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Landmark Study Reveals Breed-Specific Causes of Death in Dogs

Daniel Promislow (left) is flanked by Silver, a Weimaraner (bottom left) and Frisbee, a mixed breed (center). Dr. Kate Creevy (right) sits with her Border Collie, Makazi.

The results can significantly help prolong your dog’s life.

That is the conclusion of the authors of a new University of Georgia study that provides a rare and comprehensive look at the causes of death in more than 80 canine breeds.

The study, published in the current edition of the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, can be used to create breed-specific health maintenance programs and is a starting point for future studies that will explore the genetic underpinnings of disease in dogs.

“If we can anticipate better how things can go wrong for dogs, we can manage their wellness to keep them as healthy as possible,” said study co-author Dr. Kate Creevy, an assistant professor in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.

Creevy and her co-authors examined data from the Veterinary Medical Database to determine the cause of death for nearly 75,000 dogs over the 20-year period of 1984 through 2004. They classified the deaths by organ system and disease process and further analyzed the data by breed, age and average body mass. Eighty-two breeds are represented in their study, from the Afghan hound to the Yorkshire terrier.

The researchers found that larger breeds are more likely to die of musculoskeletal disease, gastrointestinal disease and, most notably, cancer. Smaller breeds had higher death rates from metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease.

Study co-author Daniel Promislow, a genetics professor in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, said the study may help solve one of the great enigmas of canine health. “Normally, if you compare different species of mammals, big ones live longer than little ones — elephants live longer than mice, and sheep are in the middle, for example — and that pattern holds pretty well across hundreds of different species of mammals,” Promislow said. “Within dogs, the opposite occurs; the little dogs live longer.”

Promislow also pointed out that because the building blocks of the dog genome and the human genome are the same, understanding the genetic basis of disease in dogs can also inform human medicine.

“There’s potential to learn a lot about the genetics of disease in general using the dog as a model,” he said.

Story By Elaine Furst For Dog Files

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Michael Haslam
10 years ago

I think the genetics are not the full story, the lifestyle of the dogs is also key. People are more likely to treat toy dogs like children and feed them human food which could lead to diabetes and other metabloic diseases.Large dogs are more active which leads to skeletal problems. But I’m glad serious research is being done and hope it leads to healthier dogs.

Mjh19
Mjh19
10 years ago

I have had many friends who have had Golden Retrievers that all died at about ten yrs of age from cancer. My Cocker had lesions that are common to the breed and King Cavalier Charles can sometimes have a disease where they spin in circles and have terrific headaches and must be put down, it can be traced to a male and a female in Great Britian. I truly believe this.

Billedye
Billedye
10 years ago

Wondering what is the most likely death in Yorkshire Terriers, where can I find out this information?

Billedye
Billedye
10 years ago

Wondering what is the most likely death in Yorkshire Terriers, where can I find out this information?

P Woolfs
P Woolfs
10 years ago

Could anyone who loves dogs please into Soi Dogs in Thailand

Cjustpeachie
Cjustpeachie
10 years ago

I’M GLAD THEY HAVE BEEN DOING THIS RESEARCH HOWEVER I HAVEN’T LEARNED ANYTHING I DIDN’T KNOW BEFORE!! ALL I KNOW, I HAVE PICKED UP THRU THE YEARS!!

MelsPetPals
MelsPetPals
10 years ago

Genetics definitely does play a difference. A part of the problem is how dogs are being bred for showing purposes. Breeders who show their dogs have perpetuated diseases like Syringomyelia (the one that affects many King Charles Cavalier Spaniels) because they breed for looks and don’t care about what diseases or temperaments get passed on to the next generation. That’s why many believe that the King Charles will be bred out of existence as more and more get Syringomyelia. Golden Retrievers are also victim to this over-breeding and bad breeding. We had a discussion on dog cancer on #dogtalk last year (now called Bark Out Loud Weekly) and discovered that Goldens have a 70% chance of getting cancer. Those are horrible odds.

I hope this new study provides all of us with some information that will allow us to help our pets with preventative care. Thank you for sharing this info!

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