, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 451–460 | Cite as

Age-related cataract in dogs: a biomarker for life span and its relation to body size

  • Silvan R. Urfer
  • Kimberly Greer
  • Norman S. WolfEmail author


Clinical data from 72 dog breeds of varying size and life expectancy were grouped according to breed body mass and tested for prevalence at ages 4 to 5, ages 7 to 10, and lifetime incidence of non-hereditary, age-related cataract (ARC). The incidence of ARC was found to be directly related to the relative life expectancies in the breed groups: The smallest dog breeds had a lower ARC prevalence between ages 4 and 5 than mid-size breeds and these, in turn, a lower prevalence than the giant breeds. A similar sequence was evident for ages 7 to 10 and for overall lifetime incidence of ARC. These differences became more significant when comparing small and giant breeds only. We could also confirm the inverse relationship between body size and life expectancy in these same sets of dog breeds. Our results show that body size, life expectancy, and ARC incidence are interrelated in dogs. Given that ARC has been shown to be at least partially caused by oxidative damage to lens epithelial cells and the internal lens, we suggest that it can be considered not only as a general biomarker for life expectancy in the canine and possibly other species, but also for the systemic damages produced by reactive oxygen species. This suggests new approaches to examine the gene expression pathways affecting the above-noted linkages.


Dog Age-related cataract Breeds Size Life span 



The authors express their appreciation to Ms. Debbie Folks-Huber and CERF for help in obtaining the data for all breeds in the CERF listing and censoring of the data for the limitations listed above. This study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (project number PBBEB-119243) and by NIH grant R01 EY 11733.


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Copyright information

© American Aging Association, Media, PA, USA 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silvan R. Urfer
    • 1
  • Kimberly Greer
    • 2
  • Norman S. Wolf
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PathologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.School of Natural Sciences and MathematicsIndiana University EastRichmondUSA

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