It is common knowledge that wolves are the ancestors of dogs. When it comes down to it, which species lives the longest, and why? It seems like dogs should obviously live longer, since they live easier lives as pets than wolves do in the wild. What seems obvious may not be the case, however.
Based on diet and lifestyle, which species lives the longest? How much does breed come into play for the lifespan of dogs? Can dogs live longer than wolves? Let’s take a look at how long each species lives and why.
Signs That Dogs Can Live Longer Than Wolves
Some major signs that dogs can now outlive wolves come down to lifestyle. Most dogs today are pets. As pets, dogs live cushy lives. Instead of roughing it in the words like a wolf, your dog is likely fed every day and spend lots of time lounging around on your comfortable furniture.
Responsible pet owners also provide basic medical care that wolves will never receive in their lives. While your dog gets annual check-ups, wolves either find ways to deal with illnesses and injuries, or they die. Veterinary care can be critical for dogs, and since wolves lack access to this care, more of them die from treatable illnesses and injuries.
Dogs don’t really have any natural predators, since they are no longer wild. Under the protection of their owners, only a small number of dogs are killed by other animals or the elements when compared to wolves.
All of these signs point to the ability of a dog to outlive a wolf, but a lot of this ability is left up to luck and circumstance.
The biggest help you can give your pet to ensure they live a long life is to be aware of symptoms for major illnesses. Keep your pet healthy by watching out for signs of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more. Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Lack of focus
- Head bobbing
Some other signs your dog may need a check-up include:
- Drastic Changes in Behavior
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight Loss
History of Dogs Living Longer than Wolves
When dogs were first domesticated, there wasn’t much thought put into their lifespans. Since dogs were not first used as companion animals and instead were working dogs that either helped farmers and shepherds herd and protect animals or hunted down small rodents to prevent infestations, owners weren’t worried nearly as much about how long they would live. Without modern spay and neuter procedures, puppies were much easier to come by as well.
One reason that there was no emphasis placed on the lifespan of dogs was that farmers were more focused on the abilities of the dogs. For example, a miniature poodle tends to live for a long time, but that breed isn’t going to be very useful when it comes to herding and protecting a flock of sheep. Instead, that miniature poodle is just an easier target for predators, like wolves, to overtake.
Also, at that time, many of the current dog breeds didn’t exist, and wolves probably had much easier access to livestock and pets as prey and larger habitats without the development of large highways and urban areas. Back when dogs were first domesticated, wolves probably lived much longer than dogs did. Unfortunately, there isn’t any data from that far back, and not much data is available for even 100 years ago.
Science Behind Dogs Living Longer than Wolves
Estimates for the lifespan of wolves varies depending on the source. According to Animal Planet, wolves live between ten and 18 years, while National Geographic says that wolves in the wild live on average six to eight years. If wolves are living all the way to 18, it is likely that they are being held in captivity. Wild wolves deal with a lot of hardships that lower their life expectancies, such as unexpected illness and injury, weather challenges like blizzards and drought, and scarcity of food and habitat resources. Dogs don’t generally have to worry about any of those things.
When it comes to the average lifespan for dogs, it really depends on breed, but many dogs can live well over 10 years. An easier life is likely the major contributing factor to dogs outliving wolves. Access to veterinary care goes a long way for dogs when compared to their wild cousins as well.
Helping Your Dog Live a Long Life
The best way to ensure that your pet has a long life is to keep them healthy. While there may be unforeseen health problem that arise over the course of your dog’s life, you can take some simple steps to keep your dog as healthy as possible.
First, you should work hard at keeping your dog’s weight in check. Obesity is a huge contributor to shortened lifespans in dogs. Obesity can lead to other health issues like diabetes and heart disease, both of which can lead to further health complications as well. Exercise can help you keep your dog’s weight in check, and it is a great way for your dog to burn off excess energy. The average dog needs about 30 minutes of exercise a day.
Certain breeds also tend to live longer than others. If you are looking for a breed with longevity, you should consider getting a miniature poodle or Jack Russell Terrier. Both breeds average 14 years. Other breeds that tend to live a long time include the Miniature Dachshund, Toy Poodle, Cairn Terrier, Australian Cattle Dog and Bearded Collie. Mixed breed dogs are often immune to the genetic diseases passed down from the parent breeds, which means that mixed breed dogs often live to be older than purebred dogs. Size has a lot to do with dog lifespan, too.
Consider how your dog’s life will change as they age. You may need to be ready to provide special accommodations for your pet as they get old. This includes helping them get around your home and changing to a specialized senior diet.
How to Help Your Dog Live a Long Life
Make sure they get daily exercise.
Get annual exams to check on your dog's health.
Keep your dog's weight in check.
Stay up-to-date on vaccinations and pest preventatives.
Keep your dog leashed or contained when outside to prevent attacks or accidents.