[Oct. 30, 2023: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]
A groundbreaking study offers hope, suggesting a simple yet profound way to potentially extend a dog's lifespan. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)
Every pet parent dreams of spending a lifetime with their beloved four-legged family member. The profound bond, loyalty, and unyielding love shared between humans and their pets are irreplaceable.
However, nature has scripted a bittersweet narrative that gives most dogs a life expectancy of a mere 10 to 15 years. After that, pet owners are left with a heart full of memories and a yearning for just a little more time with their loyal companions. But what if that dream could be closer to reality? A groundbreaking study offers hope, suggesting a simple yet profound way to potentially extend a dog's lifespan.
"People love their dogs," said ASU School of Life Sciences assistant professor Noah Snyder-Mackler. "But what people may not know, is that this love and care, combined with their relatively shorter lifespans, make our companion dogs a great model for studying how and when aspects of the social and physical environment may alter aging, health and survival."
The Connection between Socialization and Longevity
Led by Snyder-Mackler, PhD student Bri McCoy, and MSc student Layla Brassington, they carried out a comprehensive analysis of a detailed survey of dog owners, which totaled a breathtaking number, 21,410 dogs.
"This does show that, like many social animals-including humans, having more social companions can be really important for the dog's health," said ASU graduate student McCoy.
So, what makes social interaction so vital for our furry friends? The emotional security, camaraderie, and unconditional love provided by interaction significantly boost a dog's overall wellbeing. This, in turn, plays a pivotal role in extending their life.
The study’s findings were staggering. Social interaction was identified as being five times more effective in prolonging a dog's life than other variables, such as an owner’s affluence. While it's been an instinctive understanding among pet parents about the numerous advantages of socializing their dogs and ensuring they engage with their favored humans and pets, this study provides empirical evidence.
Demographic characteristics of dogs included in this study. Distribution of (a) age and (b) weight of dogs included in this study. The sample was roughly balanced by (c) sex and (d) mixed vs. purebred ancestry. (Data are from the Dog Aging Project Health and Life Experience (HLES) Survey, 2019–2020) (CREDIT: Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health)
However, it's essential to remember that there are no fixed formulas or guarantees when it comes to a dog's life expectancy. Some exceptional dogs defy the odds. Take, for instance, the remarkable Bobbi, who, at an astonishing 31 years, is setting records and living life to the fullest.
The Holistic Approach to a Dog’s Wellbeing
While the revelation about the power of social interaction is indeed promising, achieving a dog's optimal health and longevity requires a more holistic approach.
Five factors capture much of the social-environmental variation in the Dog Aging Project cohort. (a) Exploratory factor analysis revealed five factors that together explained 33.7% of the variance in survey responses. (CREDIT: Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health)
In addition to prioritizing social engagement, our four-legged friends also yearn for love, nutritious food, consistent exercise, and regular veterinary check-ups. These factors together ensure that our pets not only survive but thrive, reaching their utmost potential and gifting us with their cherished companionship for as many years as possible.
The relationship between a pet and its owner is one of the most profound bonds. As pet parents, the onus is on us to make every moment count, ensuring our pets lead a fulfilling and long life. This revelation about the role of social interaction in prolonging a dog's lifespan serves as a reminder of the simple joys and essentials of life.
Owner-reported health is worse in older dogs. (a) Dog age was significantly associated with owner-reported health, such that older dogs were reported to be in poorer health compared to younger dogs controlling for dog weight. (CREDIT: Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health)
As we continue to learn and adapt, let's give our pets the best chance at a long, healthy, and happy life by their human's side.
Among the more surprising results were:
1) a negative association of the number of children in the household and dog health, and
2) that dogs from higher income households were diagnosed with more diseases.
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