Dog breeds have a variety of different shapes and characters, strengths and weaknesses. There is one rule that remains true for most of them, however, and that is that small breed dogs tend to live longer. The reason is not yet certain, but a new study helps to clarify at least part of the issue, revealing, in the pages of the magazine Plos One, that the size of dogs is linked to a greater or lesser risk of suffering from a range of problems. of health.
The study was carried out using data collected by the Dog Aging Project, a research program involving several American universities dedicated to the study of canine aging and health. Its authors, a group of researchers from the University of Washington, analyzed information on the health of over 27 thousand dogs belonging to 238 different breeds, thus managing to precisely link the size of the animals with the probability of developing a certain pathology.
Large breed dogs have shown a greater propensity to suffer from tumors, bone diseases, gastrointestinal problems, ear, nose and throat disorders, neurological and endocrine conditions, and to contract infectious diseases. Small dogs, on the other hand, seem to suffer more commonly from eye problems, heart problems, liver and pancreatic diseases and respiratory disorders. In the case of urinary problems, however, no appreciable differences related to size emerged.
In part, the results confirm those of several previous studies, which had indicated the possibility that a greater risk of developing tumors in large breed dogs reduces their average life expectancy, compared to smaller breed dogs. As the authors of the study explain, it has been hypothesized that this depends on several factors, such as a greater growth rate in the first part of life, which could subject the tissues of large breed dogs to greater oxidative stress, in turn linked to a higher probability of suffering from skin diseases, orthopedic problems, cancer and cardiovascular disorders.
For now, the study cannot confirm a causal connection between size and diseases in dogs, nor clarify which molecular mechanisms could link size to the risk of developing a certain pathology. According to its authors, however, the results obtained could already be useful for guiding the work of veterinarians who take care of our four-legged friends. And in the future, they could help extend the lives of our pets. “These results offer important clues about the type of diseases that could contribute to reducing the average lifespan of large breed dogs – they write in the conclusions of the study – and thus suggest which aspects deserve to be explored further by research”.