The effect of breed on age-related changes in behavior and disease prevalence in cognitively normal older community dogs, Canis lupus familiaris

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Variation in breed longevity in the dog has led to the inference that large dogs age at a faster rate than small dogs, possibly because of an increased oxidative load. Potential differences in behavioral aging (the rate of age-related decline in cognito-behavioral performance) across breeds represent a significant challenge to veterinarians and scientists. Using data from a large cross-sectional survey of older dog owners, we aimed to identify breed differences in behavioral aging in successfully aged dogs ≥8 years of age. Differences based on longevity (short-lived, <11 years; medium-lived, 11-13 years; and long-lived, >13 years), size (small-sized, <35 cm; medium-sized, 35-55 cm; and large-sized, >55 cm), and breed (pure vs. crossbred) were identified using binary logistic regression. Significant breed differences across longevity group were seen in 2 behavioral responses: dogs drinking >1 L/d (P = 0.001, maximum difference between groups = 16.4%) and dogs showing aggression (P = 0.006, maximum difference between groups = 15.1%). In purebred dogs, 8 responses (P < 0.001-0.008, maximum difference between groups = 8.4%-20%) showed significant differences across size group compared with 1 response, in crossbred dogs (P = 0.008, max difference between groups = 28.4%). Significant differences were observed across longevity group in the prevalence of arthritis (P = 0.014) and across size group in the prevalence of arthritis (P < 0.001) and blindness (P = 0.014). In medium-sized dogs, 2 age × breeding group interactions were seen in ingestive behavior (P = 0.037) and aggression (P = 0.028). In large-sized dogs, 1 age × breeding group interaction was seen in abnormal locomotion (P = 0.025). A consistent direction in the differences identified was not seen across all analyses. In general, these data did not suggest an increased rate of behavioral aging in large, short-lived dogs. It is possible that size-dependent aging affects body systems differently or, alternatively, owner’s management may differ between small and large dogs, resulting in differences in behavior.