Dog Study Links Retaining Ovaries and Longevity

Study finds that Rottweilers who kept their ovaries longer also lived longer.

Posted: January 5, 2010, 2 a.m. EST

Female dogs who keep their ovaries longer also live longer, according to a new study led by David Waters, DVM, executive director of the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation, based at the Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette. The foundation is home to the Center for Exceptional Longevity Studies, which tracks the oldest living pet dogs in the United States.

The findings, according to the researchers, challenge almost four decades of standard operating procedures used in female pets as well as women. Purdue Research Park reports that this is the first investigation to look for a link between retaining ovaries and reaching exceptional longevity in mammals.

“A female survival advantage in humans is well-documented — women outnumber men by four to one among those who reach 100,” said Waters, who is also an associate director of Purdue University’s Center on Aging and the Life Course and a professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.

“Like women, female dogs in our study had a distinct survival advantage over males. But taking away ovaries during the first four years of life completely erased the female survival advantage,” Waters said. “We found that female Rottweilers who kept their ovaries for at least six years were four times more likely to reach exceptional longevity compared to females who had the shortest lifetime ovary exposure.”

The researchers collected and analyzed lifetime medical histories, ages and causes of death for 119 canine “centenarians,” exceptionally long-lived Rottweiler dogs living in the United States and Canada who survived to 13 years, about 30 percent longer than average Rottweilers. These dogs were compared to a group of 186 Rottweilers who had usual longevity, about nine years.

“Clearly, we have tapped into a unique resource with our Exceptional Longevity Database,” Waters said. “We like to think of it as the pet dog equivalent of the New England Centenarian Study. We want to better understand the biology of aging. Our quest to validate pet dogs as a model for the study of healthy human aging is at the core of this research.”

Taken together, the emerging message for dogs and women seems to be that when it comes to longevity, it pays to keep your ovaries, according to Purdue Research Park.

“What we have here is a compelling convergence,” Waters said. “The data from women and dogs, together with reported longevity benefits from ovary transplants in mice, are pointing in the same direction — the notion that a network of processes regulating longevity is under ovarian control.”

The study was recently published in Aging Cell.


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Brent   LA, CA

3/23/2010 2:54:21 PM

1. The study itself appears to be a rehash of a study that was published back in 2003 - the same data was used but the emphasis in that study was on canine cancer. "Exceptional longevity in pet dogs is accompanied by cancer resistance and delayed onset of major diseases." No mention was made of ovary exposure as related to longevity even though the same Rottweiler data was used.

2. The dogs studied died between 1995-2000 - further indicating this was an old study - first used for a different

3. The major flaw in the 2009 study is the control groups of dogs used. They used one group aged 9-10 yrs. - and another group aged 13.3-14.3. The study only included 183 Rottweiler dogs in healthy home environments. We already know that the benefits of spaying include greatly decreased risk of breast & ovarian cancer. The average age of onset for breast & ovarian cancers in Rottweilers is generally younger than the control groups studied, thus all Rottweilers that died of breast or ovarian cancer at a younger age would have been excluded from the study. This would compare to taking a group of female smokers 90 years old and over - and concluding that cigarette smoking has no effect on women's health since they are still alive at 90. All the women who died of smoking related diseases at younger than 90 years of age (common) would not have been considered in the study.

4. There appears to be other factors that contributed to the longevity of the Rottweilers in the 13.3-14.3 age group. As a group they weighed less at 79-90 lbs. - versus the younger group that weighed 90-100 lbs. Also the older dogs were shorter. Studies have long shown smaller, thinner dogs live longer by two years on

5. The oldest Rottweiler group - 13.3-14.3 - had a considerably larger number of mothers that achieved exceptional longevity - showing a genetic link to their

6. The 2009 study greatly contradicts much broader previous studies on ALL breeds and MIXED breeds - in reputable journals that show unequivocally the spaying prolongs female dog's lives and that breeding shortens their

7. The study is flawed also because he states that the average life expectancy of a Rottweiller is 9-10 yrs., when the majority of resources indicate it is actually 10-12 years - thus the "exceptional longevity" of 13 is not that extraordinary. Even more notable is the major cause of death he shows for in Rottweillers in the 9-10 yr. group is indeed cancer - 73% dying from

8. The study was originally completed to show that Rottweilers that lived past the age of 10 had a reduced risk for cancer. 73% died from it in his 9-10 year group and only 25% died from it in his 13.3 to 14.3 age group. This is the REAL information the study revealed - and the main thrust of the 2003 paper.

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dogvet   los angeles, CA

2/5/2010 8:25:46 AM

How many dogs were in this study?

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Julie   Jacksonville, FL

2/3/2010 4:05:38 PM

Let's not be too quick to generalize. What the studety showed was that female Rotties live longer with ovaries. This is a breed plagued by early mortality due to a variety of tumors, autoimmune conditions, arthritis, and other breed-specific conditions. Before this finding can be extrapolated to other dogs and to humans, it shoudl be repeated in noninbred populations. In addition, this study only looked at an outlier population of exceptional longevity. It did not say whether the average survival calculated from all intact dogs was longer than all spayed dogs or if this phenomenon was applicable to the outliers only.

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Galadriel   Lothlorien, ME

1/5/2010 10:49:43 PM

This article makes perfect sense. Now I have another good reason not to spay. And just because one has an unaltered dog doesn't mean that one has to breed.

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