Ageing is a complex process and one which is unavoidable in both dogs and ourselves, but the question is: can nutrition make a positive impact on healthy ageing and longevity in our canine companions? The answer is yes. Here we look at what factors influence longevity and discuss the findings of Eukanuba’s 10 years of learning and ask the question - Could feeding a Eukanuba diet, along with appropriate care, help dogs fulfil their full genetic potential and achieve exceptional longevity?
Is my dog’s lifespan predominantly decided by his genes?
Ultimately a dog’s longevity depends on its genetic makeup and environmental influences, such as nutrition. While you could be forgiven for thinking that genetics would play a majority role, you may be surprised to hear that it doesn’t. In companion animals it is estimated that 25% of canine longevity is influenced by genetics, while the remaining 75% is determined by environmental influences (figures adopted from a human longevity study on Danish twins). This exciting finding means that we can positively influence longevity by altering the dog’s environment, such as nutrition and life-style.
There is plenty of evidence in humans that rapid growth and obesity in childhood increases the risk of disease later in life. There is gathering evidence that this is true in dogs as well, for example, obesity in early life has been shown to increase the risk of mammary cancer in dogs.¹,² In addition, calorie restriction (undernutrition without malnutrition) is one of the most effective ways of trying to increase longevity in many species, including dogs.
What else impacts healthy ageing? A life-long process with many factors impacting longevity, a summary includes:
- Breed of the dog
Sex of the dog (as with humans it is common for females tend to outlive their male counterparts)
Nutrition in the uterus
Nutrition and health in the first year of life
Body Condition Score (including muscle mass scoring)
Veterinary Treatment &
NUTRITION THROUGHOUT LIFE
Why look at the link between diet and longevity?
Nutrition is the fuel in the tank that dogs need every day and getting it right is of key importance, especially if we want to help dogs reach their full genetic potential. The concept that quality nutrition, along with appropriate care, can help enhance a dog’s genetic potential, is highlighted in the Hippocrates quote: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” For breeders in particular this is especially relevant because you have a single objective - to help dogs lead a long and healthy life from puppyhood, when they are in your care, throughout their adult and twilight years in their owner’s home. The news that long term feeding of a high plane of nutrition such as Eukanuba coupled with appropriate care, can help more dogs reach their full genetic potential is a powerful message to share. After all it means healthy ageing, and subsequently more of your dog’s living longer, healthier lives.
10 years of learning
In July 2004 Eukanuba embarked on a journey involving a group of 39 Labrador Retrievers, 12 males and 27 females with an average age of 6.7 years at the start of the 10 year observation. The objective was to evaluate their health and longevity when continuously fed a Eukanuba diet while also receiving appropriate exercise, socialisation and veterinary care”.
Pictured here is 17 year old Utah, one of the 39 dogs, who like others, lived well beyond their average 12 year life expectancy. The impact of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle on Utah’s health and longevity was monitored over the 10+ year period along with the other 38 dogs including Bunny, Iowa and Clown to name just a few, and the results were unprecedented –
- Almost 90% of the Labradors fed Eukanuba together with receiving appropriate care (regular exercise, socialisation, veterinary care) lived beyond the breed´s typical 12 years life span.
Almost a third (28%) of the dogs achieved exceptional longevity by living beyond an incredible 15.6 years.*
The study’s ‘Longevity Council’, a panel of internationally renowned veterinarians, agreed that the unparalleled results demonstrated and redefined what successful ageing in dogs can look like.
And there is more. While exceptional longevity will enable you and your dog to spend more quality time together, this is not enough. Today, we have our eyes on the prize of extending “healthspan”— which is the number of years you can live in the best health possible, therefore living both longer and healthier lives, and not just adding on more years.
While it is probable that there are many dietary factors which individually or collectively influence the ageing process, the combination of quality nutritional expertise, such as that given by Eukanuba, coupled with appropriate veterinary and husbandry clearly demonstrates, longer than typical lifespans. The result – 90% of dogs lived beyond the breed’s typical 12 years life span with 28% reaching an exceptional age of 15.6 years.
If feeding appropriate amounts of superior food, coupled with appropriate care, can help more dogs fulfil their full genetic potential, it makes sense to provide it to your dogs - plus it is a powerful message to share with new puppy owners.
To find out more about Eukanuba’s 10 years of learning and meet the stars, like Utah, Iowa or Clown, check out www.eukanuba.co.uk
*exceptional longevity is defined as living +30% longer than the breed´s typical life span.
1. Alenza, D.P. et al., 1998. Relation between Habitual Diet and Canine Mammary Tumors in a Case-Control Study. Journal of VeterinaryInternal Medicine, 12(3), pp.132–139.
2. Sonnenschein, E.G. et al., 191. Body confirmation, diet, and risk of breast cancer in pet dogs: a case-control study. American journal of epidemiology, 133(7), pp.694-703.