Being a dog owner is one of the greatest joys life has to offer. Unfortunately, the time we have with our beloved canine pals is far too short, leaving us grieving the companionship of a cherished friend much earlier than our hearts are ready for. When it comes to selecting a dog breed for your home, there are many factors that can be considered which will help determine the potential longevity of that dog. Though some dog breeds are more likely to succumb to an earlier death due to their size or predisposition to disease, others are known to enjoy a more extended lifespan. There are many components which play a prominent role in the life expectancy of a dog. If you are a dog owner or are on the hunt to add a pooch to your home, you may be interested in learning more about the things you can do to help your dog enjoy a long and healthy life. Is there a way to determine how long my dog will live?
Factors Affecting Dog Longevity
It has been said that one year of a dog’s life is equivalent to seven years of life as a human being. However, this statistic isn’t strictly true. Though for some breeds with an excellent lifespan this may apply, other dog breeds are prone to more rapid aging, making this standard inconsistent at best.
It has been reported that the average life expectancy of a dog is between 11-12 years of age. Research has been conducted on a group of 15,000 dogs which indicated that 20% of the dogs in the study lived in excess of 14 years while less than 10 % lived long enough to enjoy their 15th birthday. Unfortunately, some breeds are cut down in what would seem to be the prime of their life.
The reality is the growth trajectory and aging process for a dog differs dramatically from that of a human. Though most human beings experience the same developmental stages at the same time in life, dogs undergo them at different rates and ages with breed and size playing an important role in their maturity. This leads to great inconsistencies when attempting to determine the life expectancy of any particular animal.
A dog’s age, breed, body condition, lifestyle, nutrition, and environment all play an important role in its longevity. Since some of these factors are inherited and others are a result of the care they receive in their home environment, there is no one specific standard which can accurately predict how long a dog will live.
Most veterinarians’ offices contain a chart which offers a basic guideline of general life expectancies for dogs based on their weight and age.
Here is a sample which can be a help when trying to determine how long your dog may live:
Converting Dog Years into Human Years
|Age||Less than 20 lbs||20 to 50 lbs||50 to 90 lbs||Over 90 lbs|
Small Dogs Versus Big Dogs—Who Lives the Longest and Why?
When it comes to the longevity of a dog, size does matter. Research supports the claim that larger dogs do not enjoy as long a life as smaller breeds. In 2010, a study was conducted to assess commonalities in canine deaths. 14 breeds in the sample group were found to have the best longevity. Of this selection of dogs, 21% of them were toy breeds, 64% were small breeds, and 14% medium-sized dogs. The average age at death of the entire sample group was 13.5 years.
Within the sample group were 11 breeds found to live the least amount of time. Statistics revealed that of the 11 breeds with an abbreviated life expectancy 55% of them were giant breed dogs, 18% were large breeds, and another 18% were medium in size. The remaining 18% of dogs that constituted the entire sampling were only two breeds; both of which had serious structural issues impacting quality and length of life.
Leading pet experts concur that should a dog experience good health and be treated to regular veterinary care and proper housing and nutrition, the dog will live to a ripe age of ten years, regardless of size or breed. However, size does play a factor here as well. While ten is typically the upper end of the lifespan for a large or giant breed dog, the average medium-sized dog most typically lives to be 13 years of age with small dogs enjoying a life expectancy that ranges from 13 to 20 years.
But what makes the difference when it comes to life expectancy and small and large dog breeds?
Research has been conducted to try to determine the correlation between lifespan and body size. One theory asserts that since large dogs grow at a much more accelerated rate than small dog breeds, they reach a larger size in the same amount of time. This rapid growth rate may be linked to a higher incidence of cancer in large breeds which could explain their abbreviated lifespan. However, with rapid growth also comes rapid aging. While it is unknown why this connection exists, it is easy to see when comparing a large breed dog to a small breed.
Several hypotheses have been suggested which could explain why small dogs tend to live longer than large dogs. These include:
- An earlier onset of aging in large breeds
- A more rapid aging progression in large breeds
- A more pronounced pressure on important organs due to size leading to premature organ fatigue in large breeds
A study conducted at the University of Gottigen in Germany revealed important statistics regarding animal size and mortality rates. This research study assessed 56,000 dogs with 70 different breeds represented.
Dr. Cornelia Kraus was the lead scientist observing and recording data for this study. Upon death, Dr. Kraus carefully recorded the date of death and the age of each dog at the time of passing. Upon reviewing her findings, she was able to detect one consistency amongst all of the dogs considered: for every 4.4 pounds of body weight, each dog’s lifespan was reduced by one month. From this, she was able to conclude that weight plays a vital role in longevity. The greater the weight of the dog, the more abbreviated its lifespan.
It is also important to remember that an average is just that: an average. Some dogs will live longer than the established average, and some will live less. It is nothing more than an estimate.
Purebreds Versus Mixed Breeds—Does One Enjoy Better Health than the Other?
Much debate exists concerning which type of dog has the greatest lifespan—the purebred or the mixed breed. Much has been reported concerning a phenomenon known as hybrid vigor which asserts that mixed breed dogs enjoy greater health and reduced incidence of genetic disease due to the greater diversity of their gene pool.
The reality is hybrid vigor is simply a myth. While research as been conducted over hundreds of years to determine which genetic conditions each breed can be predisposed to, breeders now have access to DNA testing which can help pinpoint genetic markers for these illnesses in their breed. Through the use of this DNA testing, breeders can then make wise decisions for breed pairings, eliminating dogs that are affected from their breeding program to eradicate the spread of disease to future generations. This means that though certain health conditions are associated with the breed that steps can now be taken to ensure the disease is not passed from parents to puppies, thus ending the cycle.
Part of the argument for hybrid vigor is backed by the fact that many breeders favor inbreeding in their lines to help produce a dog that is consistent in type (appearance and similarity to the breed’s standard). However, inbreeding in dogs is far different from inbreeding in humans, and when done judiciously, is a safe and healthy practice. While too much or indiscriminate inbreeding can contribute to the spread of disease, most breeders employ this practice far less than the general public may realize.
It is very difficult to ascertain if indeed mixed breed dogs enjoy greater longevity, or even greater health, than their purebred counterparts. This is for good reason. While breeders, canine health testing databases, and breed clubs take great care to record the health results of purebred breeds, no such records exist for mixed breeds. In fact, it would be nearly impossible to formulate a system by which causes of death and cases of disease in mixed breeds could be noted for future generations. With hundreds of purebred dog breeds, there could be thousands and thousands of different mixed breed possibilities, making it very difficult to track in any organized and useful system.
What does all of this mean?
It means we really don’t know if there are any common diseases or causes of death affecting the longevity of mixed breed dogs, and to suggest they are healthier or enjoy better lifespans than purebred dogs is merely speculation with no quantifiable evidence for support of this claim.
Breeds that Live the Longest
If you are trying to decide on the best breed for your family, there are many different dogs to choose from that are known to enjoy an excellent life expectancy.
Here is a list of some of the most popular breeds with good longevity:
- Yorkshire Terrier—14-16 years
- Poodle—10-18 years
- Maltese—12-14 years
- Miniature Schnauzer—12-14 years
- Boston Terrier-14 years
- Shih Tzu—15 years
- Dachshund—12-14 years
- Beagle—12-14 years
- Australian Shepherd—15 years
- Cockapoo—16 years
- Shetland Sheepdog—10-12 years
- Jack Russell Terrier—14-19 years
- Chihuahua—14-18 years
- Pug—12-15 years
- Mixed breeds—10-14 years
Breeds with Short Life Expectancies
Dogs with short life expectancies are often called heartbreak breeds due to the brevity of their time with their families.
Here is a list of some dog breeds known to have short lifespans:
- Scottish Deerhound—9 years
- Newfoundland Dog—9 years
- Saint Bernard—9 years
- Greater Swiss Mountain Dog—8 years
- Bullmastiff—8 years
- Great Dane—8 years
- Irish Wolfhound—7 years
- Bernese Mountain Dog—7 years
- Boxer—7-10 years
What Can I Do to Ensure My Dog Enjoys Good Longevity?
Though genetics, breed, and size do play vital roles in how long your dog will live, there are also many things that you can do that will help your dog to improve his chances of a long and healthy life.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
There is no question that there is a direct relationship between a dog’s weight and its effect on his lifespan. Studies also support the fact that cancer is more commonly seen in dogs that are seriously overweight. However, it is not just cancer that obesity places dogs at a higher risk for. Dogs that are overweight may fall prey to such life-threatening conditions as cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.
- Feeding a high-quality nutritious diet
The type, amount, and quality of food you feed your dog will have a dramatic impact on your pooch’s overall health and well-being. To find the right food for your dog’s age and activity level, it is always a good idea to consult with your vet. To be sure you are feeding the food in the correct amount, it is best to use the suggested serving size printed on the packaging as a guideline. Adjustments can be made based on the dog’s activity level with his appetite and weight acting as an excellent guide.
- Ensuring your dog receives regular veterinary care
Annual wellness exams play an important role in the deterioration of your dog’s health and the early detection of disease. Dogs younger than eight years of age should see a vet at least once a year with seniors making a visit to the doctor every six months.
Though your dog may appear healthy to you, it is important to remember that dogs are masters at hiding their pain. This may mean that your dog is suffering with the beginning stages of a health condition that could impact the quality and length of their life if not caught and treated early.
It is also important to ensure your dog receives regular dental care. Brushing your dog’s teeth can prevent the accumulation of plaque and the beginning of tooth decay. Rotten teeth and gums in poor health provide an excellent portal for bacteria to grow which can lead to infection.
- Consider spaying and neutering pets not used for breeding
Dogs that are not being used for breeding in the breeding program of a responsible, reputable breeder should be spayed and neutered. Recent research suggests that spaying and neutering dogs can help eliminate the risk of contracting cancer of the ovaries, breasts, and testicles.
In female dogs, spaying will help prevent the development of pyometra, an infection of the uterus which is nearly always fatal. In addition to this, spaying a female dog means families will not have to deal with the nuisance of twice yearly heat cycles.
Male dogs who are not neutered have an increased risk of certain types of cancers as well as orthopedic conditions.
- Avoid overvaccination
A conservative vaccination protocol backed by yearly titer tests to check for sufficient antibodies to provide disease protection is an important way to maintain your dog’s excellent quality of life. Overvaccination is a leading cause of cancer, abbreviating the lifespan of many dogs, regardless of age, size, weight, or breed.
However, vaccination is still important. Failure to vaccinate can lead to an early death from diseases that are purely preventable by vaccines administered at the correct times. Your vet can assist you with designing a vaccination schedule that supports optimal health for your dog.
- Invest time in training
Taking the time to train your dog can help save his life, thus increasing his longevity. Many dogs lose their lives prematurely due to accidents that could have been prevented with simple obedience commands. Every dog should be taught a rock solid recall and stay.
In addition to training, small safety precautions can also assist with helping your dog live to enjoy his senior years. Making use of a crate or dog restraint system while travelling in your car is one way to ensure that Fido remains safely contained should an accident occur. Many dogs, if left unrestrained, will bolt from the scene of an accident due to fear with some of them running into oncoming traffic.
- Take your dog for walks regularly
Regular activity is good for your dog’s brain and his body. Exercise doesn’t have to be a drag. If you enjoy going for walks, Fido will only be too happy to tag along. However, there are lots of ways you can help keep your pooch at a healthy weight that don’t involve walking such as playing fetch, hiking, swimming, or even dog performance sports.
Keeping your dog active is a great way to maintain a healthy weight as well as to engage his mind in something he truly enjoys: exploring the sights and smells in his neighbourhood.
Fun Statistics About Dog Longevity
Though dog longevity is largely linked to genetics, breed, and weight, there are lots of things owners can do to help their dogs to live to a ripe, old age.
Here are some interesting facts about dogs and longevity:
- Many believe that how long a dog will live can be determined by the shape of the dog’s face. The longer the dog’s face is may relate to how long his life will be.
- The Dogue de Bordeaux has the shortest life expectancy, living from 5-8 years.
- There are several dog breeds known to enjoy excellent longevity. These include the Chihuahua, the Yorkshire Terrier, and the Jack Russell Terrier.
- An Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey holds the record for the world’s oldest dog. He passed away at age 30. Bluey died of old age.
How long will your dog live? There are many different factors which can help determine the longevity of a dog’s life. Follow our top tips to help ensure your pooch lives life to the fullest every day!
Life Expectancy By Purebred Dog Breed
|Dog Breed||Median Life Expectancy in Years|
|Affenpinscher - 11.42||Irish Setter - 12|
|Afghan Hound - 11.92||Irish Terrier - 14.83|
|Airedale Terrier - 10.75||Irish Water Spaniel - 9.33|
|Akita - 9.92||Irish Wolfhound - 7.04|
|Alaskan Malamute - 10.71||Italian Greyhound - 13.5|
|American Cocker Spaniel - 10.33||Italian Spinone - 9|
|Anatolian - 10.75||Japanese Chin - 9.25|
|Australian Cattle Dog - 11.67||Japanese Spitz - 12.29|
|Australian Shepherd - 9||Keeshond - 12.21|
|Australian Silky Terrier - 14.25||Kerry Blue Terrier - 11.5|
|Australian Terrier - 12.08||King Charles Spaniel - 10.04|
|Basenji - 13.54||Komondor - 9.13|
|Basset Fauve De Bretagne - 10.42||Kooikerhondje - 3.92|
|Basset Griffon Vendeen - 12.04||Labrador Retriever - 12.25|
|Basset Hound - 11.29||Lakeland Terrier - 15.46|
|Beagle - 12.67||Lancashire Heeler - 11.75|
|Bearded Collie - 13.5||Large Munsterlander - 11.33|
|Bedlington Terrier - 13.38||Leonberger - 7.08|
|Belgian Shepherd - 12.5||Lhasa Apso - 14.33|
|Bernese Mountain Dog - 8||Lowchen - 10|
|Bichon Frise - 12.92||Maltese - 12.25|
|Bloodhound - 6.79||Manchester Terrier - 12.83|
|Border Collie - 12.25||Maremma Sheepdog - 10|
|Border Terrier - 14||Mastiff - 6.83|
|Borzoi - 9.08||Miniature Bull Terrier - 6.08|
|Boston Terrier - 10.92||Miniature Pinscher - 13|
|Bouvier Des Flandres - 11.33||Miniature Poodle - 13.92|
|Boxer - 10.25||Miniature Schnauzer - 12.08|
|Briard - 11.17||Neopolitan Mastiff - 2.33|
|Brittany - 12.88||Newfoundland - 9.67|
|Bull Terrier - 10||Norfolk Terrier - 11|
|Bulldog - 6.29||Norwegian Buhund - 12.67|
|Bullmastiff - 7.46||Norwegian Elkhound - 13.17|
|Cairn Terrier - 14||Norwich Terrier - 13.38|
|Canaan Dog - 14.63||Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever - 8|
|Cavalier King Charles Spaniel - 11.38||Old English Sheepdog - 10.75|
|Cesky Terrier - 8.42||Otterhound - 10.21|
|Chesapeake Bay Retriever - 10.75||Papillon - 13.08|
|Chihuahua - 12.42||Parson Russell Terrier - 13|
|Chinese Crested - 10.08||Pekingese - 11.42|
|Chow Chow - 9.38||Pharoah Hound - 11.83|
|Clumber Spaniel - 10.33||Pointer - 12.42|
|Cocker Spaniel - 11.17||Polish Lowland Sheepdog - 9.58|
|Collie - 12.67||Pomeranian - 9.67|
|Curly Coated Retriever - 10.75||Por Tuguese Water Dog - 11.42|
|Dachshund - 12.67||Pug - 11|
|Dalmatian - 12.5||Pyrenean Mountain Dog - 9.58|
|Dandie Dinmont Terrier - 12.17||Pyrenean Sheepdog - 5.79|
|Deerhound - 8.67||Rhodesian Ridgeback - 11|
|Dobermann - 10.5||Rottweiler - 8.92|
|Dogue De Bordeaux - 3.83||Saluki - 12|
|English Setter - 11.58||Samoyed - 12.5|
|English Springer Spaniel - 12||Schipperke - 13|
|English Toy Terrier - 12||Schnauzer (Standard) - 11.96|
|Field Spaniel - 11.63||Scottish Terrier - 10.25|
|Finnish Lapphund - 7.33||Sealyham Terrier - 12.25|
|Finnish Spitz - 11.13||Sharpei - 6.29|
|Flat-coated Retriever - 9.83||Shetland Sheepdog - 12.5|
|Fox Terrier - 13.13||Shiba Inu - 7|
|French Bulldog - 9||Shih-tzu - 13.17|
|German Longhaired Pointer - 10.5||Siberian Husky - 12.58|
|German Pinscher - 11.38||Skye Terrier - 11|
|German Short Haired Pointer - 12||Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier - 12.5|
|German Spitz - 11.33||St. Bernard - 7|
|German Wirehaired Pointer - 10||Staffordshire Bull Terrier - 12.75|
|Giant Schnauzer - 10||Standard Poodle - 12|
|Glen of Imaal Terrier - 10.42||Sussex Spaniel - 11.13|
|Golden Retriever - 12.25||Swedish Vallhund - 14.42|
|Gordon Setter - 11.08||Tibetan Mastiff - 11.92|
|Great Dane - 6.5||Tibetan Spaniel - 14.42|
|Greenland Dog - 8.46||Tibetan Terrier - 12.17|
|Greyhound - 9.08||Toy Poodle - 14.63|
|Griffon Bruxellois - 12||Weimaraner - 11.13|
|Hamiltonstovare - 10.13||Welsh Corgi Cardigan - 16.5|
|Havanese - 10.25||Welsh Corgi Pembroke - 12.21|
|Hovawart - 12.92||Welsh Springer Spaniel - 12.58|
|Hungarian Puli - 12.42||Welsh Terrier - 12.67|
|Hungarian Vizsla - 12.92||West Highland White Terrier - 13|
|Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla - 9.83||Whippet - 12.79|
|Irish Red & White Setter - 11.42||Yorkshire Terrier - 12.67|
Data by: Journal of Small Animal Practice · October 2010
VJ Adams, KM Evans, J Sampson and JLN Wood