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How Long Do Dogs Live?

Updated: May 24


An elderly dog looking at the camera

When trying to figure out your dog's age, the old method of calculating "dog years" is now considered outdated. Recent research highlights that a dog's lifespan is influenced heavily by its breed and size, with additional complexities that we are yet to fully grasp.


Understanding the lifespan of dogs is complicated. This guide will help you estimate your dog's lifespan more accurately and share insights on how to potentially extend the joyful years with your cherished companion.


Contents

The Average Dog Lifespan

The lifespan of a dog generally ranges between 10 to 13 years. Due to the extensive diversity in size, build, and appearance created by centuries of selective breeding, lifespan varies significantly among different breeds. Smaller breeds often outlive their larger counterparts, an interesting exception to the rule that larger mammal species typically live longer than smaller ones. Larger breeds may face more challenges with age-related conditions like incontinence and mobility issues, which can sometimes lead to earlier euthanasia.


Genetics also plays a critical role in a dog's longevity. Purebred dogs, for example, may be predisposed to hereditary diseases due to limited genetic diversity. Conversely, mixed-breed dogs often benefit from a broader genetic pool, which can contribute to a longer and healthier life. Additionally, some breeds have been developed with physical traits that unfortunately may also shorten their lifespan, such as the brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs, which are prone to respiratory issues.


Lifespan by Dog Size

Small Dogs

A chihuahua dog

Small breeds typically enjoy longer lives, averaging between 10 to 15 years. Despite their longer lifespan, small dogs are susceptible to conditions like liver, kidney, and heart diseases, as well as dental issues which can complicate these conditions.


Here are a few examples of small dog breeds and their average lifespans:


  • Chihuahua: 14–16 years

  • Pomeranian: 12–16 years

  • Yorkshire Terrier: 11–15 years

  • Parson Russell Terrier: 13–15 years


Medium Dogs

A cocker spaniel dog

Medium-sized dogs have a lifespan that aligns more closely with the overall average of 10–13 years. Some can live exceptionally long lives.


Examples include:


  • French Bulldog: 10–12 years

  • Cocker Spaniel: 10–14 years

  • Bulldog: 8–10 years

  • Boxer: 10–12 years


Large Dogs

A golden retriever dog

Large breeds tend to have a slightly shorter lifespan, typically 9–12 years. These dogs are more prone to issues like arthritis and certain types of cancers, particularly prevalent in breeds like Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs.


Examples include:

  • Golden Retriever: 10–12 years

  • Rottweiler: 9–10 years

  • Belgian Malinois: 14–16 years

  • Bernese Mountain Dog: 7–10 years


Giant Dogs

A great dane dog

Giant breeds generally have the shortest lifespans, averaging between 8–10 years. For example, a 6-year-old Great Dane is often considered a senior due to the significant wear-and-tear on their joints. Common health issues include bone cancers and neurological diseases.


Examples include:


  • Great Dane: 7–10 years

  • Irish Wolfhound: 6–8 years

  • Newfoundland: 9–10 years

  • Saint Bernard: 8–10 years


Life Stages of Dogs

Dogs go through several distinct life stages:


  1. Puppyhood: Lasts from birth to about 6-18 months, when they reach puberty.

  2. Adolescence: Extends from puberty to about 2 years old, as they mature socially and physically.

  3. Adulthood: Begins around 2 years old and lasts until they reach senior age, which varies by size and breed.

  4. Senior: Dogs become ‘senior’ when they enter their last 25% of life (giant breeds 6-8y, large breeds 7-10y, small breed 9-13y). 

  5. Geriatric: Dogs are ‘geriatric’ at life expectancy and beyond.


Are Dog Years Different to Human Years?

The traditional rule of thumb that one dog year equals seven human years is overly simplistic and does not account for the variability in dog lifespans based on breed and size. A more nuanced approach considers that dogs mature more quickly in the first couple of years of life, and then the ageing rate diverges based on the size and breed.


Signs of Ageing in Dogs

As dogs age, they often exhibit both physical and behavioural changes. Physical signs include:

  • Greying fur, particularly around the muzzle

  • More pronounced dental issues

  • Loss of muscle tone and slower reflexes

  • Increased susceptibility to diseases


Behavioural changes can also be significant, such as:

  • Decreased activity levels

  • Increased sleep

  • Confusion or disorientation

  • Irritability or changes in social dynamics


Factors That Can Affect a Dog's Life Expectancy

Several factors can influence how long a dog lives:

  • Genetics: Some breeds have genetic predispositions to certain diseases that can affect lifespan.

  • Diet and Nutrition: Proper nutrition that's appropriate for the dog’s age, size, and health condition can play a crucial role.

  • Exercise: Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and supports cardiovascular health.

  • Veterinary Care: Regular check-ups and preventative care can catch and manage health issues early.

  • Environment: A safe living environment free from hazards and excessive stress contributes to a longer, healthier life.


Enhancing Your Dog's Lifespan

Research and Responsible Breeding

Selecting a responsible breeder who conducts health screenings and genetic tests is crucial if you're considering a purebred dog. Mixed-breed dogs from shelters typically have a varied enough genetic background that may confer some health advantages, though breed-specific issues can still occur.


Veterinary Care and Preventative Measures

Adhering to your vet’s recommendations for vaccinations and preventative treatments is essential. Routine health checks can detect issues early when they are most treatable. Senior dogs benefit from more frequent testing to monitor for age-related conditions.


Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is vital. Overweight dogs may live shorter lives compared to those maintained at a healthy weight. Regular exercise and a controlled diet are key factors in managing your dog’s weight and overall health.


Understanding how long dogs live and the factors that influence their lifespan can help you better care for your dog. By taking proactive steps in their health care and lifestyle, you can maximise your time together and ensure they live a full, happy life.


If you feel your dog's quality of life is significantly impaired and are based in our service area, contact our team via 0800 049 5944 or request an appointment.

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