Life expectancy of dogs

Life expectancy of dogs

We all want our pets to live as long as possible. This is especially true if they are wonderful companions with enormous affection for you and the family. However, the sad thing about having and loving a dog is that they do not live as long as we do. In fact, most dog lovers will have had a number of dogs by the time they themselves are classified as seniors.

Technically dogs are considered to be seniors when they have reached the age of eight or nine years. However, like in humans, a well-cared for dog will not show its age by then.

Size matters

Although it may not be unusual to see a 17 year old miniature poodle or Maltese, most people will consider a 12 year old Labrador as quite “old.” Small breed dogs live longer than larger breed dogs mainly because they do not suffer as many serious skeletal and cardiovascular diseases as their larger brothers.

  • Not having to carry so much weight means that their bones and joints don’t break down as quickly.
  • Their hearts do not wear out so quickly because they do not have to pump blood through a large body.
  • Studies seem to suggest that smaller dogs have fewer growth hormones than larger dogs and it could be the growth hormones that shorten the lives of larger dogs. 

Around 40% of small breed dogs live longer than 10 years, but only 13% of giant breeds live that long. The average German shepherd will live 10 to 12 years whilst Great Danes are already elderly at 6 to 8 years.

New scientific research from the University of Göttingen in Germany where they studied the lifespan of 74 breeds in 56 000 dogs is adding new light on the subject. They found that larger dogs, not only have shorter lives, but also age at a faster rate than small dogs as they get older. They indicate a loss of one month of life for every increase of 2kg in the body mass of dogs.

If we convert a dog’s age into a human age, there are different factors to take into consideration such as the kind of life the dog has led, the stresses in its life, feeding routine and the weight of the dog. According to the Fred Metzger chart we find as an example:

Dog Age          Weight             9kg                  18kg               31kg                41kg   

    8 yrs.          Human age     48yrs               51yrs               55yrs               64yrs

Research also shows that bitches tend to live slightly longer than males. It is especially true if they are spayed since it reduces or eliminates the risk of some causes of early death such as Pyometra – a bacterial infection of the uterus.

Mixed breed dogs outlive purebred dogs by quite a bit and are healthier on the whole. Inbreeding results in many health issues that can cut a dog’s life quite dramatically. Hip dysplasia in German Shepherds and Dobermans can cause some dogs to become so lame that they have to be put down before their time.

Canine Cancer is very common in some larger breeds such as Boxers, Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers, possibly because they have more cells that can become abnormal and cancerous. Most Burmese Mountain dogs contract cancer at some stage. Other common medical problems that veterinarians have to deal with as dogs age, include kidney and heart disease as well as muscle and bone ailments.

Average Life Span of Top Breeds The following is a list of the most popular dogs in 2008 according to the AKC (USA) and their average life expectancy.

  1.  Labrador Retriever (12.5 years)
  2.  Yorkshire Terrier (14 years)
  3.  German Shepherd Dog (11 years)
  4.  Golden Retriever (12 years)
  5.  Beagle (13 years)
  6.  Boxer (10.5 years)
  7.  Dachshund (15.5 years)
  8.  Bulldog (7 years)
  9. Poodle (12 years) (15 years Miniature)
  10. Miniature Schnauzer (14 years)
  11. Chihuahua (13.5)
  12. Pomeranian (15 years)
  13. Rottweiler (10 Years)
  14. Pug (13.5 years)
  15. Boston Terrier (13 years)
  16. Doberman Pincher (10 years)
  17. Maltese (14 years)
  18. Cocker Spaniel (12 years)
  19. Great Dane (8.5 years)
  20. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (10 years)

Popular myth

It is popularly believed that, “1 human year equals 7 dog years.” This is inaccurate in that a one-year-old dog has already reached sexual maturity although still very much like a teenager. The second year would be the equivalent of 3 – 8 years in terms of physical maturity and each year thereafter is the equivalent of between 10 or 11 human years.

Approximate graph of dog ages versus human ages, allowing for differing sizes of dogs.

The question remains: “What can be done to keep our dogs healthy and live longer.” This we hope to address in further articles.