Dogs don’t live nearly as long as humans ― this is common knowledge. At most, they usually only live to be 13 years old, or so. By then, they’ve been considered geriatrics for over five years, already. But what determines dog life expectancy? Many factors play into it; breed, background, lifestyle, even the country where the dog lives. In other words, pretty much the same factors that might affect a human’s lifespan.
Spaying and neutering
European dogs have been shown to live around a year longer than dogs in the US. It’s uncertain why there’s a difference in dog life expectancy, but there are a few theories. Firstly, rabies has been mostly eradicated in most of Europe, and dogs therefore don’t need rabies shots to travel, which can be a troublesome vaccine compared to others. In Europe, dogs also aren’t spayed or neutered nearly as much as in the US. This is largely due to overflowing shelters generally not being a problem that affects most of Europe the same way. Spaying or neutering is therefore not a default practice ― but it can affect their endocrine and immune system. It’s worth pointing out that no long-term, comprehensive studies have been done specifically on the dog life expectancy regarding spayed, neutered, or intact dogs. There is, however, a growing body of evidence that suggests a connection.
Contrariwise to this theory, however, neutering and spaying dogs can positively affect dog life expectancy, as well. Cancer related to the uterus, ovaries, breast, and testicles is all too common. For instance, around 25% of all unspayed female dogs will develop mammary tumors, which are malignant 50% of the time. As stated, there have been no solid studies done specifically on spayed/neutered versus not, in terms of dog life expectancy. Therefore the theories go in different directions. This might suggest that spaying and neutering less doesn’t factor in as much as one might think.
Laws and attitudes may affect dog life expectancy
Other things also play into a dog’s health and wellbeing, such as laws, regulations, and attitudes. How are dogs treated in one country or another, both in terms of people’s views on them as well as what they eat? The EU has strict laws when it comes to pesticides and the import of certain goods. This is the case even if specific countries within the EU might not, as well as Europe at large. Some countries require written and practical exams to own a dog (such as Switzerland). Others don’t have much regard for their dogs, at all (such as Slovenia). Meanwhile, in Canada, the attitudes toward dogs are overall rather positive. Just earlier this year, Parliament passed a new, harsher law to deal with different types of animal cruelty. A great step for animal welfare in Canada, it is said.
Part of a study done at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, argues that one reason why dogs seem to be living longer could be due to humans’ attitudes toward them. It has become more and more common for people to consider their dogs as part of the family, which leads to positive changes in how they’re cared for. People are more well-read on the topic, more prepared to make life-changes, and invest in food and healthcare. And so, just like with humans, the health of dogs improves. In the EU and Europe, laws and attitudes also often differ from the US when it comes to dogs and animal welfare at large. This may have something to do with why dogs across the Atlantic tend to live longer.
Many indeterminable factors
Clearly, there are many things that play into a dog’s life expectancy. For one thing, size does matter, where dogs are concerned. Generally speaking, bigger dogs will not live quite as long as their smaller counterparts. Aside from that, there is the matter of purebred dogs versus mixed breeds, spaying and neutering, laws and regulations, and so on. There definitely seem to be differences from one country/region to another. But until some solid, long-term studies are done on the topic, we can only speculate as to why. Regardless, it never hurts to simply give our dogs the love and care that they deserve and need to live long, healthy, happy lives.