Big doggos or small puppers: Which size faces higher risks of which diseases?

On average, smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger dogs, and US researchers looking into more than 25,000 dogs from 238 breeds say that may be due to different levels of risks of certain health conditions. They found bigger dogs were more likely to face health conditions such as cancer, bone-related disease, gut problems, ear/nose/throat issues, brain and hormonal conditions, as well as infectious diseases, while smaller dogs were more likely to have issues with their eyes, heart, liver/pancreas, and lungs. The team says that although this study cannot prove the size of the dog caused these issues, it could help future puppy owners know what to be aware of when choosing a doggo.

Funder: This research is based on publicly
available data collected by the Dog Aging Project,
which is supported by U19 grant AG057377 from
the National Institute on Aging, a part of the
National Institutes of Health, and by additional
grants and private donations.

Media release

From: PLOS

Big dogs versus small dogs: which sizes face higher risks of which diseases?

New study could aid understanding of why smaller dogs tend to live longer

A study of more than 25,000 U.S. dogs and 238 breeds has linked dog size to varying patterns of risk for health conditions over the course of a dog’s lifespan. Yunbi Nam of the University of Washington, U.S., and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on January 17.

On average, smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger dogs. Evidence suggests that larger dogs do not tend to have more health conditions, but that dogs of different sizes may face different levels of risk for different conditions. However, more research is needed to clarify links between dog age, size, and disease prevalence.

To deepen understanding, Nam and colleagues analyzed survey data on 27,541 dogs representing 238 breeds, as reported by dog owners participating in the ongoing Dog Aging Project.

Overall, larger dogs in the study were more likely to have faced certain types of health conditions at some point in their lives, including cancer, bone-related disease, gastrointestinal problems, ear/nose/throat issues, neurological and endocrine conditions, and infectious diseases. Meanwhile, smaller dogs were more likely to have experienced ocular, cardiac, liver/pancreas and respiratory diseases. History of kidney/urinary disease did not differ significantly for larger versus smaller dogs.

For many types of conditions—including cancer, ocular, cardiac, orthopedic, and ear/nose/throat conditions—different dog sizes were associated with differing patterns of risk over the course of a dog’s lifespan.

The results held up even after the researchers statistically accounted for the dogs’ sex, where they lived, and whether they were purebred or mixed-breed.

The researchers note that this study does not confirm any causal relationship between dog size, age, and disease. Still, the findings could help lead to deeper understanding of the types of conditions that may underlie the lower lifespan of larger dogs. For instance, within the disease categories explored in this study, future research could home in on age and size patterns associated with specific conditions.

The authors add: “These results provide insights into the disease categories that may contribute to reduced lifespan in larger dogs and suggest multiple further avenues for further exploration.”


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