Wednesday, January 28, 2015
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Rock doc: The longevity of dogs

By
October 17, 2013 |

It’s just a fact: most of us outlive our dogs. Indeed, for people who are dog owners throughout their lives, a lot of grieving is guaranteed. Fido No. 1 dies, is replaced by Fido No. 2 who also dies, and so on down the long line of dogs in our households.
I was reminded of how short a dog’s life is compared to ours when I read Ted Kerasote’s book, Pukka’s Promise. Kerasote is the best-selling author of Merle’s Door, a book about the relationship he had with a mixed breed dog named Merle. At the end of that book, Merle died of cancer. After an interval of a few years, Kerasote got a purebred puppy he named Pukka.
As Kerasote explains, dogs don’t live for a long time because they are basically wolves, and wolves are short-lived. In the wild, wolves tend to live only three or four years because they prey on animals that can injure and kill them. Because of the difficult conditions of their lives, wolves breed earlier than animals like grizzly bears, and they have more offspring each year.
The domestic dog, which is a wolf in friendlier clothing, follows this same pattern, reaching sexual maturity rapidly and having litters of squirming puppies that may number eight or 10. What works as a survival strategy for wolves as a species guarantees us dog-lovers that we will grieve for the death of our canine companions at multiple times during our much longer lives.
But not all dogs are created the same. Different breeds of dogs have different longevities. In general, the giant breeds like the Great Dane live shorter lives than smaller dogs. And because they avoid certain genetic problems, mixed breed dogs (the honest mutts that fill dog pounds from coast to coast) tend to live longer than their purebred counterparts of the same weight.
So far, so good. But can we say more about specific expectations of canine lifespans? Enter Dr. Kelly Cassidy, the curator of Washington State University’s Conner Vertebrate Museum. In her free time and as a hobby, Cassidy has considered the longevity issues of dogs. She made a study of sources that list how long different breeds live versus what breeder surveys report about their own dogs. Surveys like that aren’t the hardest of scientific evidence, but they do give some data for us dog-lovers to look at.
Cassidy’s work suggests that quite a number of dog breeds don’t appear to live as long as people like to believe. For example, German shepherds are often said to live about 13 years. But Cassidy’s reading of breeder surveys indicated a more realistic number might be a bit less than 10 years.
“That’s really quite a difference,” Cassidy said to me.
Selective memory and wishful thinking may result in the difference between expectations of a dog’s life and what actually is likely to unfold for Fido.
In any event, the wolf heritage of dogs guarantees they won’t live as long as we’d like. That’s the basic fact we all know, and it’s the bottom-line I take away from Kerasote’s book and from talking with Cassidy.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.

Comments

Subscription Required

Thank you for reading the MtDemocrat.com digital edition. In order to continue reading this story please choose one of the following options.

Current Subscribers
If you are a current subscriber and wish to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com, please select the Subscriber Verification option below. If you already have a login, please select "Login" at the lower right corner of this box.

Subscriber Verification

Special Introductory Offer
For a short time we will be offering a discount to those who call us in order to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your print subscription. Our customer support team will be standing by Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm to assist you.

Call and Save! (530) 344-5000

If you are not a current subscriber and wish not to take advantage of our special introductory offer, please select the $12 monthly option below to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your online subscription

Help?

E. Kirsten Peters

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    News

    Heard over the back fence: Chocolate Affair next week

    By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

     
    City boosts Boys & Girls Club’s new facility

    By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A1

    Big rig catches fire

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1

     
    Motorcycle fuel leak causes fire

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1

     
    Marshall seeks baby-friendly imprimatur

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    EID insurance bill shrinks

    By Michael Raffety | From Page: A6

    City of SLT wins case in federal court

    By News Release | From Page: A11

     
    Three arrested in Tahoe for Roseville robbery

    By Cole Mayer | From Page: A11

    Esmeralda Tunnel work on schedule

    By Michael Raffety | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    .

    Opinion

    Another cold case

    By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

     
    Innovative tribal court

    By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

     
    My turn: Falling gas prices mask hidden tax

    By George Runner | From Page: A4

    .

    Letters

    Prisoner of isolation

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    The F-22 Raptor is costly

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

    Old-fashioned integrity

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

     
    Put Mr. Altshuler to rest

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

    .

    Sports

    Fine-tuning for max glide

    By Charlie Ferris | From Page: A8

     
    Ryan was willing, just not able

    By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A8

    Outside with Charlie: The condition of conditions

    By Charlie Ferris | From Page: A8

     
    Local club has top finishers

    By Democrat Staff | From Page: A9

    .

    Prospecting

    Tribute artist strives for perfection

    By Pat Lakey | From Page: B1

     
    At a glance: Holy guacamole

    By Mimi Escabar | From Page: B2

     
    Gold Trail students catch and learn

    By Gold Trail Union School District | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Snowline Hospice Hosts Hot Cocoa Bar

    By Snowline Hospice Thrift Stores | From Page: B2

     
    Women’s luncheon

    By Christian Women's Connection | From Page: B3

    Talented Peter Coyote to appear at Harris Center

    By Harris Center for the Arts | From Page: B3

     
    Grow For It!: The Sherwood Demonstration Garden

    By Sue McDavid | From Page: B4

    Master Food Preservers: Looking for volunteers

    By Monique Wilber | From Page: B4

     
    Life as I know it: A career change and Canyon de Chelly

    By Robert F. Boggus | From Page: B5

    Auto shop hosts event for women

    By News Release | From Page: B5

     
    Free trees to Arbor Day members

    By Arbor Day | From Page: B8

    Sacramento museums offer special pricing

    By Sacramento Association Of Museums | From Page: B8

     
    Author relates a personal experience

    By Wendy Schultz | From Page: B8

    Free After 5 Club to meet

    By Senior Day | From Page: B8

     
    State Fair announces new competition

    By California Exposition And State Fair | From Page: B10

    Hands4Hope’s Winter Boutique a success

    By Hands4Hope Youth Making A Difference | From Page: B10

     
    ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ stars Idol alums

    By California Musical Theater | From Page: B10

    .

    Essentials

    Weather stats 1-27-15

    By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

     
    Correction

    By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A2

    .

    Obituaries

    Jeffrey Trevor Jilbert

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

     
    Donald Benjamin Deal

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

    Ora “Orie” Rayton Knight

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

     
    Janet Ruth Marcum Faw Atkins

    By Contributor | From Page: A2

    .

    Real Estate

    .

    Comics

    Flying McCoys

    By Contributor | From Page: A12

     
    Speed Bump

    By Contributor | From Page: A12

    Tundra

    By Contributor | From Page: A12

     
    Horoscope, Thursday, January 29, 2015

    By Contributor | From Page: A12

    Horoscope, Wednesday, January 28, 2015

    By Contributor | From Page: A12

     
    TV Listings

    By Contributor | From Page: A12

    Shoe

    By Contributor | From Page: A12

     
    Sudoku

    By Contributor | From Page: A12

    Rubes

    By Contributor | From Page: A12

     
    New York Times Crossword

    By Contributor | From Page: A12

    Long Story Short

    By Contributor | From Page: A12

     
    .

    Healthy Trends 2015

    Anytime Fitness doubles up as county fitness option

    By Pat Lakey | From Page: HT2 | Gallery

    Powerhouse Gym: A new gym for a new you

    By Jessica Cyphers | From Page: HT3

    SacHeart has a physician team for all your needs

    By Jessica Cyphers | From Page: HT4

    Dr. Cummings offers the help of an EDC expert

    By Charlotte Sanchez-Kosa | From Page: HT4

    Max Muscle: ‘The authority on sports nutrition’

    By Peter Tyner | From Page: HT6

    Keep your head in the game: Preventing and treating youth concussions

    By Special to the Democrat | From Page: HT7

    Cold Springs Dental: A pleasant dental experience

    By Rachael A. McCoy | From Page: HT7

    Diamond Dance Company brings studio to school campus

    By Charlotte Sanchez-Kosa | From Page: HT8