Many proud pooch owners will have their dogs spayed or neutered in order to avoid having to unexpectedly handle a litter of pups, but it turns out that the sterilisation process could also prolong the life of your canine companion.

That's according to a study carried out at the University of Georgia, where researchers looked at a sample of more than 40,000 death records from the Veterinary Medical Database from 1984-2004.

The findings were published in the PLOS ONE journal, and revealed that the average lifespan for a dog that had not been spayed or neutered was 7.9 years, while those that had been sterilised lived to an average age of 9.4 years.

Dr. Kate Creevy, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine, explained that the research was inspired by a long-line of thought on the idea that reproduction could affect life expectancy.

"There is a long tradition of research into the cost of reproduction, and what has been shown across species is if you reproduce, you don't live as long," she said.

"The question that raises is why would you die younger if you have offspring?"

However, the researchers emphasised that there is no guarantee dogs will live longer if they are sterilised, as those that are spayed or neutered can still die from common causes at a young age.

So if you're unsure as to whether or not your canine companion should undergo the procedure, it's important to take into account a range of factors and also speak to your vet.

And anyone who's hoping that their bitch will bring a litter into the household can still focus on safeguarding their four-legged friend's health through ensuring they get plenty of top quality premium dog food - as well as regular exercise and lots of care and attention.

Written by: Hannah