Multiple morbidities in companion dogs: a novel model for investigating age-related disease. Academic Article uri icon


  • The proportion of men and women surviving over 65 years has been steadily increasing over the last century. In their later years, many of these individuals are afflicted with multiple chronic conditions, placing increasing pressure on healthcare systems. The accumulation of multiple health problems with advanced age is well documented, yet the causes are poorly understood. Animal models have long been employed in attempts to elucidate these complex mechanisms with limited success. Recently, the domestic dog has been proposed as a promising model of human aging for several reasons. Mean lifespan shows twofold variation across dog breeds. In addition, dogs closely share the environments of their owners, and substantial veterinary resources are dedicated to comprehensive diagnosis of conditions in dogs. However, while dogs are therefore useful for studying multimorbidity, little is known about how aging influences the accumulation of multiple concurrent disease conditions across dog breeds. The current study examines how age, body weight, and breed contribute to variation in multimorbidity in over 2,000 companion dogs visiting private veterinary clinics in England. In common with humans, we find that the number of diagnoses increases significantly with age in dogs. However, we find no significant weight or breed effects on morbidity number. This surprising result reveals that while breeds may vary in their average longevity and causes of death, their age-related trajectories of morbidities differ little, suggesting that age of onset of disease may be the source of variation in lifespan across breeds. Future studies with increased sample sizes and longitudinal monitoring may help us discern more breed-specific patterns in morbidity. Overall, the large increase in multimorbidity seen with age in dogs mirrors that seen in humans and lends even more credence to the value of companion dogs as models for human morbidity and mortality.

published proceedings

  • Pathobiol Aging Age Relat Dis

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Jin, K., Hoffman, J. M., Creevy, K. E., O'Neill, D. G., & Promislow, D.

citation count

  • 14

complete list of authors

  • Jin, Kelly||Hoffman, Jessica M||Creevy, Kate E||O'Neill, Dan G||Promislow, Daniel EL

publication date

  • January 2016