Some time ago I read a story about selective breeding and Pekinese dogs in ancient China. The Lion-like dogs were considered sacred and protected by the Manchu emperors who not only exclusively owned the dogs, but kept a watchful eye on their breeding quantities and qualities.
Thus the Pekinese were bred for both form and function ensuring that their exquisite beauty, intelligence and character would not be achieved by sacrificing their physical well-being.
As a result, even though the little dogs still had their short muzzles (known as brachycephaly), they were said to remain active and disease-free for their entire lives that often spanned a quarter of a century.
I sat there thinking how wonderful it would be to share 25 years of my life with my dogs. The life without disease or heartaches. Of course, it’s more of a dream than reality, but there are some realistic ways to ensure that our pups stay with us for longer. Including the most basic and straightforward one…
In 2019 Journal of Veterinary Medicine published a North American study that looked into the lifespan of 12 breeders of pet dogs aged between 6.5 and 8.5 years old and identified as either “overweight” or “normal” based on the Body Conditioning Chart.
The results of the study showed that the overweight group of dogs had a shorter lifespan compared to the “normal” group of the same breed. The difference ranged between 6 months and 2.5 years, and the smaller breeds seemed to be more affected than larger ones.
The study had its flaws because the data was collected from a great number of vets working in 900 veterinary hospitals across the country, there was no specified medical history that could have affected dog’s health, the comparison chart for the maximum age was based on generic breed information, and all dogs used for the study were neutered.
Having said that, the fact is that the dogs who carried extra kilos were at higher risk of earlier death than their slimmer counterparts is obvious.
For us, as dog parents, it means one simple rule – keeping our spaniels fit and lean means longer life together!
Cockers are prone to weight gain, so it is vital to monitor their diet (treats included!) and exercise to suit their age and physical requirements, keep them well to avoid the need for certain medications that can contribute to weight-gain as a side-effect, reconsider routine neutering, and most definitely consult a vet if you suspect any underlying conditions that may get your dog put on pounds. And if your spaniel already looks a little chubby, help them lose the pounds for good.
It really is such a small effort for achieving something pretty wonderful. And who knows maybe there will come a day when we and the pooches really do get to share a quarter of a century together again…