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Chapter 1

Sick as a Dog: Why We and Our Companions Are Losing Our Longevity

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Grief counselors and therapists acknowledge the loss of a beloved animal companion: See B. J. Carmack, “Pet Loss and the Elderly,” Holistic Nursing Practice 5, no. 2 (1991): 80–87.


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Chocolate Labs live shorter lives than other Labs: See Paul D. McGreevy, et al., “Labrador Retrievers Under Primary Veterinary Care in the UK: Demography, Mortality and Disorders,”

Canine Genet Epidemiol 5 (October 2018): 8. doi: 10.1186/s40575-018-0064-x. eCollection 2018.

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Science finally figured this out, thanks to analyses of large ancestry databases: See J. Graham Ruby, et al., “Estimates of the Heritability of Human Longevity Are Substantially Inflated due to Assortative Mating,” Genetics 210, no. 3 (November 2018): 1109–24. doi: 10.1534/genetics.118.301613.

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humans suffer increasingly from the so-called diseases of civilization: See Victor Gabriel Clatici, et al., “Diseases of Civilization – Cancer, Diabetes, Obesity and Acne – the Implication of Milk, IGF-1 and mTORC1,” Maedica (Bucur) 13, no. 4 (December 2018): 273–81. doi: 10.26574/maedica.2018.13.4.273.

In 1900, according to the World Health Organization, the global average life expectancy was just 31 years: See

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By 2019, before the pandemic hit to skew the numbers, the average was nearing seventy-nine in the United States, and it was as high as eighty-four and a half in Japan: For facts and figures about life expectancy in the United States, go to the Center for Disease Control and Prevent at; for global numbers, go to, which is maintained by the University of Oxford.

In these “high-longevity areas” known as Blue Zones: See

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one in five deaths globally to unhealthy diets alone: GBD 2017 Diet Collaborators, “Health Effects of Dietary Risks in 195 countries, 1990-2017: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017,” Lancet 393, no. 10184 (May 2019): 1958–72. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(19)30041-8. Epub 2019 Apr 4.

A study of 3,884 dogs in England visiting the vet for first-time “wellness visits”: See Jane Katherine Murray, et al., “ ‘Generation Pup’ – Protocol for a Longitudinal Study of Dog Behavior and Health,” BMC Vet Res 17, no. 1 (January 2021):1. doi: 10.1186/s12917-020-02730-8.

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Interestingly, a 2020 Dutch study of a little more than twenty-three hundred dog owners revealed that “permissive parenting”: See Ineke R van Herwijnen, et al., “Permissive Parenting of the Dog Associates with Dog Overweight in a Survey Among 2,303 Dutch Dog Owners,” PLoS One 15 no. 8 (August 2020): e0237429. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0237429. eCollection 2020.

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a study of pedigree dogs in 2014 revealed a significant decrease in longevity over the previous decade: See T. W. Lewis, et al., “Longevity and Mortality in Kennel Club Registered Dog Breeds in the UK in 2014,” Canine Genet Epidemiol 5, no. 10 (2018).

Of the 90,000 records reviewed, 27,254 involved dogs with at least one of twenty-four genetic disorders: See Thomas P. Bellumori, et al., “Prevalence of Inherited Disorders Among Mixed-breed and Purebred Dogs: 27,254 Cases (1995-2010),” J Am Vet Med Assoc 242, no. 11 (June 2013): 1549–55. doi: 10.2460/javma.242.11.1549.

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who chronicled the dog’s life in a book with the secrets to Bramble’s longevity: See Ann Heritage’s book Bramble; The Dog Who Wanted to Live Forever, The Somerset Notes (Amazon: CreateSpace, 2013).

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The World Health Organization has developed an indicator, HALE (healthy life expectancy; pronounced haley) to address this gap: See

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Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard, who studies genetics and the biology of aging and has written extensively about the secrets to a long and healthy life: To access all of Dr. David Sinclair’s academic papers, go to his lab’s website at Also see his book Lifespan: Why We Age―and Why We Don’t Have To (New York: Atria 2019).

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In the Netherlands, researchers found that overweight dogs were more likely to have overweight owners: See C.R. Bjørnvad, et al., “Neutering Increases the Risk of Obesity in Male Dogs but Not in Bitches—A Cross-sectional Study of Dog- and Owner-related Risk Factors for Obesity in Danish Companion Dogs,” Preventive Veterinary Medicine 170 (2019): 104730. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2019.104730.

Another study from Germany showed that we tend to impose our own snacking patterns: See E. Kienzle, R. Bergler, and A. Mandernach, “A Comparison of the Feeding Behavior and the Human-animal Relationship in Owners of Normal and Obese Dogs,” J Nutr 129, Supplment 12 (December 1998): 2779S-2782S. doi: 10.1093/jn/128.12.2779S.

In Finland, a noteworthy 2018 study took one diagnosis in particular: See Jenni Lehtimäki, et al., “Skin Microbiota and Allergic Symptoms Associate with Exposure to Environmental Microbes,” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115, no. 19 (May 2018): 4897–4902. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1719785115. Epub 2018 Apr 23.

the group concluded that feeding a nonprocessed, fresh, meat-based diet early in life protects against canine atopic dermatitis: See Manal Hemida, et al., “Identification of Modifiable Pre- and Postnatal Dietary and Environmental Exposures Associated with Owner-reported Canine Atopic Dermatitis in Finland Using a Web-based Questionnaire,” PLoS One 15, no. 5 (May 2020): e0225675. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0225675. eCollection 2020.

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the Canine Healthy Soil Project: See

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dogs and their owners were more likely to suffer simultaneously from allergic conditions in an urban environment and when their exposure to beneficial environmental microbes: See Jenni Lehtimäki, et al., “Simultaneous Allergic Traits in Dogs and Their Owners Are Associated with Living Environment, Lifestyle and Microbial Exposures,” Sci Rep 10, no. 1 (December 2020): 21954. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-79055-x.

These shared emotions function as “social glue”: See Bingtao Su, Naoko Koda, and Pim Martens, “How Japanese Companion Dog and Cat Owners’ Degree of Attachment Relates to the Attribution of Emotions to Their Animals,” PLoS One 13, no. 1 (January 2018): e0190781. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0190781. eCollection 2018.

When we interviewed lead researcher Dr. Lina Roth about her findings: See Ann-Sofie Sundman, et al., “Long-term Stress Levels Are Synchronized in Dogs and Their Owners,” Sci Rep 9, no. 1 (June 2019): 7391. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-43851-x.

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people who have a propensity to run away from their feelings: See Therese Rehn, Andrea Beetz, and Linda J. Keeling, “Links Between an Owner’s Adult Attachment Style and the Support-Seeking Behavior of Their Dog,” Front Psychol 8 (November 2017): 2059. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02059. eCollection 2017.

Dr. Biagio D’Aniello told us: For more on Dr. D’Aniello’s research go to his website at