13 February 2017

RESEARCH - Why Large Dogs Live Shorter Lives

What is the most common complaint about dogs? They don’t live long enough.

This is especially true of larger breeds.

A recent study out of Colgate University in New York, may have some insight as to why large dogs have a shorter lifespan than small dogs.

With most other mammals, the opposite is true - elephants and whales live much longer lives than rats and guinea pigs, for example.

Undergraduates Josh Winward and Alex Ionescu studied 80 samples from large and small breed dogs and puppies, measuring antioxidants and free radicals.

In the adult dog cells, free radical and energy production was about equal in the two breed sizes.

However, in puppy cells the balance was off.

The cells from large breed puppies had many more free radicals than antioxidants.

Why is this interesting?

When an organism grows, its cells break down food to make the energy it needs.

But generating this energy can also generate molecules called oxygen free radicals.

These molecules have an unpaired electron, and as they try to steal one from other cells in the body, they can damage the cells and potentially contribute to cancer and other diseases.

Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals.

While the results are preliminary and there is much scientific debate about free radicals’ impact on aging, Winward believes it might be possible to extend large dogs’ lives with antioxidant supplements for puppies - the antioxidants could help get rid of the extra free radicals before they do damage.

Caution must be exercised as too much of the supplement can also be harmful.

More research is needed and Colgate animal physiologist Ana Jimenez and her students are planning to expand the study.

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