at 5.4 years, followed by presa canario (7.7 years) and cane corso (8.1 years).

Average life expectancy of dogs
(PA Graphics)

The study – led by the Dogs Trust and published in the journal Scientific Reports – also found life expectancy to vary between breed, body size and face shape.

Results showed medium-sized brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs had the lowest average life expectancies – 9.1 years for males and 9.6 years for females.

The researchers said that the popularity of flat-faced breeds such as pugs (11.6 years) and French bulldogs (9.8 years) has been rising, despite the significant health and welfare challenges associated with them, including breathing problems, digestive issues, eye and teeth diseases.

Dr Dan O’Neill, chair of the Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG) – which is made up of veterinary, breeder and welfare organisations, said these issues have “triggered a health and welfare crisis for flat-faced dog breeds”.

He said: “This new research underlines these major health issues by revealing that flat-faced dogs live 1.5 years shorter lives than typical dogs.

“It is crucial that the public prioritises health over what they might think look ‘cute’ and we urge anyone considering getting a flat-faced breed to ‘stop and think’ and to ensure that they acquire a dog with the best chances of a long and happy life.”

For the study, led by Dr Kirsten McMillan, data manager at the Dogs Trust, the researchers looked at records of more than half a million dogs in the UK spanning 150 pure breeds as well as crossbreeds.

The team gathered data from 18 different UK sources, including breed registries, vets, pet insurance companies, animal welfare charities, and academic institutions.

Alongside the Lancashire heeler, Tibetan spaniel (15.2 years), and miniature dachshund (14.0 years), were found to live the longest.

Labradors (13.1 years) and cocker spaniels (13.3 years), also lived longer than the average age.

The team found large-sized breeds to have a 20% increased risk of shorter lifespan than small-sized breeds.

Female dogs (12.7 years) were found to live longer than males (12.4 years), while pure breeds (12.7 years) had a higher expected lifespan than crossbreeds (12.0 years).

Meanwhile, small long-nosed dogs such as whippets had the highest average life expectancies of 13.3 years.

Dr McMillan said: “We found life expectancy varies between breed, body size, face shape and sex – this is the first study where all of these elements have been compared and contrasted alongside evolutionary history.

“Many of these factors interact to compound the issue, for example medium-sized, flat-faced male dogs are nearly three times more likely to live shorter lives than small-sized, long-faced females.

“The findings have important implications for the canine pedigree health debate; although this study does not determine risk factors for early death, it does highlight groups that require further investigation.

“We hope this study can help breeders, policymakers, funding bodies and welfare organisations make informed decisions to improve the welfare of companion dogs, as well as helping owners understand the range of factors that influence health and longevity, especially when acquiring a dog.”