What Can We Learn From The Longest Living Dog? By Lisa Hannaby-Aird

Jun 02, 2024
Dr Conor Brady
What Can We Learn From The Longest Living Dog? By Lisa Hannaby-Aird

Eating breakfast on a normal weekday morning has unfortunately become a time I check social media. Now there are many reasons why this isn’t great, who really wants to be irritated whilst they’re trying to eat their eggs, but irritated I became, and this time it was because of the headline for a new anti-ageing pill released for dogs. I was doubly irritated because the poster dog is an 11-year-old whippet, and I have two whippets. I instantly rolled my eyes, but then saw some comments made by excited owners. My critical mind wondered how they would prove this anti-ageing pill works as we never truly know how long we’ll have with our pets or when they will start to decline. In addition, could the pill cause undesirable side effects?

I was reminded of the Northwick Park drug trial disaster. In what became known as the Elephant Man trial, six healthy young men were treated for organ failure after experiencing a serious reaction within hours of taking the drug TGN1412 in a clinical trial. After they were all admitted to intensive care, two became critically ill, the worst affected lost his fingers and toes, and all the men were subsequently told they would be likely to develop cancers or auto-immune diseases as a result of their exposure to the drug.

This it seems is where the new anti-ageing products from company Loyal are currently at. There are two products they are testing at the moment. They are also looking for FDA approval. So these dogs “trying” this new pill are the clinical trial and those owners will have to wait to see if their dog suffers any side effects.

I don’t deny that clinical trials are essential in getting any medication to market - but how do we feel about clinical trials for a product even the manufacturers suggest is going to be hard to prove, works?

The company report states, “Loyal is working to get its anti-aging drug for dogs cleared through the FDA’s Expanded Conditional Approval pathway, which is reserved for treatments that target serious conditions but that are particularly challenging to prove work.”

After additional irritation on my part and further investigation, I found the following comment in an interview with Celine, the company's Founder and CEO.

“We’re going to be going for claiming at least one year of healthy life span extension.”

So after all of that, owners may get an extra year. Is it worth it?

At this point, I’d finished my eggs and it could’ve been that my hanger had subsided, but I felt less irritated. My scientist brain knows there are in fact many ways to support our dogs to live their longest and happiest lives. So if you’d rather give the novel drug that may give you an extra year with your dog, a miss, read on for some tried and tested ways to support healthy ageing in our dogs.

Let’s start with the longest-living dog.

No matter how you feel about the controversy surrounding Bobi, the current, longest-living dog, it's undeniable that there is substance to the claims about his lifestyle.

While some argue that Bobi's diet has been used to market certain approaches to feeding dogs, the reality is that Bobi was fed a varied diet.

We can use the data from the Blue Zones to explore this point a little further.

A few places in the world are called “Blue Zones” which refers to geographic areas in which people have low rates of chronic disease and live longer than anywhere else. Interestingly, these Blue Zones have enabled researchers to suggest that genetics probably only account for 20–30% of longevity. Therefore, environmental influences, including diet and lifestyle, play a huge role in lifespan.

These Blue Zones are found all over the world, and their diets are different. This has led researchers to conclude that there isn’t one single diet associated with longevity, but in fact it's the variety found in a diet that’s key.

Another striking observation from these longevity hot spots is that meals are typically freshly prepared at home. Traditional blue zone diets also don’t appear to contain ultra-processed foods, fast foods or sugary drinks which may accelerate ageing.

According to the data, the key to longevity is a freshly, home-prepared diet rich in variety that doesn’t include ultra-processed foods. It looks like there are a few nails in the kibble coffin, doesn’t it?

Fresh is best!

We would advocate a raw food diet, with plenty of variety. Rotate the proteins that you use, add eggs, fish and our Power Paste for a nutrient boost. If you’re new to raw feeding, check out our Raw Feeding Masterclass and if you want to know the science behind the diet, then check out the bible, Feeding Dogs by Dr. Conor Brady.

But we’re also not averse to a freshly cooked diet if that’s what takes your fancy. Check out our article on cooked diets to learn more.

The only thing we are bothered about is feeding dogs a fresh food diet because all the data points to it being the best for health and longevity. Even just adding fresh food toppers massively improves health metrics in dogs! A study of Scottish Terriers found that simply adding vegetables to dogs' meals three times a week significantly reduced their risk of developing a certain type of cancer.

Moving on, let's touch on another aspect of the data from the Blue Zones, which Bobi’s owner also mentioned.

Bobi’s owner suggested that Bobi used to roam the woods around the village until he got too old to do so. He was never chained up or leashed.

Get your body moving!

In the Blue Zones, people don’t exercise purposefully by going to the gym. Instead, it is built into their daily lives through gardening, walking, cooking and other daily chores.

In blue zones, people are nudged into moving about every 20 minutes. For example, they are gardening, kneading their own bread, and using hand-operated tools. When people do go out (e.g., to school, work, a friend's house, a restaurant, or to socialise), it’s almost always on foot. Movement is engineered into their daily lives.

So it seems that another key to longevity is exercise being simply a way of life. It’s not excessive, and there are no high cortisol dumps from that HIIT class; it's just daily chores that challenge the musculoskeletal and respiratory systems.

This offers food for thought when exercising our dogs. How great is that weekend warrior walk for both us and our dogs? How can we introduce less purposeful movement into our days for the whole family? Walk instead of getting into the car? Go for a walk with a friend instead of for a coffee?

Bobi’s owner also attributes his long life to roaming around a calm, peaceful, environment.

This is mirrored in the Blue Zones. The people living in blue zones have daily rituals that reduce stress. Rituals vary and include activities such as prayer, ancestor veneration, napping, and happy hour.

We’re not about to share top tips on how to help your dog pray (but send photos if you take on this task) but there are ways to help reduce stress in our doggos.

Firstly, we need to manage our own stress.

This study provides a more technical description, but we really only need to know that dogs can smell our stress. No matter how well we think we are hiding how we are feeling, our dogs can detect when we are off our game.

This is compounded if we are worrying about our dogs. If they sense we are stressed, they may become stressed and so we become more stressed that their behaviour is off, and so on.

Without sounding completely woo-woo, try a body scan. Just sit and see if you are carrying tension. What may be contributing to that body tension? What is going on in your life that is feeling overwhelming? Do you need support, and where can you access this support?

Whilst we are figuring our own stuff out, we can give our dog their own safe space, whether this is a bed in a quiet spot in the house, a den (covered crate), or even a corner of a room that is baby-gated off. Ensure that no one encroaches on this space and offer your dog long-lasting chews/licki mats in this area. Chewing is a well-known stress relieving strategy in dogs - just ensure they are chewing things they are supposed to and that is safe.

Opt for walks that are low-stress for everyone - if letting your dog off the lead stresses you out, keep them on. If their behaviour on the lead stresses you out, see if there is a local enclosed field you can hire out.

Pick your battles when you’re trying to get back on an even keel.

Sleep is vital!

Moving on, napping is not only a great way to support stress resilience, but is also associated with longevity. Well, and living full stop really.

Let’s take a trip back to the late 1800s. Whilst Coca Cola was sold in bottles for the first time in 1894, we still hadn’t made that much progress with animal testing.

Marie De Manaceine was fascinated with sleep deprivation. She had established that mental disturbance resulted from partial insomnia, but she wanted to know more.  So, in her Lab, she recruited puppies. 10 to be specific; aged 2, 3 or 4 months old. Whilst they continued to be fed by their mother, she kept them in constant activity. In short, she deprived them totally of sleep. After 96-120 hours, the puppies were irreparably lost.

What is interesting (despite it being macabre), is that when puppies were starved, they could be saved after 20-25 days. This wasn’t possible when they were sleep deprived.  Marie found that sleep deprivation significantly affected the puppy’s brains. When they were starved, the brain was left almost spared. But, in the absence of sleep, fat degeneration, blood vessel abnormalities and haemorrhaging occurred.

In short, when the rest of the body is negatively affected by malnutrition, to an extent it can be saved. However, when the brain is affected, it is fatal.

So sleep is a basic need, but one that doesn’t always seem to be on the top of our priority list.

How Much Should Dogs/Puppies Sleep?

Adult dogs, in a laboratory setting, when left, will sleep on average for around 13 hours per day. They are diurnal, which means they are active during daylight hours. Rest occurs during dark periods with activity increasing the two hours before light. Dogs have a natural rest period around noon and then reduced activity during the afternoon.

Puppies can sleep anywhere between 18-20 hours per day. Again, you will notice higher activity in the morning and then rest, with reduced activity around noon and into the afternoon.
Interestingly, the experiences that your dog has can affect the type and quality of sleep they experience though. Studies have found that after a negative experience, dogs will fall asleep more quickly. It is thought that this is a protective sleep, in response to stress. This should be a consideration for all dog owners. It’s all too easy to attribute an “exhausted” dog to the busyness of the day. Be mindful, their sleeping habits could be more indicative of their experience.

In humans, lack of sleep is classed as a major stressor. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to suggest similarly for our canine companions.

Below average sleep quotas are linked with anxiety, aggression, decreased response to reward, lower frustration tolerance and low resilience. Sleep disturbances affect hormone levels; specifically stress hormone levels. Animals experiencing sleep disturbance demonstrate less grooming behaviour and opt for fewer enrichment activities, and we know how important these activities are for stress regulation in dogs.

As you can see, allowing our dogs time to sleep and nap is crucial for their survival and well-being. We’re sure it’ll be easier for you to get photos of your dog sleeping, so please tag us on social media when you do!


No matter whether you agree that Bobi is the longest living dog in the world or not, the lessons we learned from his lifestyle before his status was questioned are incredibly similar to those lessons we learn from the longest living humans in the world.

In the blue zones, humans live longer than anywhere else. Their diet consists of home-prepared fresh food, rich in variety and nutrients. It does not include ultra-processed foods. Their lifestyle prioritises movement, but it is simply part of their life; through gardening, cooking, walking and daily chores. Those in the blue zones also try to live a calm and peaceful life, reducing stress as much as possible. They engage in rituals to manage their stress. Blue zones also prioritise sleep and rest, understanding that it is crucial to our survival and well-being.

Bobi thrived on a varied diet, he roamed the woodlands and lived a calm and peaceful life. He outlived other longest living dogs by only a couple of years, and their stories are incredibly similar.

So, rather than considering a new anti-aging pill or injection, perhaps we should focus on our dog’s diet and lifestyle. The safety margins are a little better, don’t you think?


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