Flat-faced dogs could have three times shorter lives than other breeds

picture of a pug and a bulldog
Oh, pals (Picture: PA)

New research has found that trendy flat-faced dogs with ‘squashed’ features have life expectancies that are up to three times shorter than other breeds.

The study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports, singled out French Bulldogs as the worst affected breed of the bunch. 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 Bulldogs and Bulldogs.’

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It was found that French Bulldogs are only expected to live four-and-a-half years. Meanwhile, English Bulldogs reach an average age of only 7.4 years, Pugs 7.7 years and American Bulldogs 7.8.
 French bulldogs Vito, Verdi and Eric wearing scarves in the colours of the Ukraine flag
French Bulldogs were found to be the worst affected breed of the bunch (Picture: PA)

The ‘squished’ faces of these types of breeds often cause them to need surgery to help them breathe as they are brachycephalic – meaning they can suffer from serious respiratory problems because of their short noses.

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

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And that’s not all. The deep wrinkles on their faces are also prone to infection, with the skin folds being an ideal breeding ground for germs, and their large eyes that stick out from their sockets have less protection from things like scratches and disease.

On top of that, there has also been research linking short-nosed dogs to increased rates of brain cancer.

 Daisy, a four-month old pug dog
Daisy, a four-month-old pug (Picture: PA)

The study is based on a random sample of 30,563 dogs that died between January 1, 2016 and July 31, 2020, and included 18 different breeds and cross-breeds.

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Bill Lambert, Health, of The Kennel Club, said: ‘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.

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‘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.’

a Jack Russell terrier
Jack Russell Terriers had the longest life expectancies of the bunch (Picture: PA)
On the flip side, Jack Russell and Yorkshire terriers were found to have average lifespans of 12.72 and 12.54 years, respectively. Next in the table comes Border Collies, which can live on average 12.10 years, and Springer Spaniels, which were found to get to 11.92 years old on average.

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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 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”.’ 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.

Keep Them Active. Energy varies between breeds, says Dr. Becker. “Greyhounds, Labs, Golden Retrievers, Jack Russell Terriers, Border Collies, and other active breeds have unfathomable energy.” He continues, “wolves spend 80% of their time awake, moving. With cats, there’s not such an exercise requirement,” but providing outlets for play at home is still crucial. For both cats and dogs he recommends food-dispensing that “recreates the hunt,” and puzzle feeders that engage your pet’s “body and mind.”

‘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.’

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