Anyone read "Pukka's Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs"?
It's from the guy who wrote Merle's Door, which was a best-seller in 2008. I found the premise unbearably attractive - he basically questions why dogs have such short lives, and investigates possible reasons and factors - but I thought it was uneven. He uses his own search for and raising of a new puppy to illustrate his research, and it's an approach that sometimes works and often doesn't. And I'm not a fan of the "dude" approach to life (big, outdoorsy guy who lives out West in a rural area, likes the kind of dogs who kill their own snacks, etc.). But some of it was amazing; he questions the "typical" life expectancy of various breeds, for example. I don't know if his sources were legit, but if they were, the numbers for some popular breeds are a lot lower than is generally claimed.
It's kind of an amazing book in that it manages to hit pretty much every dog-world argument - nutrition, AKC breed standards, no-kill, spay/neuter - but unfortunately, while he admits that some things are just difficult to manage, like some of his dog's favorite toys turning out to be high in toxins, he tends to be gung-ho on things that don't affect him. He's enthusiastic about Nathan Winograd and no-kill, despite the fact he himself set out to pick a breeder dog super-carefully to fulfill his own set of very specific desires.
And this became a review without my intending. Just thought I'd mention it. Interesting read.
The question of lifespan and species is an interesting one, and it is curious that dogs have a relatively short lifespan compared to say cats or horses. I think the hypothesis to attribute that to management or vaccines or toxins or food is unlikely to pan out.
Obviously there is a genetic component here; the question is, are there variations within dogs that have a longer lifespan already such that, for example, you could breed a strain of longer-living dogs? Or does this just fall back to the whole very deep and not well understood science of longevity in general?
Long life is not necessarily better - quality is key. Having happy geriatric dogs is more important than long-lived geriatrics.
Or, there's always the pet tortoise.
If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket
I think it is possible to select for longevity in dogs, and some breeders are making some progress. It is easier to do with the males, as you can use frozen semen from dogs who have had longer lifespans than the median for a particular breed, and/or use the oldest, healthiest male you can find who meets your other criteria.
With bitches, it is more problematic, as you must breed them before you know whether they will be longer or shorter lived. You have to look at her pedigree and know how long each of those animals behind her lived, and what they died from. Good breeders do know this information and it can take quite a bit of research, and you must sometimes take things with a grain of salt if you did not personally know the animal and the owner.
With some specific diseases, you can screen for them either clinically or with DNA testing, and breed accordingly. I am going to a talk Tuesday on the progress on a study identifying the genetic markers for osteosarcoma in Irish Wolfhounds, which may lead to some exciting possibilities.
But given the relative lifespans of dogs and humans, progress is slow, especially in breeds where there are not many litters. However, it is very important that we do make the attempt, though there are some constraints on just how long dogs, especially large and giant dogs, can live.
I totally agree that the quality of life is of the utmost importance, not simply the length of it.