Purina conducted the only canine lifelong diet restriction study and showed that maintaining dogs in lean body condition throughout their lives can extend their median life span by 15 percent – nearly two years – for the Labrador Retrievers in the study.
“The study was designed to evaluate the effects of controlled food intake on body condition and a variety of health parameters, as well as life span itself,” says Purina Veterinary Communications Specialist Dorothy P. Laflamme, D.V.M., Ph.D., DACVN, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. “We proved that maintaining a lean body condition resulted in longer life.”
The 14-year study, which was completed in 2001, compared 48 Labrador Retrievers. Dogs were assigned to a control or lean-fed group. All the dogs ate the same 100 percent nutritionally complete and balanced diets for the entire study, except that the lean-fed group was fed 75 percent of the amount eaten by the control group.
Median life span was increased by 1.8 years, or 15 percent, in the lean-fed dogs compared to the control dogs. Median life span – the age at which 50 percent of the dogs in the group had died – was 11.2 years in the control group, compared to 13.0 years in the lean-fed group. The lean-fed group always had a greater mean percentage of lean-body mass and also experienced a two-year delay in the loss of lean body mass compared to the control dogs. This group also maintained significantly lower body condition scores.
“We learned that feeding less does not necessarily change what health problems dogs encounter or what ultimately causes their death,” Laflamme says. “What it does change is when this occurs.”