Trendy flat-faced dogs have up to three times shorter life expectancies than other breeds

Trendy flat-faced dogs with "squashed" features have up to three times shorter life expectancies than other breeds, according to new research.

By Leanne Clarke
Friday, 6th May 2022, 10:11 am
Updated Friday, 6th May 2022, 10:12 am

This includes breathing problems due to a short snout, spinal disease and difficulties giving birth.

Worst affected are French Bulldogs - which are only expected to live four-and-a-half years.

English Bulldogs reach an average age of only seven years, Pugs seven years and American Bulldogs seven years.

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Worst affected by the image-obsessed craze are French Bulldogs - which are only expected to live four-and-a-half years.

On the other hand, Jack Russell and Yorkshire terriers have average lifespans of 12 years.

Border Collies can live on average 12 years, and Springer Spaniels that live for around 11 years.

Flat-faced dogs' trademark “squashed” faces mean they often need surgery to help them breathe.

Dr Dan O'Neill, of the Royal Veterinary College and a co-author of the study, said: "Dogs have helped many humans to get through the loneliness and isolation of the Covid pandemic.

"These new VetCompass Life tables enable owners to now estimate how long more that they can benefit from these dogs.

"The short life expectancies for flat-faced breeds such as French Bulldogs shown supports the UK Brachycephalic Working Group's call for all owners to 'Stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog'."

These new life expectancy tables will enable owners to predict the remaining life expectancy of their dog from different ages - with results broken down by breed and gender.

Flat-faced dogs often need surgery to help them breathe as they are brachycephalic - meaning they can suffer from serious respiratory problems because of their short noses.

The problem is that despite having shorter airways and narrower nasal slits, they still have the same amount of internal soft tissue which often needs to be removed.

Their wrinkled faces are also prone to infection, with the folds in their skin providing the perfect breeding ground for germs.

And their large eyes which stick out from their sockets have less protection from scratches and disease.

There has also been research linking short-muzzled pooches to increased rates of brain cancer.

Lead author Dr Kendy Tzu-yun Teng, of the National Taiwan University, said: "The dog life tables offer new insights and ways of looking at the life expectancy in pet dogs.

"They are also strong evidence of compromised health and welfare in short, flat-faced breeds, such as French Bulldog and Bulldog."

The study is based on a random sample of 30,563 dogs that died between January 1, 2016 and July 31, 2020.

They included 18 different breeds and crossbreeds. Overall average life expectancy was 11.2 years.

It is hoped the information will also promote greater consideration of a dog’s expected quality of life by potential owners when deciding which breed to purchase.

The study also found the average life expectancy for male dogs is 11.1 years - four months shorter than females.

Amongst Kennel Club breed groups, Terrier had the longest at 12 years followed by Gundog (11.7 years), Pastoral (11.2 years), Hound (10.7 years), Toy (10.7 years) and Utility (10.1 years).

Neutered dogs fared best - females 11.98 years compared to 10.5 and males 11.49 years compared to 10.58.

The analysis is the first of its kind. Instead of the previous technique of using the average age of death of dogs it relied on 'life tables'.

The unique tools list the remaining life expectancy and probability of death across a range of age groups in any given population.

Life expectancy decreases with age - so they provide more accurate estimations.

Whilst commonly used for humans, they are a novel concept for dogs because access to large-scale population information wasn't readily available before the VetCompass programme was launched.

It opens the door to drastically improving the animal's welfare by helping inform treatment plans and end of life decisions.

This also can benefit potential dog owners, particularly those looking to adopt, by helping them estimate the remaining length of ownership commitment and potential medical care needs of different breeds and differently aged dogs.

Bill Lambert, Health, of The Kennel Club, added: "This new tool, funded in part by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust VetCompass grant, helps us understand and determine more accurately a dog’s life expectancy given different factors throughout their lives, instead of just based on historic breed estimates.

"This new approach helps us and others to identify particular conditions or events that can happen early on in life that may have an impact on a dog’s life expectancy, and we hope this will play a part in supporting owners to understand their dog, make responsible decisions and provide good care, and help would-be owners to select the right breed for them.

"Whilst some of these breeds have only recently become popular, and so we might not have such a full picture of their overall longevity as of yet, using information and research to create new tools like this is invaluable in our work to make a difference to the lives of such dogs and their owners."

Other flat-faced breeds include Affenpinscher, Boxer, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua (apple-headed), English Mastiff and Japanese Chin.

Dr Justine Shotton, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: "These life tables offer an important insight into the life expectancy of popular dog breeds in the UK and will be a useful tool for vets and pet owners in assessing dog welfare.

"A concerning finding is the lower life expectancy for flat-faced breeds. While the study doesn’t prove a direct link between these breeds’ potential welfare issues and shorter length of life, the findings serve as a fresh reminder for prospective dog owners to choose a breed based on health, not looks."

Earlier this month campaigners called for Pugs and French Bulldogs to be banned from appearing in adverts to stop 'over-breeding'.

Dr Sheldon Middleton, president of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, said: "As a vet in practice, I am often asked questions about the average lifespan of my patients.

"To have this data now available, and based on evidence rather than anecdote, provides a direct and immediate benefit to those working in the clinic.

"Additionally, this will inform future research and provide useful insights for the wider allied professions."

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.