by EcoWellDog- Natural Leaders of Canine Grooming & Wellness
It goes without saying that we want our dogs to live a long time. And thankfully there are things that we can do to help them live lives that are as long, healthy and happy as possible; however, genetic factors influence lifespan too.
Bruce Fogle, DVM, in his book Caring for Your Dog: The Complete Canine Home Reference, says the median life expectancy of dogs is 12.8 years. But dog life expectancies vary widely by breed.
How Does Genetics Affect A Dog’s Lifespan?
Different breeds have different life expectancies, and as a general guide, the smaller the dog, the longer his lifespan. This is because the bodies of larger dogs work harder than the bodies of smaller dogs. As a rule of thumb dogs weighing less than 30 lbs tend to live the longest, on average living into their early to mid teenage years (the rare Mexican breed, the Xoloitzcuintle, has a life span of 15-20 years.) Larger dogs weighing more than 50 lbs live on average 10-12 years, while the giant breeds of dog, such as Irish wolfhounds, tend to live only 6-8 years.
Purebred dogs tend to be more inbred, just as a natural result of the genetics of maintaining purebred lines. And even though reputable breeders strive to only breed the fittest of their dogs, purebred animals still have characteristic health problems that can affect lifespan. Certain breeds suffer high incidences of certain conditions: larger breed dogs, for instance, like German Shepherd Dogs, commonly seem to develop orthopedic problems such as hip dysplasia. Read more about hip dysplasia. And heart problems are not uncommon in certain breeds, such as Great Danes. Cancer is also very common. In fact, about 42% of dogs die of some form of cancer, so before choosing a dog you may want to check out what diseases are most prevalent in each breed.
Mixed breed dogs, on the other hand, don’t suffer all this inbreeding, so tend to be healthier in general and typically live longer. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and most of us will know of small terrier dogs whose lives were cut short at a young age, while a neighbor’s German Shepherd Dog may have lived to 15 years old.
You Go Girl! Female dogs tend to live longer than males according to Steven N. Austad, PhD, a professor and researcher on aging at the department of cellular and structural biology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.
Four Keys To Helping Your Dog To Live As Long As Possible
Optimal nutrition: Feeding him a balanced diet that is formulated specifically for dogs is key – and also one that is best suited for his specific stage of development, since dietary needs are different for puppies and adults. And maintaining him at a healthy weight for his build is also important. Just as in people, obesity is associated with a variety of chronic diseases, and a shorter lifespan. We recommend the food from The Honest Kitchen.
Preventative health care: Regular veterinary care is important, with health checks, vaccinations and dental checks. Vaccinations help to guard against common canine diseases that could be fatal, and regular health and dental checks enable problems to be caught early on, and treated appropriately.
Good quality home care: Believe it or not a good emotional connection with owners can play a role in helping dogs to enjoy a longer life. Dogs that live indoors develop strong, emotional bonds with people who care for him well. They become part of the family and are happier, and healthier overall. Keeping your dog clean is also key to your dog’s happiness and your happiness! A clean dog is not only a healthier dog because he doesn’t have toxins, dirt & debris in his coat, but you are going to be a lot more affectionate with a fresh-smelling dog!
- Brush your dog regularly-A regular brushing will remove any loose and dead hair from his coat. Not only that, but the action of the brush will remove dander from the surface of his skin, and evenly distribute skin oils through his coat. This can prevent the accumulation of oil and dead cells on your dog’s skin which is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. These secondary infections can be extremely itchy.
- Regular Dental Care- Getting your dog on a regular at home dental regimen can actually add three years to her life. Learn more.
- Regular Bathing- You might not realize it, but your dog’s coat acts like a magnet for all kinds of dust, dander, toxins, yeast, bacteria and allergens. A weekly bath is essential for removing these potential hazards; especially if your dog has allergies. These substances can actually CAUSE the allergies.
Minimize the Stress- Stress can affect your dog’s immune system and can make him more likely to fall ill. It’s important that you make sure his life is as stress free as possible. Your dog can’t possibly be stressed, can he? He’s well fed, has a warm bed and someone who loves him. Stress in dogs can be very subtle. For example, a herding breed may be stressed if he can’t expend his energy, or use his brain. Dogs are intelligent animals. Regular exercise and mental stimulation is so important in keeping their stress levels down. Consider obedience training, agility or herding classes to give them something to do with their mind. If you’re concerned about your dog’s stress levels, place a few drops of Sleepytime Tonic on his tongue. It contains Skullcap and Passionflower, both of which reduce anxiety. Its Bach Flower Remedies, particularly Wild Oat, help ease fear and irritability, and reduce boredom-related depression.
Although you can’t help your four-legged friend to live as long as you do, your role as a responsible dog owner will help to ensuring that he lives as long as possible. Thankfully many dogs live longer than expected for their size, but even when we do have to say goodbye to them, at least they continue to live forever in our hearts.
Here is a list of the American Kennel Club’s 20 most popular dog breeds from 2008 and their average life span, according to The World Atlas of Dog Breeds.
- Labrador retriever — 10 to 14 years
- Yorkshire terrier — 12 to 15 years
- German Shepherd dog — 10 to 14 years
- Golden retriever — 10 to 12 years
- Beagles — 12 to 14 years
- Boxers — 11 to 14 years
- Dachshunds — 12 to 14 years
- Bulldogs — 10 to 12 years
- Poodles — 10 to 15 years
- Shih Tzu — 11 to 15 years
- Miniature Schnauzers — 15 years or more
- Chihuahuas — 15 years or more
- Pomeranians — 13 to 15 years
- Rottweilers — 10 to 12 years
- Pugs — 12 to 15 years
- German shorthaired pointers — 12 to 15 years
- Boston terriers — about 15 years
- Doberman Pinschers — 10 to 12 years
- Shetland Sheepdogs — 12 to 14 years
- Maltese — 15 years or more