Pet nutrition expert, Eukanuba, has uncovered some of the contributing factors to healthy ageing and exceptional longevity in dogs.
The company has revealed the results of a ten year journey exploring some of the key factors that can help promote healthy ageing.
The Longevity Council (Professor Stuart Carmichael, Dr Penny Watson, Dr Vicki Adams, Professor Steve Dean and David Morgan) are a group of internationally renowned vet and industry experts, representing opinions from fields across veterinary medicine including orthopaedics, medicine, breeding (genetics), epidemiology and nutrition.
The insights gained are helping guide Eukanuba’s future recommendations for all dog breeds. Often dogs are assessed based on their typical breed characteristics; however Professor David Waters, a leading canine gerontologist in America, noted that you have to be very careful not to take the average and then apply it to all dogs. Professor Steve Dean said: “He (David Waters) said that when we think about giving advice for seniors, geriatrics, ageing dogs, you’ve got to be very careful to tailor your advice to that actual individual.
“So yes, we looked at Labradors in Eukanuba’s ten years of learning, and he looked at Rottweilers, but I hope that we can slowly start to break down the results and learnings so we can make more tailored advice for the individuals. Because all of us in this room, we’re all very, very different in terms of our needs and so just to say that what would suit me in my ageing life is the same for everybody else, is going to be wrong and the same we have to do with our dogs.”
Professor Steve Dean has stressed the importance of assessing what is right for the individual dog. Based on ten years of observations conducted at Pet Health & Nutrition Centre in Ohio, 2004-2014, it is probable that there are many dietary factors which individually or collectively influence the ageing process, including the combination of quality nutritional expertise, (such as that given by Eukanuba) coupled with appropriate veterinary and husbandry demonstrates, longer than typical lifespans.
Ultimately a dog’s longevity depends on its genetic makeup and environmental influences, such as nutrition.
David Morgan explains: “You would think that genetics would play the major role in longevity, but you may be surprised to hear that it doesn’t. In dogs it is estimated that only 25 percent of longevity is influenced by genetics, while the remaining 75 percent is determined by environmental influences, we apply figures taken from the human literature. This exciting finding means that we can positively influence longevity by altering the dog’s environment, such as nutrition and life-style.”
On the topic of genetic influences, Professor Stuart Carmichael expanded: “And what’s really interesting, and something that people are only just beginning to look at in dogs, is that it’s not just the genes that you’re born with, it’s down to the ones that are switched on. So in fact the environment of your parents can affect that and what happens when in utero can affect that. So the environment even affects your genes, which makes it really complicated.”
Summarising, David Morgan concludes: “Genes are important and we should not ignore the impact of genetics. But the environment is also important, with nutrition playing a central role, so the environment together with genetics go hand in hand”