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Dog Lifespan – Affecting Factors And Breed Chart

Keeping a dog as a pet is an immensely valuable undertaking wrought with love, responsibility, and heartbreak.  There is no doubt that having a dog in your life is an incredible experience. Knowing the inescapable dog lifespan is not what we want to think of when we get a puppy, but it is a fact that life must one day end. And there is no denying the obvious truth that you will likely outlive your dog.  And here comes the waterworks, right?  

But just how long do dogs live?  And if there are different breeds, do they live different lengths of life?  The answer is yes, each breed has its own characteristics for longevity and I’ve brought the answers with me so sit tight and read on.

Factors Affecting Dog Lifespan

Size Versus Lifespan In Dogs

Here lies another truth, although not so obvious.  The basic rule to follow is that the larger the breed of dog, the shorter the potential lifespan.  Several studies have been done, but one notable study was pointed out by Dr. Ernie Ward, DVM on the Pet Health Network site as stating that research did, in fact, verify that larger dogs tend to be outlived by smaller dogs.  

When it comes to dog size affecting lifespan, there are various possible reasons that have been put forth about the actual cause. Some claim that this cause is cell degeneration. Others claim it is due to accelerated aging, for example.  However, there does not seem to be a consensus on what it is about larger dogs exactly which is the cause for the shorter lifespans.  

The size versus longevity rule is a generalization, so keep that in mind.  I had a friend who had a Husky that was 17 years old and still in good health while I have a Yorkie who has been plagued with bad health and likely won’t see her 10th birthday.  Sad, but true. So don’t get all depressed because you have a large dog. Simply enjoy the time you have together.

Dog Diet

You are what you eat.  Or so they say. My opinion is that this is true, metaphorically that is.  I don’t eat junk food as a staple because I know it isn’t good for me. And so I want my dog to eat healthy as well.  For instance, if a dog eats some toxic wood, it could decrease its lifespan dramatically.

Some websites claim that a calorie-reduced diet can increase a dog’s life expectancy.  Although this might or might not be actually true (their source was totally unreliable), I wouldn’t go feed my dog less because some site that claims to know dogs says so.  For that matter, don’t take my word for it – ask your vet. I can tell you from my experience though that not all vets were created equal.

Vets Were Not All Created Equal

My father was a vet.  He worked for the Federal Government of Canada.  When he and I would discuss other veterinarians, he would often comment to me that this vet was good with these species, and that vet was good with those species.  Some vets are better with cats than dogs. Some are better with large animals like cows and horses. And some really shouldn’t be in practice at all. So when I suggest you talk to a vet, I’m assuming you’ve done your research and selected a veterinarian who has some ability to do their job for the best of the animals, not their pocketbook.

Getting back on point here, I still feel that feeding your dog a healthy diet is extremely important to keep them healthy.  And keeping a dog healthy is step 1 to an increased dog lifespan. So take care to feed your dog the best diet for their breed. Christine Valitutti wrote a really concise article outlining many common foods that are good and many that are also bad for your dog.  It’s well worth the read, I had no idea about one of the foods that are really bad for my dog so I really recommend reading.


A dog’s lifespan is often determined by the dogs’ overall health, just like with people.  And just like with people, dogs need to exercise regularly to stay healthy and in shape. It’s no mystery that not exercising enough leads to health problems.  Obesity is just as bad as lethargy, so feeding a dog less just so they don’t gain too much weight, is not the solution here.

Keeping your dog in shape can be a challenge but necessary to increase the dog’s lifespan.  This is amplified by breeds that have been bred for stamina and energy, like Huskies for example.  These dogs can run, and run, and run, and just when you thought they couldn’t, they can run some more.  Huskies were bred to be sled dogs in the far wintery north. It wouldn’t do much good if you had to travel for a whole day and the dogs could only last an hour.

Breed Genetics and Dog Lifespan

I personally am not a fan of inherited genetic issues.  To think that you really have no say in the matter is a horrid reality of existing.  We all roll the dice I suppose. Oh wait, we were talking about dogs here, right?  

Okay, so dog breeds, as you are likely already aware, suffer their own ailments that tend to be associated with the particular breeds.  For example, German Shepherds are known to get hip problems. Yorkshire Terriers are known for getting respiratory issues. The how and why is another tale to be told, but the point is that each breed has its own set of issues.

One of the other considerations when it comes to dog breed genetics

Spaying, Neutering & Breeding

There is some truth behind breeding your dog for their own good health.  Here’s what I learned about Yorkshire Terrier females. I learned that if a female Yorkie doesn’t get spayed and doesn’t get bred, she is much more likely to get cancer.  I’ve actually talked to Yorkie owners whose dogs suffered this issue and had to have a radical mastectomy due to cancer which was likely caused by hormonal imbalance. The hormonal imbalance due to never being bred nor spayed.

This can also be true of some male dogs’ chances of getting testicular cancer if not bred.  When it comes to a dog’s lifespan though, don’t assume anything. This is, however, not always going to be the case but it does reflect in the statistics. With that in mind, let’s get right to the chart.

Other Factors Affecting Length Of Life

There are some very nasty life-ending dangers in the life of a dog. For instance, there are accidents such as the tragic death by a car accident, or a disease like rabies or parasites like heartworm. There are threats from exposure if a dog is lost out in the cold. And of course, everyone knows about the tragedy through poisoning like chocolate. But did you know that there may be flowers in your garden or home that can kill your dog? Or how about salt or de-icers that dogs can ingest when licking their feet or eating snow or ice? These too can be toxic cocktails of doom for your pooch. In short, stay vigilant and stay safe. Do your best to keep your dog out of harm’s way.

Dog Lifespan Chart

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