If your pet plan was to be one and done, it might be time to rethink your single-dog strategy. According to new research, if you want your dog to really thrive, especially as they age, it’s time for a new addition to the family.
A new study from the Dog Aging Project points to five key pillars of dog health and longevity, and, like with their bipedal roommates, social interaction is way more important than you probably want to admit.
The team analyzed survey data collected as part of the Dog Aging Project for 21,410 dogs and found that combined, five factors “explained 33.7% of the variation in a dog's social environment.” Those factors include neighborhood stability, total household income, the owner’s age, social time spent with children, and social time spent with other animals.
The most significant finding of the study was that dogs who had pet friends in the home were more likely to be healthier as they aged than solo dogs. The impact of social companionship was five times stronger in terms of health and longevity than that of living in a financially secure and stable environment.
The research team also discovered that dogs living in less financially secure environments were more likely to be less healthy overall while, somewhat paradoxically, dogs living in wealthy home environments were more likely to be diagnosed with multiple diseases. This could point to the fact that wealthy dog owners are more likely to seek veterinary care than those who may struggle to afford such care for their pets.
“Here, we see how dogs can help us to better understand how the environment around us influences health and the many ways in which dogs mirror the human experience,” said Daniel Promislow, project co-director, in a statement. “Just as with people, dogs in lower-resource environments are more likely to have health challenges. Thanks to the richness of the data the Dog Aging Project is collecting, follow-up studies will have the potential to help us understand how and why environmental factors affect health in dogs.”
One shocking finding was that time spent in a household with children was inversely proportional to health and longevity in dogs. “We found that time with children actually had a detrimental effect on dog health,” said Brassington. “The more children or time that owners dedicate to their children, likely leads to less time with their furry children,” explained co-author Layla Brassington, a Master’s student involved in the study.
All data used in the research was self-reported by dog owners, which could lead to misrepresentation or errors in quantification. Additional research is needed to confirm the study results.
“The take-home message is: Having a good network, having a good social connectedness is good for the dogs that are living with us,” said co-author Ph.D. student Bri McCoy. “But the structure and equities that are in our society also have a detrimental effect on our companion animals as well. And they are not the ones thinking about their next paycheck or their health care.”
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