The Irish Wolfhound is a breed that is often misrepresented as having an unnaturally short lifespan, with an expectation of 6-7 years. Whilst this may be true in some cases, many Wolfhound owners know that many hounds exceed this.
The IWHG has for some time been trying to debunk this misinformation, but to do that we need some hard evidence. Whilst we may have personal, 'factual' evidence that many IWH live beyond this age, it is only anecdotal and not based on scientific data.
Vets refer to the 6-7 years lifespan as 'average', but it is often taken as the breed norm. However, the term ‘average’ can be determined and defined in many ways and is usually based on some hard evidence provided by the actuarials in insurance companies. They will always have the worst case scenario because their data is derived from dogs that have been taken to the vets with fatal outcomes and that are insured. It is their job to highlight the worst case scenario to ensure that premiums are targeted correctly to prevent the insurers losing money on likely outcomes.
However, factors not taken into consideration as they are un-recordable may be that not all dogs are insured, so their data is not known or recorded on a database; and owners may not take them to the vets as readily; the older dogs may generally be healthier for longer and may never see the vets at the point of death if they die from natural causes; vets have the perception that the breed is short lived and may recommend euthanasia rather than treatment so the data is skewed as the dog wasn't given a chance for recovery; and dates of death in non-insurance covered events are not recorded etc.
So the vets only have the evidence that the insurance companies can 'prove' and that breed average is what is then incorrectly taken to be the lifespan of the breed as a whole. But it is correct for the cross section that the insurers deal with - we know this is the case as we are penalised by higher premiums when our dogs reach 5+ as they are seen as higher risk.
However, to effectively refute this misconception, we will have to produce some hard evidence to the contrary and Pernille Monberg and Edita Beresova's Longevity Study
is already going some way to achieve this. This study has already demonstrated that 'average lifespan' across many breeds is the same and there is always a natural distribution curve that means that in any litter, and across any breed, there will always be some that live longer and the majority that hit that average - and the important thing is to increase the 'average' lifespan, which many of our breeders are trying to achieve.
So we believe that the only way to start changing perception is to be able to present some hard evidence and that surely has to be recorded and verifiable dates of death across the breed. Pernille and Edita’s study already has that data coming into the database and also the new Irish Wolfhound database (IWDB)
which is open to all, has the capacity to record and analyse date of death as well - and they are encouraging people to do so. But we need large numbers to be able to state that the results have any significance - and we will probably also need some way of verifying the dates of death as more than anecdotal again - but perhaps with microchipping and the supporting vet records confirming date of euthanasia, that might enable us to determine whether or not the average is actually different.
Until vets and the KC are recording dates of death, there is no way of knowing if any breed has good longevity - or indeed, if the mongrel or designer dog population has better longevity than pedigree dogs.
Until we can prove there is better 'average' longevity, we will not be able to convince the veterinary profession or the insurers - and a welcome by-product could be that we see our insurance premiums reduce . . .
SO WE ARE APPEALING TO ALL IRISH WOLFHOUND OWNERS TO SEND INFORMATION
WHICH IS EXAMINING THE INFLUENCE OF LIFESTYLE ON AGEING IN THE BREED.
Please take some time to help these studies. Thank you.