Chihuahua or Great Dane: Your Dog's Size May Affect Their Disease Risk

By   |  January 18, 2024

By Dennis Thompson HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2024 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 17, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- The average size of your dog’s breed plays a role in which diseases your pet is more apt to develop, a new study has found.

It turns out that larger dogs are more prone to a different set of diseases than small dogs are.

Prior research has found that smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger dogs, the researchers noted.

“These results provide insights into the disease categories that may contribute to reduced lifespan in larger dogs and suggest multiple further avenues for further exploration,” wrote the researchers led by Yunbi Nam, a student of applied statistics at the University of Washington’s Department of Biostatistics.

Though they live shorter lives, larger dogs don’t tend to have more health problems; instead, it seems that dogs of different sizes face different levels of risk for different conditions.

To explore this further, researchers analyzed survey data on more than 27,500 dogs representing 238 different breeds, gathered from dog owners participating in the ongoing Dog Aging Project.

In the latest study, larger dogs were more likely to have cancer, bone-related disease, GI problems, ear/nose/throat issues, neurological or endocrine disorders, or infectious diseases.

On the other hand, smaller dogs had a greater risk of eye issues, heart problems, liver or pancreas disorders, or respiratory diseases, results show.

Kidney and urinary tract illnesses did not differ significantly between large and small dogs.

The results held up even after researchers controlled for other factors like the dogs’ sex, where they lived and whether they were purebred or mixed-breed.

The new study was published Jan. 17 in the journal PLOS One.

The findings could help vets better understand the types of conditions that cause larger dogs to have shorter lives, the researchers said in a journal news release.

Future research could hone in on age and size patterns associated with specific conditions, as well as how patterns of risk differ across a dog’s lifespan, they wrote.

The Dog Aging Project itself could be in jeopardy, however.

With renewed government funding for the project in doubt, the project's founders have started a petition drive that calls for continued support for the research and created the nonprofit Dog Aging Institute to raise money for the project.

More information

The American Kennel Club has more on the dog lifespan.

SOURCE: PLOS One, news release, Jan. 17, 2024