For most dog parents their dogs are unquestionably a part of the family. If we could have it our way, we would move mountains to make sure our beloved fur babies lived as long as we did. Unfortunately we must face the grossly unfair reality that we will almost always outlive our dogs.
Dogs give us unconditional love, companionship, cuddles, and endless joy. The least we can do is to take responsibility for their care and be proactive about their health in order to enrich our dog's life.
Your dog's life expectancy is not a fun topic to think about, but there are steps you can take if you want them to live happy and healthy lives for as long as possible. This post will detail the impact of dog size and dog breed on their average lifespan as well as provide tips on how to upgrade their health in an effort to extend their time on this earth.
Size and Dog Lifespan
When it comes to the average lifespan of a dog, size matters. No one can predict exactly how long each dog will live, but there are estimates regarding their average life expectancy in correlation to size.
Over the years it has become widely accepted that small dogs live longer than large dogs, though this does not apply for all animal species (giant species like elephants can live up to 70 years). Smaller dogs like chihuahuas and shih tzus live 39% longer than large dogs like Newfoundlands and mastiffs.
In a study published in 2013 in the scientific journal “The American Naturalist,” biologists at Germany’s University of Göttingen looked at 74 dog breeds and over 50,000 individual dogs to explore the relationship between size of dog breeds and life expectancy. They found that larger dogs like German shepherds and Bernards aged at a faster rate than smaller dogs like Yorkshire terriers and Malteses. The research concluded that every increase in 4.4 pounds reduces life expectancy by approximately one month.
The average lifespan for giant to large dogs is 8-12 years. Giant breed dogs include Irish wolfhounds, Newfoundlands, and giant schnauzers. Large breed dogs include golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and rottweilers.
Certain larger breed dogs are also more prone to specific diseases than others which contributes to their shorter lifespan. Giant breeds like Great Danes and Bernese mountain dogs, for example, have a higher risk of developing arthritis, joint issues, and cardiac problems. Sadly, Bernese dogs in particular have a brief lifespan of 7-10 years due to a number of serious health problems that affect the breed like hip and elbow dysplasia.
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that large breed dogs are known to have a shorter dog lifespan than small breed dogs because they age faster, and therefore die younger. If you have a large breed dog, research the health risk factors of your dog's breed so you can take preventative measures.
Small Dogs and Medium Dogs
Aside from the aforementioned aging rate, scientists are not 100% clear on why smaller dogs like miniature schnauzers, Jack Russell terriers, and rat terriers outlive larger dogs.
According to the American Kennel Club, the longest living dog breeds include chihuahua (15-17 years), Chinese crested (15-17 years), English toy spaniel (13-15 years), and Pomeranian (14-16 years). Dachshunds, toy poodles, and Lhasa apsos have a considerably long lifespan as well.
Medium-sized dogs from French bulldogs to active working dogs like Australian shepherds and border collies live an average of 10-13 years, sometimes longer. One of the longest living dogs recorded is an Australian cattle dog named Bluey who lived to be over 29 years old. Then there’s the blue merle collie named Bramble who once held the Guinness World Record for being the oldest living dog at the time at 27 years old. Bramble’s mom, Anne Heritage, attributes her long life to a vegan diet of rice, lentils, and organic veggies, plus lots of exercise.
How to Help Your Dog Live Longer
As dog parents it's almost impossible to think about losing our four-legged loved ones. It's a harsh reality, but there are simple steps that can be taken to extend dog lifespan before they head over to the rainbow bridge.
Plan to take accountability as a dog parent and follow these steps if you want to extend the life expectancy of your dog no matter their breed or size. It is your responsibility as a dog parent to take care of your fur child so they can live their short lives to the fullest.
Spay and Neuter
Did you know that neutered males live 10% longer than unneutered males and spayed female dogs live 17% longer than unspayed females?
Spaying and neutering provides multiple advantages to your dog's overall health and longevity. Not only does spaying and neutering your pet reduce pet homelessness and make them better behaved (un-neutered dogs are more prone to aggression and urine-marking, for example), it prevents infections and reduces the risk of certain types of cancers.
Spaying female dogs eliminates the risk of pyometra, a life-threatening uterus infection, and neutering male dogs eliminates the risk of testicular cancer. If you want to keep your dog healthy and protect them from various illness, it is important that you spay or neuter them.
Diet, Exercise, and Regular Check-UpsIn addition to spaying and neutering your pets early on, there are several health measures dog parents can take to improve and extend the lives of their furry companions. The practices include but are not limited to:
- Maintaining a healthy weight by ensuring they’re getting the proper amount of exercise for their size and breed
- Playing brain games for mental stimulation
- Feeding them a healthy, high-quality food (and never overfeeding)
- Scheduling regular vet visits
- Keeping up-to-date on vaccinations
- Brushing their teeth regularly
- Administering heartworm and flea and tick prevention consistently
Just like with humans, diet and exercise are crucial factors of a dog's lifespan. Obesity will shorten a dog's life and put them at risk for developing diseases like cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. If you think your dog is overweight, ask your veterinarian what you should change about their diet.
Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise. Give your dog some brain games and interactive toys or focus on nose work. That kind of mental stimulation gives them a job to do and is very enriching for them. At least 30 minutes of mental exercise will tire also them out more effectively than having them running around for an hour.
Stretch Out Dog Lifespan Through Healthy Choices
At the end of the day the life expectancy of dogs depends on how you take care of them. It is vital that you take your dog to the vet for a check-up every year and at least twice a year as they reach old age. Even if they appear to be healthy to you, a veterinarian will catch something you can't. A health problem detected early on by a medical professional in its early stages has a better chance of being treated and resolved.
No matter how many years of age your dog reaches, providing them with a safe home and lots of love, care, and companionship will go a long way.