New studies reveal the reason why giant dog breeds have a shorter lifespan. According to these studies, the shorter lifespan of larger dogs has to do with faster aging compared to other dog breeds.
The categorization of a race as a giant involves a combination of both height and volume. However, there are a few exceptions, such as the Irish Wolfhound, which is on the narrower side.
All these dogs have the common characteristic that they weigh more than 90 kg. In addition, all have a lifespan of 7 or 8 years.
If you were to observe the length of a mammal’s life cycle, you might think that giant dogs should live longer.
If you look at whales and elephants, for example, they can live for over a century while rats barely reach the age of two. But if the analysis focuses on a specific animal species, the tendency is the opposite.
The smallest members of a given mammalian species have the longest lifespan.
Why giant dog breeds have a shorter lifespan
Medium-sized dog breeds have an average lifespan of 13 years. Based on this fact, researchers at the University of Göttingen in Germany decided to explain why mastiff and grand danois have such a short lifespan.
To do so, they analyzed the data they received from veterinary hospitals and thus evaluated more than 56,000 dogs of 74 different breeds.
Their findings, which they published in the scientific journal American Naturalist , revolved around faster aging.
In other words: when a giant dog dies only at the age of 7, it is not because the dog has died young. Rather, it is because the animal has already reached old age.
With regard to the interpretation of German research, we can observe that the basis for information is obtained via observational analysis.
But it fails to explain the physiological cause of the faster aging and shorter lifespan of giant dog breeds.
Research led by the University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, tried to find an explanation.
Short lifespan at chromosome level
Biologist Thor Harald Ringsby led the Norwegian team, which published its results in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society . They focused on the genetic factor, at the chromosome level.
Specifically, the researchers analyzed the lifespan of the telomeres from giant dogs. These telomeres are the most distal part of chromosomes and have the specialty of shrinking over time during cell division.
Research has shown that these regions are very small when it comes to old age and certain diseases such as cancer.
This study concluded that there are two main factors that contribute to rapid cell division in giant dogs. The first is their metabolism.
The second is the large amount of energy that giant dogs need to grow. Due to this rapid cell division, a corresponding deterioration can be seen in the telomeres.
Therefore, the first indication of aging in giant dogs occurs at the cellular level. This occurs because the ability of the cell to divide changes when the telomeres reach a critical size.
In addition, cells can even die. This genetic deterioration happens on a natural level and there is still no way to change it.
At the same time, owners can still influence the longevity of giant dogs by practicing habits that encourage a healthy life. This includes proper nutrition, affection and the right amount of exercise.
Keeping your dog as healthy and happy as possible will improve both your quality of life and longevity.