How does your dog’s lifestyle affect its health? Is Fluffy getting enough exercise? What impact does your dog’s diet have on its susceptibility to disease? The Dogslife study has decided to tackle these and other questions by evaluating the lifestyle of thousands of Labrador Retrievers.
Dog ownership is extremely popular. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey, approximately 77.5 million dogs have a human owner in the United States. This translates into 39 percent of US households having at least one dog, while 24 percent have two and 9 percent have three or more. On average, dog owners spent $225 on veterinary visits per year.
Given the enormous popularity of dog ownership and the fact that many people treat their dogs like one of the family, it seems about time that a project like the Dogslife study be conducted. It is the first project of its kind, and its goal is to assess how factors such as diet and exercise can influence a dog’s susceptibility to developing an illness or disease.
The project, which is led by the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, plans to recruit thousands of Labrador Retriever puppies younger than 12 months old. Individuals in the United Kingdom who own a Labrador Retriever puppy that has been registered with the Kennel Club after July 1 and that is six months of age or younger can participate in the study.
Dylan Clements, of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, explains that “We hope that assessing the lifestyles and health of a large number of dogs will make it possible for us to identify factors contributing to common illnesses.” The gathered information may then ultimately assist dog owners with advice on how to better manage their dogs and prevent the development of disease.
Labrador Retrievers were chosen because they are the most common dog breed in the UK, according to Clements. The American Kennel Club reports the same, noting that the “gentle, intelligent and family-friendly” dog from Canada “continues to be the most popular breed in the United States.”
The Dogslife study has established its own website, where owners of dogs in the study will be asked to input information about their dogs’ life, such as what they eat, how much exercise they get, and the state of their health. Each dog will also have its own web page.
All pet owners who are in the study will be able to track how their dogs compare with other puppies over time. The website will also provide details about the study’s findings in real time as it progresses.
Caroline Kisko of the Kennel Club noted that “this study will look at how a dog’s lifestyle and environmental factors affect the dog’s health over time and through this we can ensure better treatment through education for owners on the best care for their pets.” Ah, yes, it’s a dog’s life.
American Kennel Club
American Pet Products Manufacturers Association
University of Edinburgh