But some at least live very long! To find out why, scientists from ELTE Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary (Departments of Ethology and Genetics) examined the genome of two extremly old dogs (22 years and 27 years).
This doesn’t only sound very old, but is 90-135% more that the average lifespan of companion dogs!
Dávid Jónás, Sára Sándor, Kitti Tátrai, Balázs Egyed and Enikö Kubinyi analyzed the whole genome sequence of the two dogs, Buksi and Kedves.
About the two Methuselah Dogs
Buksi was a 27 years old mixed-breed intact male who lived in Sárrétudvari, Hungary. He had a diet of raw chicken, table scraps and wild prey animals (e.g. mice) his whole life, according to his owner. He was allowed to roam freely and lived in a horse riding center with much friendly human contact and other dogs. He was vaccinated against rabies regularly. While sampling, he weighted 13-14 kg and was sprightly
Kedves was a 22 years old mixed-breed neutered female dog who lived in Ócsa, Hungary. She was fed with commercial dog food as much as she wanted and wild pres animals, too. She was the dog of a dog shelter manager and had a lot of nice contact both with humans and dogs, too. She was vaccinated against rabies regularly. At the time of sampling, she was also very sprightly and weighted 16-18 kg.
Sadly, both of them have passed away, but they had a long and happy life.
By analyzing the whole genome of the two seniors and comparing it to 3 public canine genome databases with genetic information of 850 dogs, the scientists found a bunch of gene variations that both old dogs shared. Those were mostly related to gene transcription/translation and its regulation, to immune response and the nervous system in general. Those genes regulate for example inflammation, demetia and immunity.
The scientists assume that “a crucial genetic requirement of extreme longevity lies within the fine-tuning (i.e., the superior calibration) of RNA (and thereof protein) production of an organism.”
What does that mean for us and our dogs?
There are no concrete measures from that study for dog owners around the world, yet. But improving our dogs’ immune systems, preventing inflammations and keeping their brains fit is a good take away.
But thinking about the breeding of dogs within the last 100 years, this research provides possibilities to focus on other characteristics than questionable ideals of beauty.
Currently, a lot of dogs are bread to have certain facial expressions, big googly eyes, rare colors, be very huge or very tiny, etc. And many of them suffer from illnesses, deformation and often die early. With the genetic information available, breeders can now create dogs with a good health and a long lifespan.