When looking down at your faithful companion, have you ever noticed a bit of graying around the muzzle? Have you noticed that your best friend is slowing down in comparison to the days when she was a young puppy? The life expectancy of dogs is different for every breed and size. This information will only give you an estimate of how long your canine companion may live.
There can be many reasons to stop and think about the life expectancy of dogs. You may just be getting ready for a new dog for your family and want to explain the responsibilities of dog ownership, and for how long that you undertake that responsibility, to your children.
No matter her life span, your dog is sure to do one thing – steal your heart. Which is why it can be so devastating when you lose your furry family member.
So, how long can you expect your dog to live? That can depend on many factors:
- dog size,
- veterinarian care,
Most dogs live from 10 – 13 years. This only gives an average, because there is so much variance between dogs. While some breeds can live only an average of 6 – 8 years, there are some that can live up to 15 – 20 years and a great many more that live some average in between.
A study done in 1996 with 9,248 dogs showed an average life expectancy of dogs around 10 years. Large majority of dogs die due to severe illnesses, with tumors causing 27.3% of deaths and heart related diseases 16.3% of deaths among dogs.
Often it is said that a dog lives and ages 7 years for each human year. With such variance in length of life expectancy between breeds, you can already see that this is a fallacy at best.
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How Long Do Dogs Live?
explaining the life expectancy of dogs
Breed vs. Breeding
To look at breed charts alone can sometimes only give you an average for that breed. When you choose your dog, you should also look very carefully at not just the breed, but also the breeding.
When choosing your puppy, try to be on the lookout for puppy mills that are not licensed. These mills can have problems with inbreeding, which not only reduces the lifespan of dogs, but also can create multiple problems with exacerbating the risk of potential genetic deficiencies that are common within breeds.
Choosing a well-bred dog, which has been crossbred can help produce a longer lifespan. This also means “mutts’ with two or more breeds, commonly tend to live longer and have fewer health problems than purebreds.
In dog years, size matters
Dog size is an important factor in predicting the life expectancy of a dog. Not only is size of breed important the size or weight of the dog within the breed itself is also important.
Many studies, including this one from 2013, have found that large breeds will always have shorter lifespan than small dogs. The researchers concluded that large breeds die younger simply because they age faster.
Large breeds, like the French Mastiff, can have a life expectancy of 5 – 8 years, while a tiny Chihuahua lives an average of 15 – 20 years.
Even though you can see that, generally speaking, the smaller the breed the longer the life expectancy of dogs, it will still matter what you feed your pet.
An overweight and under-exercised pet will have a shortened lifespan regardless of her breeding. Many decisions that go into the care of your pet will have an outcome on her lifespan. These can include whether you spay or neuter your dog and the quality of care that goes into her diet and exercise plan.
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Making a choice that extends life expectancy of dogs
The choice to spay or neuter your dog is up to you, but if the likelihood that you will be breeding your dog is not high, then the best option for both you and your pet is to spay/neuter. In every community the choice to spay/neuter helps to end the animal over-population in our shelters, and the choice also has great health benefits for your dog.
On average, a dog that has been spayed or neutered lives 20% longer. Female dogs are less likely to have serious illnesses of the bladder as well as bladder and breast cancers. Male dogs have fewer instances of testicular and prostate cancers when they've been neutered.
With the benefit of a well-behaved pet and a longer life expectancy for dogs, spaying and neutering makes sense.
It also cuts down on the chance of being hit by a vehicle due to roaming behaviors and injuries that can occur when fighting with other dogs. These types of injuries can suddenly cut short the lie expectancy of dogs or leave them permanently disabled, creating years of hardship on your pet.
Find a veterinarian for lifelong care
Finding a qualified veterinarian in your area that you and your dog feel comfortable with when you decide to spay or neuter is a good time to establish a lifelong care routine that will include a series of shots, such as distemper and rabies.
The vet will also check your dogs’ general health as well as test for heartworm. Heartworm is a serious disease that can strike at any time, is spread by mosquitoes, and can be prevented by taken a monthly medicinal chew.
Your vet may also be able to recommend a quality flea and tick treatment that will work well for your dog. Following your veterinarian’s advice is important and helps to extend the life of your dog.
As your dog ages, your vet can recommend changes in care, and when your dog faces serious illness at the end of its lifespan, your vet will be there for both of you for end of care treatment.
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Quality nutrition and treats are important
Part of the care routine that your veterinarian will recommend is diet. Proper nutrition is important to extending your dogs’ lifespan just as it would be important to yours.
Many dog food and dog treats that are available are not good for your dog. They are made from fillers such as corn, and the protein content is not as high as you might think. That can of beefy gravy may actually be mostly corn, water and artificial flavors and colors.
So, it’s important to learn to read the labels very carefully on your dog foods and dog treats. Recommended most often are grain-free options, limited-ingredient or rawhide-free foods and snacks. It is easy to find single ingredient treats that are both healthy and delicious for your dog.
However, be sure not to overfeed. An overweight dog is an unhealthy dog. Just as with humans, being overweight can stress the body and cause multiple health issues that can cause a lower quality of life as well as a shorter life span.
It’s easy to get in the habit of overfeeding, especially when using treats for training purposes. Realize that your dog will be just as happy with a pat on the head or another throw of the ball, as it would be with another treat.
Exercise extends the health of your dog
Exercise is also important to the health of your dog and in extending the life expectancy of dogs. It’s also very important to you, so it’s one activity that you can share together with your best friend.
While it may seem that your dog just wants to sleep, as many breeds can sleep around 14 hours a day, the truth is your dog really needs an adequate amount of exercise. Different breeds require different amounts. A Greyhound may need a lot of room and time to run, while a Chihuahua gets plenty of exercise chasing the kids around the house.
Whatever the size or breed of your dog, you should talk to your veterinarian about what the best type of exercise would work best for your dog and how often you should do it. Most dogs get plenty of exercise with a good long daily walk, where they get to spend time with you and socialize in their neighborhood.
Living life in dog years
Now when you look at your best friend, you will know that your dog will live as long as possible because you have the skills and tools to extend the life expectancy of dogs to its fullest. While it would be great if your dog could stay with you forever, you now have the knowledge to know approximately how long she will live and how you can give her the best life possible.
With the relationship you build over time with your veterinarian, you and your dog will be ready when the time comes. That time is still far from now, and the focus should be on living the best life possible and being the best friend that you can be for your best friend.
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