What factors contribute to a dog’s longevity?
Question: What’s the best way to find a “genetically healthy” puppy?
Reply: In 2019, I was in this same quest. I’ll start by mentioning that there are a lot of dogs in shelters who need a good home. Most of these dogs, but not all, are mixed breed. In other words, they are “mutts”.
But due to the amalgamation of their genetics, these dogs are often the image of health, with a much stronger build than many purebred dogs. This phenomenon is often referred to as “hybrid vigor” and relates to the whole paradigm of “survival of the fittest”. I believe there is a special place in Heaven for people who rescue dogs, and I have worked with many, many shelter dogs and their owners over the years.
Breeding and selling dogs is big business. Unfortunately, not all breeders care about the health and strength of the dogs they breed. Some of these people are there strictly for the money. Careful dog breeding is a science. The best breeders are well aware of the genetic weaknesses of their lineage and breed around those shortcomings to eliminate those weaknesses.
My last dog Lulu lived to be 17 years old. She lived about four years longer than the breed standard for Australian Shepherds. When she was about 5 years old, I read a book called “The Nature of Animal Healing” by Dr. Martin Goldstein. This was my introduction to holistic methods for our pets. This book has really opened my eyes and I am sure it has helped add a few more years to my dog’s life.
Believe it or not, the world record for doggie longevity is 30 years old! Currently I’m on a mission to see how long (God willing) I can extend the life of my current dog Tillie. I think 20 years is achievable … but we’ll see. Most of the holistic methods I started when Lulu was a little older, I implemented early on with Tillie. Starting with its genetics.
While I fully understand and support dog adoption and think it’s a noble endeavor, a lot of people want a puppy, and a lot of them want a specific breed. Personally, I was looking for an Australian Shepherd, and although they have Australian Shepherd rescue organizations, I pretty much exhausted those possibilities. Plus, I knew I was going to have a “longevity experience”.
A few years ago, thanks to one of my clients, I got to know a miniature schnauzer breeder. My path to finding a genetically healthy dog began with my conversations with him. I asked him the same question posed here. I knew I was looking for a breeder who was committed to the strength of the breed, and I knew those breeders had to be there.
What I have learned is that it is often the show breeders who are most committed to the stability and health of the breed. They know their breeders intimately. Genetic defects are eliminated. So the first thing I did was join the Australian Shepherd Club of America. I wasn’t looking for a “show dog” but knew I wanted high caliber genetics.
Thanks to the club, I found a breeder in Florida who was raising show dogs. Was it expensive? Yes, almost. But not as expensive as some of the dogs I work with from time to time, and I can pretty much guarantee that the breeders of many of these dogs pay absolutely no attention to the genetics of their dogs. So it’s all relative, I guess.
There are a number of other things we can do to improve the longevity of our dogs. No. 1 gives your dog high quality dog food. These are generally more expensive, but worth it in my opinion.
Instead of automatically vaccinating your dog every year, another solution is to do a blood test called a “titer” to determine which vaccine antibodies are left in their system, thereby reducing the amount of chemicals your dog receives in their lifetime.
I believe everyone probably wants their dog to live as long as possible. I am simply doing the experiment to push back this envelope.