How Long Do Dogs Live?

As we progress through life, our dogs may be there going through pivotal times with us. These pivotal times can be moving for a new job, graduating from school, meeting our life partner, or the birth of our children. Therefore, the bonds we build with our canine companions are extremely strong. However, an unfortunate fact is that dogs have a shorter lifespan than ours, and they will eventually pass over the rainbow bridge. We can never be quite sure when they will leave us forever as there are a number of factors that determine the lifespan of a dog. In this article, we will explore the factors that affect how long a dog lives.

How Long Do Dogs Live?

In general, healthy dogs live between 10 to 13 years. The number one factor that affects longevity is body size. However, other factors such as gender, whether the dog is spayed or neutered, health status, weight, and anxiety also contribute to the longevity of a dog.

What Factors Affect The Lifespan Of A Dog?

  • Size
Large dogs have a shorter lifespan compared to other dogs (Kraus et al., 2013; Urfer et al., 2019). Small dogs have an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years, while large dog breeds have an average lifespan of 5 to 8 years. This is true for other species of animals as well. Within the same species, animals with larger body size have a shorter life span. Large body size typically means the animal has a faster growth rate, and there appears to be a tradeoff between large body size and life span. Evidence suggests that the faster growth rate needed to obtain a large body size also contributes to early aging, resulting in early mortality (Kraus et al., 2013). In a study by Urfer and colleagues (2019), the average lifespan of different body sizes were as follows: giant 11 years, large 13 years, medium 13 years, and small 15 years. Body size seems to be the most important factor in determining lifespan, and more predictive than the other factors listed here (Urfer et al., 2019).
  • Breed

The breed of the dog is a contributing factor to their lifespan. Our domestic dog breeds are the result of generations of selective breeding for specific traits. This type of intensive breeding can give rise to a number of genetic diseases or other disease predispositions that can affect lifespan (Urfer et al., 2019). Mixed breed dogs tend to be healthier than purebred dogs due to a concept known as hybrid vigor. Therefore, mixed breed dogs may have a longer lifespan than purebred dogs (Urfer et al., 2019).

  • Gender

If both sexes are intact, male dogs tend to live longer. However, among some cultures, it is common practice to spay or neuter our pet dogs. Studies suggest that differences in lifespan between male and female dogs depend largely on whether or not they are neutered (Hoffman et al., 2018).

  • Neutered or spayed

Whether or not a dog is neutered or spayed plays a role in its lifespan. Dogs that have been spayed or neutered have longer lifespans than dogs who are not by at least 1 year. Female dogs that were spayed had a longer life expectancy than female dogs that were not spayed. The same difference was not found in male dogs, suggesting that female dogs live a longer and happier life when they are “fixed.” Intact female dogs are at risk for a number of pregnancy-related health issues, including mammary and uterine infections or cancers. It is believed that there are health benefits for neutering male dogs as well. But the data is not quite as conclusive as it is for females since some studies have shown un-neutered male dogs having a longer lifespan than neutered male dogs (Hoffman et al., 2018; Urfer et al., 2019).

  • Health

Dogs that are in good health will have longer lifespans than those in poor health. A number of factors can contribute to a dog’s health, such as regular veterinary visits, preventative medicine, daily exercise, proper nutrition, and good behavioral management. Dogs that get regular veterinary checkups will have health issues identified and treated early on, helping prevent further complications (Urfer et al., 2019). Cancer is the health issue most predictive of a shorter lifespan in dogs (Drescher, 2010).

  • Weight

Obesity is a huge health and welfare issues in pet dogs causing issues such as joint problems, back problems, and inflammation. Dogs that are overweight are more likely to have health issues that result in shorter lifespans. Overweight dogs may life up to 2 years less than dogs at a healthy weight (Linder, 2017).

  • Anxiety

Increased levels of fear and anxiety can shorten a dog’s lifespan, particularly fear towards strangers. A fear of strangers is related to about a half year in shorter lifespan. The most common fear and anxiety related issues in dogs are separation anxiety, noise phobia, and fear-related aggression. The experience of fear or anxiety causes a physiological stress response that prepares the body to defend itself against a threat. Chronic stress causes the stress system to be continuously activated, which redirects the body’s functions away from maintaining homeostasis and instead defending the body against the threat. This can cause lasting physiological issues such as decreased immune response, heart disease, and disruptions to the hormone and nervous systems. The most common health issue associated with anxiety in dogs is skin disorders. Additionally, elevated levels of stress can cause premature aging in the cells, resulting in premature death (Dreschel, 2010).

How Long Do Dogs Live In The Wild?

The lifespan of wild dogs is affected by the same factors mentioned in this article, as well as a number of additional factors such as the ability to obtain food, find shelter, and evade predators. Our pet dogs have it pretty easy compared to their wild counterparts. Here are the average lifespans of some wild canine species:

Canine Lifespan
Red Fox 2 to 5 years
Feral Dogs 5 to 7 years
Wolf 6 to 8 years
Fennec Fox 10 to 13 years
African Painted Dog 10 to 15 years

What Are Dog Years?

If you own a dog, you probably heard that 1 year of a dog’s life is equivalent to 7 years of a human life. This means that if your dog is 2 years old, they are equivalent to a 14-year-old human. This is not entirely true. When this ratio was discovered, the average lifespan of humans was 70 and 10 for dogs. At that time, it was assumed that every year in a dog’s life was equivalent to 10 in a human. However, now humans and dogs can live to be much longer, and the science behind “dog years” is much more complicated than we thought. The new system to estimate a dog’s age in human years takes into account the effects of body size on aging (AKC, 2019).

How Long Are Dog Years Compared To Human Years?

The first year of a dog’s life is comparable to 15 for a human for small and medium breeds, and 12 for giant breeds (over 100 lbs). A dog that is 5 years of age is 36-45 in human years, while a 10-year-old dog is 56-79 years of age in human years. Updated charts for comparisons between dog and human years can be found at the American Kennel Club or the American Veterinary Medical Association websites (AKC, 2019).

How Can I Help My Dog Live Longer?

To help your dog live longer, there are a number of things you can do. First, be mindful of where you get your dog. Adopting a dog is always a good thing to do. But be sure to fully understand their physical health before bringing them home and get a veterinary checkup within a week. Also, be prepared to help them deal with any existing health issues they have to ensure they are able to live a long and happy life. If you are not prepared to deal with their health issues, help them find a home that can.

If you are getting your dog from a breeder, do your research first. Dog breeders should be testing their dogs for common diseases found in that breed and should be able to provide you a health certificate. Be sure your breeder breeds dogs for health, function, and behavior rather than for looks. Reputable breeders will be able to provide you proof of the health and genetic sustainability of your puppy. Moreover, they will ask you to return the dog to them if you are unable to keep it for any reason, regardless of age and health status of the dog. Finding a reputable breeder will help ensure the health of your dog and minimize disease risks. Dogs from reputable breeders can be expensive, but see it as a sound investment into your dog’s overall well being and longevity.

Once you have a dog, providing preventative measures will help them live a long and happy life. These measures include regular trips to the veterinarian, good nutrition, exercise, and positive-based training methods are all keys to setting your dog up for a long life.

How Old Is The Oldest Dog?

The oldest dog on record is an Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey. Bluey lived to be 29 years old. He died in 1939 in Australia. More recently, an Australian Kelpie reportedly died at 30 years of age in 2016. However, due to issues with lost paperwork, she is not considered to be the Guinness World Record keeper.

Conclusion

On average, dogs live to be 10 to 13 years of age with factors such as breed, health status, anxiety, weight, and body size being contributing factors to their longevity. Scientific research suggested that the most important factor affecting the lifespan of dogs is their body size. Large breed dogs have shorter lifespans than medium or small breed dogs. Despite body size, providing preventative care such as veterinary care, exercise, proper nutrition, and behavioral management are great ways to ensure your dog is around for as long as possible. It is never easy to send our best friends over the rainbow bridge. Sometimes despite our best efforts, we simply cannot keep them around forever. But providing the best care we can within our means is a great way to show them how much we care.

Works Cited

 American Kennel Club (AKC). 2019. How to calculate dog years to human years. Retrieved on May 5th, 2020

Dreschel, N.A. 2010. The effects of fear and anxiety on health and lifespan in pet dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 125:157-162.

Hoffman, J.M., O’Neill, D.G., Creevy, K.E., and S.N. Austad. 2018. Do female dogs age differently than male dogs? The Journal of Gerontology: Series A 73(2):150-156.

Kraus, C., Pavard, S., and D.E.L. Promislow. 2013. The size-life span trade-off decomposed: why large dogs die young. The American Naturalist 181(4):492-505.

Linder, D.E. 2017. Five ways being overweight can harm your dog’s health. Petfoodology. Retrieved on May 5th, 2020

Urfer, S.R., Wang, M., Yang, M., Lund, E.M., and S. L. Lefebvre. 2019. Risk factors associated with lifespan in pet dogs evaluated in primary care veterinary hospitals. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 55(3):130-137.