“Dog Aging Project” Identifies 5 Factors with the Greatest Impact on Canine Health

A major survey of canine owners and their dogs uncovered several environmental factors linked to better health and longevity in man’s best friend. The results paint a clearer picture of how we, as their caretakers, can help them live their best lives.

The insights were gleaned from the Dog Aging Project, an initiative that plans to track the health of our canine friends over a span of 10 years. The project includes scientists from more than a dozen higher-learning institutions and research organizations.

woman and dog
Photo: Pixabay/tranmautritam

The Dog Aging Project

As a years long project, dog owners taking part in the study are required to fill out extensive annual surveys concerning their furry friends. Some participants will upload their pets’ veterinary records and samples of medical tests to be used in smaller studies. With more than 21,000 dog owners involved in the massive effort, there’s a lot of data to sift through.

The study, which was published in May 2023 in the journal Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, focused on investigating which aspects of a dog’s living environment were most strongly associated with the animal’s overall health.

Photo: Pixabay/AnnerleyHub

Better Animal Health

The takeaways boiled down to five essential factors the researchers identified as having the greatest impact on dog health while accounting for variables such as a dog’s age and size.

The factors identified were:

  • neighborhood stability
  • total household income
  • the owner’s age
  • social time spent with kids
  • social time spent with other animals
  • As to “other” animals, those critters were typically made up of additional canines living within the household or other pets like cats. Regardless, having more social companionship with other animals was an upshot associated with better health.

    dog and cat
    Photo: Pixabay/rihaij

    Canine Studies

    Not surprisingly, dogs residing in less stable homes where financial stability was an issue were more likely to have poorer health than others. This mirrors human outcomes.

    The intriguing part of all this was that the impacts of these five factors were by no means equal to one another. As an example, social support was gauged to have an effect on the animal’s health and well-being 5 times greater than financial factors.

    “This does show that like many social animals — including humans — having more social companions can be really important for the dog’s health,” study author Bri McCoy, a graduate student at Arizona State University, noted in a statement released by ASU.

    Photo: Pixabay/lenestrand85

    A Dog’s Life

    There were some other intriguing results to come out of the study as well. Dogs living in more financially stable or affluent households tended to be diagnosed with more diseases than others. Whether that stems from a pampered pooch diet or the fact that these dogs may be examined by veterinarians more frequently who catch the problems isn’t exactly clear.

    One surprising takeaway from the Dog Aging Project was that social time spent with your kids was negatively linked to canine health. The authors suggest that this particular link might be more of a matter of dog owners having less time available for their pets once they start raising children.

    “You can think of it as a resource allocation issue, rather than kids being bad for dogs,” clarified McCoy.

    Photo: Pixabay/Kwiaatekk

    Benefits of Companionship

    While the study’s findings are based on subjective (rather than objective) experiences by the dogs’ owners, the researchers signaled that they plan to follow up by examining the smaller subset of dogs whose health is directly measured via the collection of blood and bodily samples mentioned earlier.

    The major thrust from all of this is that the research demonstrates just how crucial social connection and stability are to our dogs and ourselves.

    “Having a good network, having a good social connectedness is good for the dogs that are living with us,” McCoy confirmed.

    People, Pets & Planet

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