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There are some large breed dogs that live longer than others, but why? And what can you do to increase your dog’s lifespan? Today I am sharing the secrets to mastering canine longevity so you can claim many more healthy years with your canine companion.
Unfortunately, when it comes to large and giant breed dogs the consensus is that large dogs don’t live long compared to smaller breeds. And while this is true generally, it certainly isn’t true for all large breed dogs and doesn’t have to be true for your dog.
In this post, you will discover:
- 30 large dog breeds with the longest lifespan,
- 13 large breed dogs with the shortest lifespan
- The factors that contribute to a dog’s life expectancy
- Why giant breed dogs in particular don’t live long, and
- How YOU can help your big dog live longer
What Impacts a Dog’s Lifespan
Before we dive into the individual breed longevity analysis, let’s briefly cover some of the primary factors that contribute to a dog’s lifespan.
These are in no particular order.
Genetics can play a significant role in a dog’s lifespan. I have numerous blog posts on BigDogMom.com on the topic of genetics, and feel strongly that this is one of the most important factors affecting a dog’s health, temperament, and longevity.
There is no doubt that even with the best, most responsible preservation breeding practices, some breeds are genetically predisposed to certain health conditions that can impact their longevity.
There is almost no way around that, unfortunately.
That said, responsible breeding practices aimed at reducing genetic health issues can contribute to a longer lifespan.
Size and Breed
As I stated above, the consensus is that larger dog breeds tend to have shorter lifespans compared to smaller breeds. While this is true generally, individual variations exist between breeds and within each breed.
Healthcare and Veterinary Attention
Regular veterinary check-ups, vaccinations (when needed), preventive care, and prompt treatment of health issues can significantly impact a dog’s lifespan.
Because healthcare is one of the biggest expenses for large dogs, owners may attempt to minimize this cost by going to the veterinarian less frequently, opting out of preventive care services, and trying home remedies as a first line of treatment.
Nutrition and Diet
Another topic that has been covered extensively on this blog is diet and nutrition for dogs.
Providing a well-balanced diet that meets a dog’s nutritional requirements is essential for their overall health and longevity.
Proper nutrition, either through a whole raw diet or a high-quality commercial diet, can help prevent obesity and certain diet-related health conditions.
Exercise and Physical Activity
One of the most neglected factors that affect how long a dog will live is regular exercise and physical activity.
Sufficient exercise is crucial for maintaining a dog’s physical and mental well-being; it helps manage weight, promotes cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles, and contributes to a longer, healthier life.
Living conditions and environment
You may not know it, but the quality of a dog’s living conditions and environment can affect their lifespan.
Dogs that are exposed to harmful substances, extreme temperatures, neglect, or abuse may experience adverse effects on their health and well-being.
I have seen this firsthand.
Dogs that live in a home where there is a lot of yelling or abuse can become scared, insecure, or reactive.
Just like with humans, dogs who experience this type of trauma can lose many valuable years of their lives due to the daily stress they live with.
Spaying / Neutering
While spaying or neutering a dog can have health benefits and reduce the risk of certain reproductive-related health issues, doing so too early in life, especially in large and giant breed dogs can shorten their lifespan.
Most preservation breeders do not recommend spaying or neutering before a dog is 18 months old if not later.
Lifestyle and Care
A dog’s lifestyle and the care they receive from their owner or caregiver can greatly impact their overall well-being and lifespan.
30 Longest Living Large Dog Breeds
While large breed dogs tend to have shorter lifespans compared to smaller breeds, the following are some large breed dogs that are known for their longevity.
Keep in mind these are average lifespans for each breed based on American Kennel Club (AKC) data. Individual dogs may deviate from these averages through premature death or a longer life.
Breeds are listed in order starting with the large breed dogs that live the longest. If you want more information about a particular breed, I encourage you to go to the national breed club listed at the bottom of this page.
Up to 18 Years
Afghan Hound (12-18) Standard Poodle (10-18)
Up to 16-17 Years
Pointer (12-17) Saluki – (10-17) Belgian Malinois (14-16)
Up to 15 Years
Irish Setter (12-15) Giant Schnauzer (12-15) Redbone Coonhound (12-15) Wirehaired Pointing Griffon (12-15) Dogo Argentino (9-15)
Up to 14 Years
Belgian Tervuren (12-14) Siberian Husky (12-14) Pharaoh Hound (12-14) Viszla (12-14) Collie (12-14) Alaskan Malamute (10-14) Akita (10-14) Borzoi (9-14)
Up to 13 Years
Gordon Setter (12-13) Labrador Retriever (11-13) *Our Labrador, Burton, lived to nearly 16! Anatolian Shepherd (11-13) Greyhound (10-13) Chesapeake Bay Retriever (10-13) Otterhound (10-13) Weimaraner (10-13)
Up to 12 Years
English Setter (12) Boxer (10-12) Doberman Pinscher (10-12) Golden Retriever (10-12) Bloodhound (10-12) Rhodesian Ridgeback (10-12)
15 Large Breed Dogs With the Shortest Life Expectancy
Giant breed dogs, due to their size and structure, are prone to certain health concerns that can impact their overall well-being.
The following large breed dogs are listed in descending order of based on lifespan.
As with the previous list, keep in mind that these are average life expectancies for the breed. As we will discuss, there are many reasons your dog may fall outside of these averages.
But first, here are the 15 large breed dogs with the shortest life expectancy…
Up to 12 Years
Tibetan Mastiff (10-12) Cane Corso (9-12)
Up to 11 Years
Boerboel (9-11) Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (8-11)
Up to 10 Years
Newfoundland (9-10) Rottweiler (9-10) Saint Bernard (8-10) German Shepherd Dog (7-10) Great Dane (7-10) Bernese Mountain Dog (7-10) Mastiff (6-10)
Up to 9 Years
Bullmastiff (7-9) Neapolitan Mastiff (7-9)
Up to 8 Years
Irish Wolfhound (6-8) Dogue de Bordeaux (5-8)
Why Don’t Giant Breed Dogs Live Long?
While not all giant breed dogs will experience these issues, owners of giant breeds need to be aware of potential health problems and take proactive measures to promote their dogs’ health.
Here are some common health concerns for giant breed dogs… Unfortunately, I have had personal experience with the majority of these in my many decades as a big dog owner.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Hip and elbow dysplasia are orthopedic conditions caused by improper formation or malalignment of these joints can lead to pain, lameness, and mobility issues.
While hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition, factors such as excessive growth rate, types of exercise, improper weight, and unbalanced nutrition can magnify this genetic predisposition.
Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD)
Osteochondrosis is the abnormal growth of the cartilage on the end of a bone around the joint. Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD or OD) is an inflammatory condition, particularly in growing large breed puppies (6 to 9 months), that occurs when the diseased cartilage separates from the underlying bone.
It most commonly affects the shoulder joint but the elbow, hip, knee (stifle), or hock (tarsus) may also be affected.
While the cause of OCD is unknown, this disease is more common in dogs receiving too much energy, protein, and calcium in the diet. Other factors may also include genetics, rapid growth, trauma, lack of blood flow, and hormonal factors.(1)
OCD should not be confused with Panosteitis, a condition caused by the too-rapid growth of long bones in large and giant breed puppies which causes pain and inflammation.
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) or Bloat
GDV, also known as bloat, is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a dog’s stomach becomes distended and twists on itself.
It is more common in deep-chested breeds, including many giant breeds, and requires immediate veterinary attention.
For more information on bloat, its causes, and what you can do to prevent and treat it, read Bloat In Dogs: 7 Simple Steps That Can Save Your Dog [FAST!].
Wobbler syndrome is a neurological disease in large and giant breed dogs affecting the cervical (neck) spinal cord and has been referred to by various names such as cervical stenotic myelopathy, caudal cervical spondylomyelopathy, and cervical malarticulation/malformation syndrome.
Symptoms of Wobblers include neck pain, scuffing nails, stumbling, incoordination (ataxia), difficulty rising, and difficulty walking. These symptoms can progress and worsen over time.
For much more information on Wobbler Syndrome, read Wobbler Syndrome – What Dog Owners Must Know About This Silent Killer.
I recorded my discussion with our neurologist when my Mastiff, Junior, was diagnosed. You can watch that short video here.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
Some large breed dogs, such as Doberman Pinschers and Great Danes, may be prone to certain cardiac conditions like dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a condition that affects the heart muscle’s ability to pump blood effectively.
While some opinion-based journal articles in 2018 suggested a link between grain-free diets and the risk of DCM, to date there has been no conclusive evidence linking the two. (2)
Osteosarcoma is an aggressive cancer that typically affects the leg bones of middle-aged to older large and giant breed dogs.
It has usually spread throughout the body at the time of diagnosis, so even with tumor removal and chemotherapy, the median survival time is only 8-11 months.
I lost my first Mastiff, Maya, to osteosarcoma. We were given only 4 months from the date of her diagnosis until we said our heartwrenching goodbye.
I will be writing more on canine bone cancer this year as there is a great deal of research being done to find causes, markers, and preventions. Stay tuned by signing up for my Big Dog Weekly newsletter, dognailpro.com/subscribe.
Cruciate Ligament Injury
The cranial cruciate ligament (or CCL) is one of the most important stabilizers inside the knee (also called “stifle”) joint. In humans, it is called the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Rupture of the CCL is one of the most common reasons for hind limb lameness, pain, and subsequent arthritis.
Unlike in humans, a traumatic or sudden rupture can happen in dogs but is quite rare. More often it is caused by the aging of the ligament (degeneration), obesity, poor physical condition, conformation, and breed. In other words, the ligament injury is a result of subtle, slow degeneration that has been taking place over a few months, or even years, rather than the result of sudden trauma to an otherwise healthy ligament. (3)
This condition is one of the most obvious, yet most commonly overlooked factors in a shortened life span. Perhaps this is due to the indifference or denial we have about our weight, or perhaps we are too close to our dogs to see the truth.
Whatever the reason, obesity in large and giant breed dogs can exacerbate joint issues and increase the risk of other health problems.
Maintaining a healthy weight, particularly as your puppy is growing, through proper diet and exercise is essential.
How You Can Help Your Big Dog Live Longer [6 Tips]
Fortunately, your large dog is not doomed to live a life limited by disease and hardship. Many large dogs that live long lives do so well into their teens with relatively good health along the way.
I believe yours can, too!
Here are 6 tips for how you can improve your big dog’s lifespan and quality of life.
1. Find a Reputable Preservation Breeder
First and foremost, I encourage you to purchase your puppy or dog from a reputable preservation dog breeder.
I get that your neighbor down the street has jumped on the doodle breeding bandwagon or that you feel an emotional pull toward the discount puppy in the pet store window, but rather than falling prey to the marketing ploy of backyard breeders, can I encourage you to take your time and do your due diligence before buying a puppy.
Go to a local dog show and talk to people with the breed you are considering. Use this guide to help you with what questions to ask dog breeders to weed out those that aren’t a good fit and find the puppy you are looking for.
I also encourage you to connect with your breed’s national breed club. You can find links to most large and giant breed dog clubs at the bottom of this page.
2. More Exercise
As I just stated above, most dogs are not given enough exercise to keep them in optimal health, mentally and physically.
According to research done by the Dog Aging Project, physical activity was robustly associated with better cognitive outcomes in over 11,500 dogs studied. (9)
Large breed dogs should get at least 30 minutes to 2 hours of vigorous exercise per day. If you have a working, herding, hound, or sporting breed you should aim for the upper amount of this range.
Remember, physical exercise is good for you, too! So get out there and work up a sweat!
3. Raw Diet
There is no denying that commercially produced dry kibble is a far cry from a dog’s ancestral diet.
And, like humans, your dog’s diet forms the foundation of his/her health. As they say, garbage in, garbage out. You can’t expect your dog to exceed its life expectancy if you are filling them with the equivalent of garbage.
To provide the very best nutritional foundation for your dog’s health, immune system, and longevity, I highly encourage you to consider feeding a more natural, preferably raw, diet.
For more information on the pros and cons of raw feeding, how to easily transition your dog to a raw diet, and much more, click here.
4. Mental Stimulation
Imagine a life where the only decisions you had to make were deciding where to lay, who to sniff, and how much to bark at feeding time.
Sadly, this is the boring, monotonous life most dogs lead.
What most dog owners don’t realize is that mental health affects physical health in dogs, just like it does in humans. As a result, activating your dog’s mind prevents premature aging.
Dogs thrive on consistent mental stimulation.
Consider playing brain games like hide and seek, purchasing brain-stimulating toys like those from Nina Ottosson, teaching new tricks, working on obedience training, starting a new activity like agility or nose work, etc.
Think creatively and have fun with your dog!
Wolves in the wild are not solitary animals. They live in tightly connected packs, working together to hunt for food, raise the young, and care for one another.
Domesticated dogs are no different. They are relational creatures who need companionship just as much as we humans do.
Without this socialization, dogs can suffer from fear, reactivity, anxiety, and a myriad of health sequelae as a result.
Scientists working with 25,000 dogs in the Dog Aging Project published interesting findings from their research in Evolution, Medicine & Public Health:
“This does show that, even for our companion dogs, having those strong social connections and social companions is important. Overall, it’s good for your dog to have social support around, in the form of other people and other dogs. Dogs are social animals, just like us, so they benefit from being around others.”
brianah Mccoy, phd candidate, lead author
These findings illuminate behavioral and environmental modifiers that might promote healthy aging across species — for instance, social companionship is good and isolation is bad. (5)
Here’s the bottom line…
Force-free, fear-free socialization is key to your dog’s health, happiness, AND longevity (when done right).
6. Lower Stress Environment
In humans, biological age increases with stress, but returns to baseline following recovery from stress based on research published in Cell Metabolism.(6)
Experts say exposure to stress can cause inflammation and damage to DNA in cells, which in turn can accelerate aging.
Stress in dogs is no different.
When dogs are living in an environment where they cope with fear, anxiety, malnutrition (or over-feeding), isolation, abuse, etc., this stress causes premature aging.
The most unexpected outcome of the Dog Aging Project had to do with kids: More time with children, it appears, is linked to poorer dog health.
Whether this is because owners are spending less time with their dogs as a result of having human children or because the environment in a home with children tends to be more loud and chaotic, researchers don’t know.
No matter the reason, I would encourage you to consider the environment your dog is living in. Pay attention to any calming signals or signs of stress he may be showing.
If yelling or loud behavior is commonplace, consider teaching everyone how to use their indoor voice.
If you are in a home where there is abuse of ANY kind, for your safety and the health and safety of your children and dogs, get out!
Pay attention to your gut. If you are stressed, your dog is, too!
FAQs About Dogs That Live Longer
- Review of canine dilated cardiomyopathy in the wake of diet-associated concerns
- Canine Cruciate Ligament Injury
- Lifetime prevalence of owner-reported medical conditions in the 25 most common dog breeds in the Dog Aging Project pack
- Associations between physical activity and cognitive dysfunction in older companion dogs: results from the Dog Aging Project