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Humans have much longer lifespans than dogs. This is a basic fact of dog ownership and one that many owners struggle with when the time comes to say goodbye. While we may wish our dogs could live forever, knowing how long dogs live helps prepare us for their needs as seniors, ensuring that we give them the best possible care throughout their lives so that we get to spend as much time with them as possible.

There are several factors that determine the longevity of dogs, including size, breed, and the general health of the animal. These factors can help answer the questions on most dog owner’s minds: How long do dogs live? And how can I help my dog live longer?

Do Small Dog Breeds Live Longer than Large Dog Breeds?

irish wolfhound

Scientists have long been baffled about why small dog breeds tend to live longer than large dog breeds. In the rest of the animal kingdom, size seems to positively correlate with longevity. Elephants and whales are some of the largest and longest-lived mammals, with some whale species living more than 100 years. The same cannot be said of dogs.

Small dogs live significantly longer than their larger counterparts, in many cases up to several years longer. Scientists are not entirely sure why this occurs, although there is speculation that larger dogs develop age-related diseases sooner than smaller dogs. This could be because the larger breeds grow from puppies to adults at an accelerated rate, which may increase the likelihood of abnormal cell growth and death from cancer.

Regardless of the reasons behind why some dogs live longer than others, there are similar characteristics among small, medium, and large dog breeds that help determine the longevity of each group.

How Long Do Small Dog Breeds Live?

chihuahua puppy

The average lifespan for small dog breeds ranges from 10 to 15 years, with some breeds living as long as 18 years. In general, small dogs live longer than their larger counterparts, with the shortest living breeds still exceeding the average lifespan of most large breeds. This makes them a good choice for owners who want a long-lived companion. While variability among breeders and statistical evidence makes it difficult to determine an exact age range for any breed of dog, here are the average lifespans of the longest-lived small dog breeds and the shortest-lived breeds.

Lifespans for certain small dog breeds:

How Long Do Medium Dog Breeds Live?

french bulldog

Medium-sized dog breeds range from smaller companion breeds such as French Bulldogs, to larger, active working breeds such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds. The average lifespan for medium-sized dog breeds is 10 to 13 years, with some breeds living even longer. As with small dogs, exact age ranges for medium-sized dog breeds are hard to determine, but there are general lifespan guidelines for each breed.

Lifespans for certain medium dog breeds:

How Long Do Large and Giant Dog Breeds Live?

old great dane

The average lifespan for large dog breeds is 8 to 12 years. This includes large breed dogs such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, and Doberman Pinschers, as well as giant breeds such as Great Danes, St. Bernards, and Mastiffs. In general, giant breeds tend to live an average of 8 to 10 years, whereas large dog breeds live 10 to 12 years.

Lifespans for certain large dog breeds:

The Importance Of Health Testing

In addition to size, genetics often play a role in determining a dog’s longevity. Unfortunately, some dogs are predisposed to certain illnesses, just like humans. In order to give your dog the best and longest life possible it is important to be aware of any health issues your dog’s breed may be more likely to develop.

When selecting a puppy, make sure you choose a responsible breeder who fulfills the health test requirements for their breed. These tests can help detect potentially harmful diseases early on in your dog’s life.

Common Causes Of Early Death In Dogs

In an ideal world, all dogs would live out their expected lifespans happily and healthily. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Early death in dogs less than two years of age is most often associated with trauma, congenital diseases, or infectious causes, according to the AVMA, but trauma, cancer, and infectious disease can occur at any time in a dog’s life.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in large dog breeds across the board. Scientists don’t know exactly why larger dog breeds tend to develop cancer more frequently than smaller dog breeds.

The exceedingly high rate of cancer in Golden Retrievers has led to the largest study of cancer in dogs of its kind. Researchers hope that the study will reveal information about why so many Golden Retrievers suffer from cancer and also about how the factors that contribute to cancer in dogs could also help our understanding of cancer in humans.

Cancer symptoms in dogs:

  • Lumps
  • Wounds that won’t heal
  • Weight loss
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Distended abdomen
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Lameness
  • Swelling

Trauma can take many forms, including car accidents and dog fights. Puppies and small dogs have higher incidences of trauma-related deaths than adults or larger breeds, and working dogs also have higher incidences of trauma-related deaths. Keeping your dog on a leash when out of your yard can help prevent some trauma-related injuries, and it is always a good idea to supervise young puppies around other animals and children.

Congenital and inherited abnormalities are not always detectable or predictable. Selecting a responsible breeder and employing responsible breeding practices in your kennel are the best ways to avoid purchasing or producing a dog with a fatal congenital disease.

Infectious diseases are no longer the concern they were prior to vaccines, but they still claim canine victims every year. Keeping your dog up-to-date on parasite control and vaccinations can help limit your dog’s risk of contracting a fatal infectious disease.

Obesity And Longevity In Dogs

Approximately 34 percent of adult dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. This is alarming because research suggests that obese dogs live 2 years less than dogs at a healthy weight. Obesity puts stress on the musculoskeletal system, leading to osteoarthritis and intervertebral disc disease, and increases their risk of developing diabetes and pancreatitis. Obesity is also associated with cardiac and respiratory conditions such as airway dysfunction and tracheal collapse. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight reduces the risk of his developing weight-related diseases, improves his quality of life, and gives him a chance to live out his full life expectancy.

Tips For Longer-Lived Dogs

old golden retriever

Predicting the lifespan of your dog is tricky. While it is relatively safe to assume that a small breed dog will outlive a giant breed dog, there are many factors outside of our control that affect the longevity of our pets. This can be frustrating, but luckily there are some things we can do to improve the lifespans of our canine companions.

  • Feed a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Keep up-to-date on vaccines and preventatives
  • Know any breed-related diseases and their symptoms
  • Schedule regular veterinary checkups and blood work
  • Restrict access to toxins and other harmful substances

The best way to help your dog live out his or her life to the fullest is to consult with your veterinarian. Your vet can help you put together a plan for your dog’s well-being that includes proper nutrition, preventative care, and exercise, so that your dog stays healthy and active into her golden years.

This article is intended solely as general guidance, and does not constitute health or other professional advice. Individual situations and applicable laws vary by jurisdiction, and you are encouraged to obtain appropriate advice from qualified professionals in the applicable jurisdictions. We make no representations or warranties concerning any course of action taken by any person following or otherwise using the information offered or provided in this article, including any such information associated with and provided in connection with third-party products, and we will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages that may result, including but not limited to economic loss, injury, illness or death.
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