How Long Do Dogs Live? (Dog Lifespan Explained)

Dog lifespan is different from that of humans. As much as we would love for our canine friends to remain with us forever, the tragic news is that we might have to say goodbye sooner than we expected.

Humans live longer than the healthiest dogs, so even when the dog lives a full life, the loss is still inevitable.

But, how long do dogs live and how can you increase a dog’s lifespan?

On average, the lifespan of a dog is between 10 and 13 years, but some dog breeds can live much longer than others.

If one of your pet parenting aims is a long-term commitment, then going for dog breeds with the longest life expectancy is essential.

You can help your beloved pet live a full life by taking into account the factors that influence its health, such as feeding and exercise.

This guide will go deep into the subject of dog life expectancy and what you can do to increase the chances of your dog living long.

Human Years vs Dog Years

Happy Dog with Human

To understand the relationship between the lifespan of humans and dogs, you should know how the maturing level differs.

Dogs mature faster than humans, which makes them hit senior status when a human is still a child.

For a long time, there was a prevalent theory amongst pet parents that 1 dog year is equivalent to 7 humans years. However, recent advances in this area have disproved this theory.

Rather, experts have drafted out a guideline after studying the aging of both dogs and cats, comparing it to humans. 

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the 1st year of a medium-sized dog is equal to 15 human years.

The 2nd dog year is about 9 human years, and it keeps varying.

At age 7, small dogs are considered seniors. Large dogs get to senior age at 5 and 6.

Converting Dog Years to Human Years

Dog YearsHuman Years (Small to Giant Breeds)
744 to 56
1056 to 78
1576 to 115
2096 to 120

Age: Estimated Human Equivalents for Older Dogs; Small: 0–20 lb; Medium: 21–50 lbs; Large: 51–90 lbs; Giant: More Than 90 lbs

Dog Lifespan: How Long Do Dogs Live?

Happy Dog Sitting on Bed with Owner

Each dog has its specific lifespan, but studies have been able to determine those that tend to live longer.

What scientists discovered with dogs reverses normal expectations. While bigger animals are expected to live longer (like whales and elephants), this isn’t the same for dogs.

In the dog world, small dog breeds tend to have a longer lifespan. The reason for this is largely unknown, but theories have emerged.

One of these is that older dogs develop age-related illnesses faster than their smaller counterpart.

This theory was further supported by a study AKC reported in their findings. [2]

The study was carried out by Cornelia Kraus, an evolutionary biologist who researched 74 breeds and 56,000 dogs.

The study pointed out that dogs age faster and are more prone to cancer due to their fast growth. As Dr. Kraus put it, “their lives seem to unwind in fast motion.” 

The American Kennel Club concluded, thus, that a dog’s size has a lot to do with age. This was further proven by Dr. Urfer who showed that the average years differ according to size:

  • Small dogs had an average lifespan of 14.95 years;
  • Medium dogs had an average lifespan of 13.86 years;
  • Large dogs had an average lifespan of 13.38 years. 

How Long Do Small Dogs Live?

Close Up of Cute Chihuahua Looking at Camera

The average small dog’s lifespan falls between 10 and 15 years, with some going up to 18 years.

This is longer than what you would expect with medium and large dog breeds and could be a deciding factor for many pet parents.

It isn’t always easy to pick the exact lifespan of any dog due to the many influencing factors. However, we can estimate some of the well-known ones. 

Here are the lifespans of some small dog breeds: 

Dog BreedLifespan
Chihuahua15 to 17 years
Pomeranian14 to 16 years
Yorkshire Terrier12 to 15 years
Manchester Terrier12 to 14 years
Maltese12 to 15 years
Shih Tzu10 to 16 years 
Chinese Crested15 to 17 years
Rat Terrier13 to 15 years
English Toy Spaniel 13 to 15 years

Dive Deeper:
20 Longest Living Dog Breeds (Based On Studies)

How Long Do Medium Dogs Live?

Close Up Cool French Bulldog with Collar and Name Tag

Medium dog breeds cover up some small dogs that are a bit too big to be toy breeds—like the French Bulldog—alongside some bigger ones like the Poodle and the Border Collie.

The average medium dog’s life expectancy falls between 10 and 13 years, which falls shorter than the above category.

We also rely on average estimates to determine the lifespan of the breeds in question.

Here are the lifespans of some medium dog breeds: 

Dog BreedLifespan
Cocker Spaniel13 to 15 years
Puli10 to 15 years
French Bulldog11 to 13 years
Poodle12 to 15 years
Whippet12 to 15 years
Chinese Shar-Pei12 to 14 years
Boxer10 to 12 years
Chow Chow11 to 13 years
Welsh Springer Spaniel13 to 15 years

How Long Do Large And Giant Dog Breeds Live?

Chocolate Labrador Retriever Standing on Grass Looking Up

Large dog breeds encompass dogs too big to be medium-sized (like the Labrador Retriever and the German Shepherd) alongside canine giants like the Great Dane and the Mastiffs.

Altogether, the average lifespan of large and giant dog breeds falls between 8 and 12 years.

Large dog breeds live up to 10 to 12 years while the life expectancy of giant dogs ranges between 8 and 10 years.

Here are the lifespans of some large and giant dog breeds: 

Dog BreedLifespan
German Shepherd9 to 13 years
Labrador Retriever10 to 12 years
Great Dane8 to 10 years
Bernese Mountain Dog7 to 10 years
Giant Schnauzer10 to 12 years
Rottweiler10 to 12 years
Belgian Malinois14 to 16 years
St. Bernard10 to 12 years
Cane Corso 10 to 12 years

Dive Deeper:
20 Shortest Living Dog Breeds

Genetics and Lifespan 

Size isn’t the only factor at play when considering how long a dog can live. Genes play a major role too.

A lot of illnesses are hereditary and can be passed down from a parent to a pup.

Some breeds are also predisposed to certain illnesses. An example is the Golden Retriever breed, which is prone to cancer. 

For this reason, you must find a reputable dog breeder when considering any breed. This includes the small ones with a long lifespan

Reputable breeders will prove that the pup you’re getting doesn’t have any inheritable illness in its genes.

Medical Conditions and Lifespan

Fewer things cut short a dog’s lifespan faster than illnesses and other issues requiring a vet visit.

While many pet parents would love to have a dog that would live with no issues, that’s never the case. Even well-bred dogs can still suffer from illness or even an accident.

Different medical issues can affect a dog’s life, but the major ones are usually cancer, trauma, infections, and illnesses (both inherited and uninherited).

Cancer

Cancer is the major cause of death amongst large dogs, and they are more prone to developing cancer than small dog breeds.

As we hinted above, the Golden Retriever is one breed known to be highly susceptible to cancer, and this has engendered a lot of research that we hope will produce positive results in the future. 

To know if your dog has cancer, watch out for symptoms like lumps, rapid weight loss, swelling, and even lameness.

Because these symptoms are similar to those of many other illnesses, take your dog to the vet once you notice any of them.

Trauma

Traumatic events can happen as an indoor accident, a hit-and-run, or even the outcome of a dog fight.

A lot of these traumatic events happen during the first few years of the dog’s life when it is more active. Working dogs are also more exposed and can easily get hurt.

You can prevent these events by keeping your dog on a leash when outside, erecting a dog fence, and supervising them. Also, absolutely no fights!

Infections

The rate of mortality due to infections has reduced, thanks to medical advances and the creation of vaccines, but they can still threaten your dog’s existence.

Get your dog vaccinated as soon as possible.

Illnesses

We have covered inherited illnesses under the genetics section. Though they are not always fatal, they can hinder your dog’s wellbeing.

Some of them can’t even be cured, further putting your dog’s longevity in jeopardy.

Uninherited illnesses vary in their severity. A stomach upset may not kill your dog, but bloating will if you don’t act fast. 

Obesity and Lifespan

Obesity is not a problem reserved only for humans, it is a dog health problem too.

According to findings, an estimate of 25% to 30% of dogs are obese, and a good number of these dogs are found between the ages of 5 and 11.

This is troubling because obesity is known to reduce a dog’s lifespan. As an expert put it:

“being even moderately overweight can reduce a dog’s life expectancy by nearly two years compared to their leaner counterparts.”

VCA Animal Hospitals

Obesity is a problem on its own, but what makes it worse is that it becomes a pathway for other illnesses to come in.

Some medical issues obesity can lead to are:

  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Tracheal collapse
  • Airway dysfunction

The solution to this is obvious: Do not let your dog get overweight!

To achieve this, understand the dog breed you own and its predisposition to obesity. Some dogs love food and are more prone to piling pounds.

Low energy dogs get obese quickly too. Keep your dog on the right diet and exercise regularly.

If your dog is already overweight, you can work with a vet or nutritionist to establish a weight-reduction plan.

Easy Tips To Increase Dog Lifespan

The longevity of your pet pooch is not in your control, but you have a part to play in giving it a better chance at getting to that level.

Commitment to your dog’s well-being is a decision every pet parent must take, and it is the first step to helping your dog live longer.

Other tips for increasing your dog’s lifespan:

  • Keep your pooch on a healthy diet;
  • Maintain optimum weight;
  • Don’t neglect vaccinations and other preventive measures;
  • Don’t neglect pet insurance as well;
  • Study the health issues related to your preferred breed and their symptoms;
  • Keep your environment as accident-free as possible;
  • Take your dog for regular checkups.

Related Questions On Dog Life Expectancy

Why do dogs only live 10 years?

The minimum year for many dog breeds is 10 because it is estimated that by then the dog has lived a full life and is succumbing to nature.

Dogs mature faster than humans, and at 6 years some of them can already be considered seniors. 

Can a dog live 20 years?

Generally, dogs don’t always get up to 20 years. One of the longest living dog breeds is the Chihuahua and it usually peaks at 18 years.

That said, many dogs have surpassed estimates to get up to 20 years and even more. These are exceptions, however, not the main rule.

Do happy dogs live longer?

Though not a set rule, a happy dog often lives longer than an abused and traumatized dog.

This is because happiness has a positive effect on the dog’s immune system, similar to humans. Doing things your dog loves is good for its health. 

What determines how long a dog lives?

Many factors can determine how long a dog lives. The breed is one factor, as well as the size. Genetics also has a role to play. Finally, the care you give makes a difference. 

What dog lived the longest?

A lot of dog breeds have long lifespans, an example of which is the Chihuahua.

That said, the longest-lived dog recorded is an Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey who lived up to 29 years. 

Final Thoughts

Death is an inevitable part of life, both for humans and dogs. When we come to accept this sad reality, we can decide if it would be a major factor in our choice of breed.

Small dog breeds are more suitable for people who want to have a companion for a long time.

Getting a healthy dog from a reputable breeder is also important, but don’t think this means your dog won’t face illnesses. Good medical care helps a lot. 

Overall, make the most of the moments you have with your canine friend. You’d have those memories to hold onto when they go.

References & Notes

  1. Senior Pets,” AVMA.
  2. Why Do Small Dogs Live Longer Than Large Dogs?” American Kennel Club.
  3. Obesity in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals.

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