Cornell Richard P. Riney Canine Health Center

Longer. Healthier. Happier.

Aging

Lean dogs live longer

Study looked at more than 57,000 dogs over 20 years

A retrospective study titled "Association between life span and body condition in neutered client-owned dogs," published by the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2019 makes a strong argument for keeping dogs trim and fit. Researchers at the University of Liverpool in Great Britain looked at more than 57,000 middle-age spayed and neutered dogs from 900 American veterinary hospitals.

At the start of the study, dogs were between 5.5 and 9.5 years old. The dogs’ regular veterinarians classified them as normal or overweight, and researchers predicted longevity using risk and statistical evaluations. Factors like a higher risk of arthritis in heavy dogs and a lower risk of diabetes in normal dogs were used. The scientists made lifetime predictions that ranged from five months longer (on average) for male German Shepherds, to 2.5 years longer for male Yorkshire Terriers.

Limitations of the study include the fact that the different veterinarians might have categorized the dogs using varying criteria. In addition, dogs were classified by their weight in middle age instead of when they were younger. Throughout the 20-year study, refinements were made in classifying body condition scores for dogs too. 

Overall, the study determined that for every breed, dogs of normal body weight were predicted to have longer lives than overweight dogs.

This article has been reprinted with permission from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s DogWatch newsletter, published by Belvoir Media Group. When you become a member of the Riney Canine Health Center, you will receive a free subscription to DogWatch.