14-Year Life Span Study in Dogs

jack russell looking away from the camera
dog side profile

Research spanning 70 years has shown that a dietary regimen of reduced calories without malnutrition can increase life span and delay the onset of multiple age-related diseases.1-3

Purina studies show that maintaining optimal body condition can improve both life span and health span in dogs.4-5

Purina's research

In a 14-year study, Purina scientists were the first to prove the importance of keeping dogs in lean body condition throughout their lives.4

improving weight and lifespan study in dogs

In this landmark study, researchers tracked the lifetime health of 48 Labrador retrievers. Researchers compared the health of lean-fed to control-fed dogs. The lean-fed dogs received 75% of the caloric intake of the control-fed dogs. The results showed that lean-fed dogs lived better, for longer.

 

  • Median life span was extended by 1.8 years or 15%. Mean life span for diet-restricted dogs was 13 years compared to 11.2 years for control-fed dogs.

  • The 25% restriction in calories also delayed the onset of signs of chronic disease in these dogs.4

  • Diet restriction had no adverse effects on skeletal maturation, structure or metabolism.5

Lean-fed puppies have healthier hips

By 2 years of age, the frequency of hip dysplasia in the lean-fed puppies was 50% less than in the control group, and was much less severe.  

By the end of the study, 83% of dogs fed the control diet had developed radiographic signs of hip OA compared to 50% of the lean-fed group. 

hip displaysia graphic
cumulative prevalence of hip joint osteoarthritis
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Lean dogs also experience other health benefits:
  • They required 17% less energy to maintain 1 kg lean tissue than control-fed dogs.

  • They showed greater insulin sensitivity, which is better for glucose regulation.

  • They were better able to modulate immune capacities.

  • They showed delayed age-related decline.5

Key things to remember

  • A 14-year life span study in Labrador retrievers showed that lean dogs live better, longer.
  • The median life span of lean-fed dogs was extended an average of 1.8 years.
  • Lean dogs also get health benefits such as greater insulin sensitivity and are better able to modulate immune capacities.
  • Maintaining optimal body condition can delay the onset, and reduce the severity, of hip osteoarthritis in dogs.

Find out more

  1. Laflamme, D.P. (1997). Development and validation of a Body Condition Score System for Cats: A clinical tool. Feline Practice, 25(5-6), 13-18.
  2. Laflamme, D.P. (1997). Development and validation of a Body Condition Score System for Dogs. Canine Practice, 22(4), 10-15.
  3. Bjornvad, C.R., Nielsen, D.H., & Armstrong, P.J. (2011). Evaluation of a nine-point body condition scoring system in physically inactive pet cats. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 72(4), 433-437.
  4. Kealy, R.D., Lawler, D.F., Ballam, J.M., Mantz, S.L., Biery, D.N., Greeley. E.H., & Stowe, H.D. (2002). Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 220, 1315-1320.
  5. Lawler, D.F., Larson, B.T., Ballam, J.M., Smith, G.K., Biery, D.N., Evans, R.H., & Kealy, R.D. (2008). Diet restriction and ageing in the dog: major observations over two decades. British Journal of Nutrition, 99(4), 793-805.

        Additional research related to this 14-year study: 
     
    1. Huck, J.L., Biery, D.N., Lawler, D.F., Gregor, T.P., Runge, J.J., Evans, R.H., Kealy, R.D., & Smith, G.K. (2009). A longitudinal study of the influence of lifetime food restriction on development of osteoarthritis in the canine elbow. Veterinary Surgery, 38(2), 192- 198.
    2. Greeley, E.H., Kealy, R.D., Ballam, J.M., Lawler, D.F., & Segre, M. (1996). The influence of age on the canine immune system. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, 55(1-3), 1-10.
    3. Greeley, E.H., Ballam, J.M., Harrison, J.M., Kealy, R.D., Lawler, D.F., & Segre, M. (2001). The influence of age and gender on the immune system: a longitudinal study in Labrador Retriever dogs. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, 82(1-2), 57-71.
    4. Greeley, E.H., Spitznagel, E., Lawler, D.F., Kealy, R.D., & Segre, M. (2006). Modulation of canine immunosenescence by life-long caloric restriction. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, 111(3-4), 287-299.
    5. Kealy, R.D., Olsson, S.E., Monti, K.L., Lawler, D.F., Biery, D.N., Helms, R.W., Lust, G., & Smith, G.K. (1992). Effects of limited food consumption on the incidence of hip dysplasia in growing dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 201(6), 857-863
    6. Kealy, R.D., Lawler, D.F., Ballam, J.M., Lust, G., Smith, G.K., Biery, D.N., & Olsson, S.E. (1997). Five-year longitudinal study on limited food consumption and development of osteoarthritis in coxofemoral joints of dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 210(2), 222-225.
    7. Kealy, R.D., Lawler, D.F., Ballam, J.M., Lust, G., Biery, D.N., Smith, G.K., & Mantz, S.L. (2000). Evaluation of the effect of limited food consumption on radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 217(11), 1678-1680.
    8. Larson, B.T., Lawler, D.F., Spitznagel, E.L., & Kealy, R.D. (2003). Improved glucose tolerance with lifetime diet restriction favorably affects disease and survival in dogs. Journal of Nutrition, 133(9), 2887-2892.
    9. Lawler, D.F., Evans, R.H., Larson, B.T., Spitznagel, E.L., Ellersieck, M.R., & Kealy, R.D. (2005). Influence of lifetime food restriction on causes, time, and predictors of death in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 226(2), 225-231.
    10. Lawler, D.F., Ballam, J.M., Meadows, R., Larson, B.T., Li, Q., Stowe, H.D., & Kealy, R.D. (2007). Influence of lifetime food restriction on physiological variables in Labrador retriever dogs. Experimental Gerontology, 42(3), 204-214.
    11. Lawler, D.F., Larson, B.T., Ballam, J.M., Smith, G.K., Biery, D.N., Evans, R.H., & Kealy, R.D. (2007). Diet restriction and ageing in the dog: major observations over two decades. British Journal of Nutrition, 99(4), 793-805.
    12. Richards, S.E., Wang, Y., Lawler, D., Kochhar, S., Holmes, E., Lindon, J.C., & Nicholson, J.K. (2008). Self-modeling curve resolution recovery of temporal metabolite signal modulation in NMR spectroscopic data sets: application to a life-long caloric restriction study in dogs. Analytic Chemistry Journal, 80(13), 4876-4885.
    13. Richards, S.E., Wang, Y., Claus, S.P., Lawler, D., Kochhar, S., Holmes, E., & Nicholson, J.K. (2013). Metabolic phenotype modulation by caloric restriction in a lifelong dog study. Journal of Proteome Research, 12(7), 3117-3127.
    14. Runge, J.J., Biery, D.N., Lawler, D.F., Gregor, T.P., Evans, R.H., Kealy, R.D., Szabo, S.D., & Smith, G.K. (2008). The effects of lifetime food restriction on the development of osteoarthritis in the canine shoulder. Veterinary Surgery, 37(1), 102-107.
    15. Smith, G.K., Paster, E.R., Powers, M.Y., Lawler, D.F., Biery, D.N., Shofer, F.S., McKelvie, P.J., & Kealy, R.D. (2006). Lifelong diet restriction and radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis of the hip joint in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 229(5), 690-693.
    16. Smith, G.K., Lawler, D.F., Biery, D.N., Powers, M.Y., Shofer, F., Gregor, T.P., & Kealy, R.D. (2012). Chronology of hip dysplasia development in a cohort of 48 Labrador retrievers followed for life. Veterinary Surgery, 41(1), 20-33.
    17. Stowe, H.D., Lawler, D.F., & Kealy, R.D. (2006). Antioxidant status of pair-fed Labrador retrievers is affected by diet restriction and aging. Journal of Nutrition, 136(7), 1844-1848.
    18. Szabo, S.D., Biery, D.N., Lawler, D.F., Shofer, F.S., Powers, M.Y., Kealy, R.D., Smith, G.K. (2007). Evaluation of a circumferential femoral head osteophyte as an early indicator of osteoarthritis characteristic of canine hip dysplasia in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 231(6), 889-92.
    19. Wang,Y., Lawler, D., Larson, B., Ramadan, Z., Kochhar, S., Holmes, E., & Nicholson, JK. (2007). Metabonomic investigations of aging and caloric restriction in a life-long dog study. Journal of Proteome Research, 6(5), 1846-1854.