What is the Average Lifespan of a Dog?

The average lifespan of a dog can vary from breed to breed as well as from dog to dog. Some breeds tend to live longer than others while some breeds have a relatively short lifespan, at least compared to other dogs. Just like humans, no one can predict how long a dog will live.

In addition to breed type, good health, a safe and clean living environment, regular wellness exams, preventative care, proper diet and nutrition, plenty of clean water, and how much activity your dog enjoys each day all plays a role in their healthy and longevity. A dog’s gender can also play a role in a dog’s lifespan too, believe it or not.

Of course, even with the best living conditions and care, there is no guarantee your dog will live to be an old timer. There are certain things in life that simply can’t be foreseen, including things like major illness and trauma. It’s hard to think about losing your beloved canine someday, but it’s a reality all pet owners have to eventually face if they take on the commitment of canine companionship. We will almost always outlive our dogs.

Size Matters When Estimating a Dog’s Average Lifespan

One thing to keep in mind that makes predicting a dog’s average lifespan even harder, is the prevalence of so many mixed breeds now out there. You can’t just rely on the numbers for one breed type, since your dog may be a blend of several breeds with varying average lifespans. If you have a mixed breed dog, you will have to roughly estimate your dog’s potential lifespan based on his weight. Smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger dogs.

The bigger the dog, the shorter their lives. It’s thought that small dogs may live 11 years or more, while medium to large dogs may live up to 11 years or so. The larger they are, the more that number may shrink, with dogs over 90 pounds averaging even less than 11 years.

This discrepancy is something that has confounded experts for a long time. Contrary to other large animals in the animal kingdom, in dogs, a bigger size does not equal a longer lifespan. Whereas mammals like whales and elephants live an exceptionally long time for their size and mammals like rats barely make it as long as 2 years.

If you think in terms of humans, the same rule tends to apply. People that are smaller and carry less weight around, often outlive people that carry around a lot of excess weight for their frame, because overweight people experience more health issues. A dog’s life is very different from a human’s in many ways. Dogs life shorter lifespans, their growth and sexual maturity happens at an accelerated rate, and even their pregnancies are much shorter than a human pregnancy, clocking in at only 2 months long.

That’s one reason larger dogs are thought to have shorter lives than smaller dogs, because they grow so quickly from puppies into “adults.” It’s speculated that the fast rate of growth may also accelerate the development of diseases related to age, and increase a dog’s potential for experiencing abnormal cell growth. Abnormal cell growth often winds up progressing into canine cancer. In many cases, cancer is a death sentence for a dog, no matter their age.

Average Lifespans for Small-Sized Dogs

Most experts seem to agree that the average span of life for small breed dogs is roughly 10-15 years. Of course, there are some breeds and individual dogs that live even longer than that, sometimes even up into their 20s. Even the shortest lifespan of smaller breed dogs will often exceed the lifespan of larger breed dogs. This is why smaller dogs are often chosen for companionship, especially with older adults and seniors. Not only are they easier to take on walks and care for, they live longer as well.

Keep in mind that teacup and toy breeds may actually have a shorter lifespan than other small dogs, simply because they are bred down to be such a small size, which can open them up to a variety of health issues they wouldn’t normally have to face as a small dog. In fact, there are many reputable breeders who now refuse to breed a dog smaller than 4 pounds, largely because of the increased risk of health problems the dog may face.

Some of the small breeds with long lifespans include Terriers,Yorkshire Terriers, Russell Terriers, Manchester Terriers, and Lakeland Terriers, Smooth and Wire Fox Terriers, and Rat Terriers all live on average between 13-15 years or more. Small breeds like Dachshunds, Maltese, Shih Tzus, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, English Toy Spaniels, and the Chinese Crested all live an average lifespan of 12-17 years. Meanwhile, Toy Poodles, Pekingnese, and Pugs may live an average lifespan of 11-13 years.

Average Lifespans for Medium-Sized Dogs

Medium-sized dogs have a longer lifespan than larger dogs as well, although as with any size or breed, no one can predict how long your dog will live. Averages and estimates are just that, averages and estimates. Weight seems to be one of the biggest factors in determining how long a dog may live, with some studies showing that dogs that are slightly underweight may actually live longer than their more plump counterparts, even if they are the same breed and age. Small and toy breeds usually clock in at 20 pounds or less, but medium-sized breeds usually weigh anywhere from 20-50 pounds.

Anything over 50 pounds is considered a large breed dog. If a dog is over 90 pounds they are considered a “giant” breed. Boxers, Pit Bulls, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Standard Poodles, and Chow Chows are all medium-breed dogs with an average lifespan ranging from 10-15 years. The same goes for breeds like Australian Shepherds, Whippets, Chinese Shar-Pei, French Bulldogs, Curly-Coated Retrievers, Pulis, and Welsh Springer Spaniels, all averaging a lifespan anywhere from 10-15 years in length.

Average Lifespans for Large and Giant-Sized Dogs

Obviously, the larger the dog, the more they weigh. The more they weigh, the shorter their lifespan will likely be. Large breed dogs like Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers, Labs, Giant Schnauzers, Newfoundlands, Flat-Coated Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, Scottish Deerhounds, and German Shepherds can be expected to average anywhere from 10-12 years of life. Irish Setters, Akitas, Anatolian Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois breeds average 11-15 years.

Giant breeds like Mastiffs, Great Danes, and St. Bernards tend to average even shorter lifespans, only 7-10 years or so. The same holds true for giants like the Bernese Mountain Dog and Irish Wolfhounds. Again, experts aren’t entirely sure why larger dogs seem to have shorter lifespans, but it could be because they age faster than smaller dogs and therefore suffer from age-related disease much earlier. Another hypothesis is that the growth hormone IGF-1 is found in lower concentrations in smaller dogs, which helps to slow how fast they age and reduce their potential risks for disease related to aging. Whereas the hormone is found in much higher concentrations in large breed dogs.

Other Factors that Contribute to a Dog’s Average Lifespan

Of course, size and breed aren’t the only things to consider when trying to estimate your dog’s average lifespan. Genetics play a big role as well. This is because a dog’s genes will contribute to how fast your dog ages as well as influence your dog’s susceptibility to certain diseases. A female dog’s diet during gestation can contribute to a dog’s expected lifespan and even the lifespan of your dog’s ancestors can play a role in their own potential longevity. Health and wellness obviously contribute as well. A dog that is well-cared for, with regular health checkups, a nutritious diet, and a good home environment will live longer than a dog that lives outdoors and roams the streets as a stray.

Ways to Help Your Dog Live Longer

Feed your dog nutritious diet and make sure he gets plenty of exercise. There are a number of dogs that are considered obese canines, which puts a strain on their health. It’s estimated that dogs at a healthy weight or dogs that are even a little underweight, could live 2 years more than a dog that is obese. Obesity puts a heavy strain on a dog, increasing their risks for several related diseases like canine diabetes, osteoarthritis, pancreatitis in dogs, and more.

Dogs can experience respiratory issues related to obesity like canine tracheal collapse and airway dysfunctions, along with canine heart disease, cancer, hypertension, and even urinary bladder stones. Avoid giving your dog too many treats or feeding him foods that are high in fat or calories, and make sure you’re not over-feeding your dog. Follow the recommendations given on your dog’s food and make sure it’s a high quality brand that isn’t loaded with additives and fillers. Additives and fillers can be harmful to your dog and limit how much nutritional value they are actually receiving from the food you’re feeding them.

Regular exercise is also essential for combating unnecessary weight gain in a dog. Their exercise needs will depend on the breed and how active a lifestyle you already lead, but it’s important that no matter the lifestyle you lead or where you live, you carve out regular exercise and play time to keep your dog active and their weight at a healthy number. Regular exercise also helps keep your dog’s immune system in tip-top shape, to help fight off any infections they may pick up from other dogs or their environment.  

Regular wellness exams, vaccines, and preventative care are also important for preserving your dog’s longevity as well as making sure you take care of your dog’s teeth with a regular dental care routine. Dogs who don’t have their teeth cleaned properly could release harmful bacteria into your dog’s bloodstream and increase his chances of illness while reducing his quality of life. Spaying and neutering your dog if you have no intentions of breeding them can also greatly impact their potential longevity, by as much as 3 years in some cases. By spaying or neutering your dog, you can help prevent diseases like uterine and testicular cancer, canine breast cancer, and prostate issues.

Another way to help your dog live a longer, healthier life is to make sure they live in an environment that is as stress-free as possible. Just like people, dogs can pick up on vibes in the atmosphere and internalize that stress, causing them to secrete stress hormones. An overproduction of stress hormones can hinder your dog’s immune system and increase their risks of illness and disease.

Temperament is definitely something to consider before bringing a dog home, as some breeds are more high-strung than others. However, you can still do your part to make sure your dog’s home environment is calm and anxiety-free and do your best to avoid placing your dog in situations that cause anxiousness and stress.

One last thing to keep in mind is making sure your dog stays safe. Small dogs and pups are more susceptible to trauma-related death like getting hit by a car or being the victim of an attack by another, perhaps larger dog. Dogs that are used for “work” also are at a higher risk for death due to trauma. It’s important that you keep your dog leashed when outside, especially in urban areas where there is a lot of traffic or in neighborhoods where you know other dogs may run loose.

It’s also up to you to make sure your dog is trained properly so that they obey if they happen to get free from their leash. Dogs that are properly trained to listen and obey pose less of a risk to themselves as well as to other dogs if they accidentally escape their restraints. Dogs that are not trained and that don’t listen could get off their leash and wind up running into traffic or instigating a fight with another dog.

Remember that even though the average lifespan of a dog is not something you have any control over, you do have control over factors that can help contribute to your dog’s health and longevity.

Sources:  

  1. Burke, Anna. “How Long Do Dogs Live? .” American Kennel Club, 14 July 2016, Accessed 6 Jan 2019. www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-long-do-dogs-live/.
  2. “How Long Do Dogs Live?” PetMD, Accessed 6 Jan 2019. www.petmd.com/dog/wellness/evr_dg_how_long_do_dogs_live.
  3. “Large Dogs Age Faster, Die Younger.” Inside Science, 6 July 2016, Accessed 6 Jan 2019. www.insidescience.org/news/large-dogs-age-faster-die-younger.
  4. “How Long Do Dogs Live? Longest & Shortest Living Canine Breeds.” Wileypup.com, 2 Jan. 2019, Accessed 6 Jan 2019. www.wileypup.com/how-long-do-dogs-live/.
  5. “Life Expectancy of Dogs: How Long Will My Dog Live?” CanineJournal.com, 20 July 2018, Accessed 6 Jan 2019. www.caninejournal.com/life-expectancy-of-dogs/.

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