Welcome to the very first Roly-Poly Blog post! Let’s kick off on a serious note. Here are some tough, but important questions that I’m sure we’re all asking ourselves –
How can we give our wrinkly companions the best environment to live their longest life? What makes a dog happy and healthy, and what can we do to increase their life span?
We all want our four-legged best friends to stay with us for as long as possible; we try to give them the best nutrition, take them for regular vet check ups and generally try to provide the best possible environment for them to thrive. But are these controlled factors the only ones that play into the length of our dogs’ lifespan? Like humans, dogs vary in life expectancy and spectrum of diseases they encounter during their lives.
Sadly, it is widely believed that Shar Pei have a short life span due to genetic and developmental reasons. However, in the past decades we are seeing a significant positive shift in the length of their lifespan. The reasons could vary, and this definitely is a topic for further discussion. But for now, let’s look at 2 types of factors that we know have an influence on longevity.
The External Factors
It seems there are many external factors impacting longevity – physical activity, environment, diet, medications and preventatives, and owner demographics. These are the things we can influence and will surely be future topics for our Roly-Poly blog! But interestingly enough, the Dog Aging Project, led by the University of Washington and the Texas A&M schools of medicine, which now involves more than 45.000 dogs, discovered that having more social companions can be really important for the dog’s health. The effect of social companionship, such as living with another dog, turned out to be by far the strongest factor discovered! In fact, it has 5 times more impact than other factors!
Among other surprising findings, the study discovered a negative association between the number of children in the household and dog health and that dogs from higher income households were diagnosed with more diseases.
The Genetic Factors
There are interesting novel studies emerging focusing on the genetic background of longevity. These studies are breed- and species-specific, and work on locating longevity related genes. For example, so far, 33 genes have been associated with longevity in mice! While in humans, heritability of longevity varies from 20 to 35%! Although it is inconclusive if these learnings can be applied to other species, there are already a few studies focusing on dogs.
One study was a whole-genome sequencing study of 2 extremely old dogs (20 and 27 years old!). The results showed multiple potential loci that could be closely associated with longevity. There is also a study that successfully located 4 genes that are associated with longevity in purebred Cane Corso dogs. If these results can be applied to other breeds, it becomes very exciting news for breeders and owners alike! Breeding for proven longevity genes would become a promising improvement to longevity in various breeds, including Shar Pei.
Generally speaking, longevity is an exciting and interesting area of study in cynology. There is still very much to learn and discover, and much data to gather before both breed-specific or general conclusions can be made. But the time is now. So we say, – Hello October, Hello EFSPC Longevity month!
#longevity #aging #health #research
Jónás D, Sándor S, Tátrai K, Egyed B, Kubinyi E. A Preliminary Study to Investigate the Genetic Background of Longevity Based on Whole-Genome Sequence Data of Two Methuselah Dogs. Front Genet. 2020;11:315. doi:10.3389/fgene.2020.00315.
Korec E, Ungrova L, Hejnar J, Grieblova A. Four novel genes associated with longevity found in Cane corso purebred dogs. BMC Vet Res. 2022; 18: 188. Published online 2022 May 19. doi: 10.1186/s12917-022-03290-9
Dog Aging Project: https://dogagingproject.org