The Average Dog Lifespan: Understanding the Lifespan of Man’s Best Friend

Medical articles
An older dog with owner in a field contemplating how long dogs live

As dog owners, we wish our furry friends could stay by our sides forever. However, the grim reality is that the average lifespan of a dog is shorter than a human's. It can be a challenging truth to face, and many of us struggle when it comes time to say goodbye to our loyal companions. That's why knowing the basic facts about a dog's life expectancy is essential.   

So, how long do dogs live? Dog lifespans vary, but by understanding the factors that influence a dog's lifespan, such as breed, size and general health, we can better prepare for their senior years and provide them with the best possible care. This helps ensure we spend as much time as possible with our beloved pets. Read on to learn how you can estimate your dog's lifespan and why dog health insurance is the smartest option to give them the care they need. 

The Average Lifespan of a Dog 

Dog lifespans can vary significantly based on their breed and size. While the average lifespan of a dog is between 10-16 years, several factors directly affect how long your family companion will be by your side. [9,10, 11] As a species, dogs are incredibly diverse in size, build and appearance – primarily due to human intervention. Therefore, it's not surprising that there are significant differences in lifespan depending on what dog breed you own. 

Generally, smaller dogs are the longest-living dog breeds compared to their larger counterparts [2]. Although the exact cause is not well established, it's possible that medical conditions that commonly affect aging dogs (such as mobility issues and incontinence) may be more challenging to manage in larger breeds, which can lead to earlier euthanasia. Certain types of serious illnesses are more common in aging large breed dogs as well (such as bone cancer). 

Genetics also play a significant role in dog life expectancy. Purebred dogs have a higher risk of specific hereditary diseases because they are bred with other dogs with similar genes [3]. Mixed-breed dogs, on the other hand, have a reduced risk of hereditary diseases, which can contribute to increased lifespan. Fortunately, reproduction programs for breeding purebred dogs have become more responsible, and efforts have been made to eliminate some of these heritable diseases from breed lines. This has led to more similar lifespans among mixed-breed dogs and purebred lines that have undergone less inbreeding and experienced more genetic diversity. [7] However, not all breeders are considerate of genetics. Worse, certain breeds are purposely bred to have traits that may result in shortened lifespans. Brachycephalic breeds (eg, English bulldogs, French bulldogs, pugs), which are bred to have a shorter snout, have increased risk for respiratory diseases that can significantly contribute to a shorter lifespan. [8

How Long Do Small Dogs Live? 

It's commonly known that small dogs are some of the longest-living dog breeds. Small-breed dogs have an average lifespan of 12-16 years, but they're also prone to specific health issues as they age, such as heart disease and periodontal disease.  

Here are the average lifespans of some of the most popular small dog breeds:  

  • Chihuahuas: 14-17 Years 

  • Smooth & Wire Fox Terriers: 13-15 Years 

  • English Toy Spaniels: 13-15 Years 

  • Pomeranians: 14-16 Years 

  • Parson Russell Terriers: 13-15 Years 

  • Yorkshire Terriers: 12-18 Years 

  • Pappillions: 14-16 Years 

  • Dachshunds: 14-16 Years 

older dog resting on a pad

How Long Do Medium Dogs Live?  

Medium-sized dogs generally have a lifespan that aligns with an average of 10-15 years. However, like all dogs, lifespan and potential health issues vary significantly from breed to breed and individual animal to animal. 

 Here are the average lifespans for several well-known medium-sized dog breeds:  

  • Australian Shepherds: 12-15 Years 

  • Cocker Spaniels: 13-15 Years 

  • Poodles: 12-15 Years 

  • English Bulldogs: 10-12 Years 

  • French Bulldogs: 11-13 Years  

  • Beagles: 14-16 Years 

  • Boxers: 10-12 Years 

How Long Do Big Dogs Live?   

Large dogs tend to have slightly shorter lifespans than medium-sized dogs, with an average lifespan of 9-14 years. Additionally, towering giant breeds have the shortest average lifespan at 8-10 years.  

We don’t fully understand why larger breed dogs carry a shorter lifespan than smaller breeds. One reason is that larger-sized dogs age more quickly than smaller dogs. Large and giant breeds also tend to be more susceptible to debilitating arthritis and certain types of cancer, which can be challenging to manage. 

Here are some examples of popular large dog breeds and their average lifespans:  

  • Great Danes: 8-10 Years 

  • ​​Golden Retrievers: 8-14 Years 

  • Labrador Retrievers: 10-14 Years 

  • Bernese Mountain Dogs: 7-10 Years 

  • German Shepherds: 10-13 years 

  • Giant Schnauzers: 10-12 Years 

  • Dogue de Bordeauxs: 9-11 Years 

  • Rottweilers: 10-12 Years 

  • St. Bernards: 10-12 Years 

  • Newfoundlands: 9-10 Years 

How to Improve Dog Life Expectancy 

Predicting dog lifespans can be challenging, as many factors beyond our control impact dog life expectancy. Some dogs will live much shorter lives and others much longer lives than their breed’s average lifespan. While this can be frustrating for pet owners who want to ensure their beloved companion stays with them as long as possible, we can take steps to increase our pups' lifespan. H3: Do Your Research 

Selecting a dog breed that aligns with your lifestyle and preferences is important. Still, it's also essential to remember that breed plays a major role in a dog's lifespan and health. If you have a specific breed in mind, it's critical to research carefully and choose a reputable breeder who prioritizes health over looks. A responsible breeder will conduct health screenings and genetic testing to ensure their breeding dogs are free of common diseases. It is important to be aware that designer breeds, which are newer breeds such as Goldendoodles and Labradoodles, can still have specific health issues affecting dog life expectancy. All dog breeders, regardless of whether they breed purebred or designer dogs, should be held to the same high standards. 

Understanding the breed and knowing your own puppy's relatives' health conditions and lifespan can help you make an informed decision. It is important to consider both your family's needs and the breed's needs when choosing a dog. Researching the breed and learning about your puppy's family's health history and lifespan can help you ensure that you are choosing a dog that is a good fit for your family and that you can provide the care and training that the dog needs to thrive. While certain breeds may be more prone to health problems, with appropriate attention and care, their lifespan won’t necessarily be affected. Being informed means that you know what sort of health issues you might expect from your breed of choice and that you are financially and physically capable of providing the care your future pet might need. 

Adopting a mixed-breed dog from a shelter is a great choice, as these dogs often have a varied enough genetic background to avoid breed-specific illnesses that impact dog lifespan. However, this doesn’t prevent your dog from developing diseases associated with the breeds that are part of their genetic makeup. It might be helpful to DNA test your shelter pup to anticipate any health issues that may arise. Knowing more about your dog's genetic background can help you give them the best possible care for a long and happy life. 

Follow Your Veterinarian's Guidance 

To ensure health and improve dog life expectancy, follow your veterinarian's recommendations for preventive care. This includes regular vaccinations against infectious diseases and appropriate prevention for fleas, ticks, and heartworms, depending on your location. In addition to these measures, having your pet undergo routine testing for intestinal and blood parasites at least once a year is recommended.  

It is also advisable to discuss with your veterinarian the possibility of performing blood work panels to check liver, kidney and bone marrow health, especially in senior dogs. Establishing and monitoring baselines when they are young can help detect and manage diseases early on. 

Maintain a Healthy Weight 

Maintaining a healthy weight is critical for your dog's overall well-being. Nearly 34 percent of adult dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese, which can significantly impact their lifespan. Research suggests that obese dogs live on average 2-3 years less than dogs at a healthy weight. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is crucial to reduce the risk of weight-related diseases, improve their quality of life, and allow them to live to their full life expectancy. 

Further Your Dog's Lifespan with Affordable Dog Insurance from Embrace  

Your dog is your faithful companion and deserves the best care possible to live a happy and healthy life. Your veterinarian is your trusted partner in achieving a longer dog lifespan for your pup. Together, you can create a customized plan that addresses your dog's unique needs, including proper nutrition, preventative care, and exercise to ensure they remain active and vibrant as they age. 

While the importance of regular vet visits cannot be overstated, the cost of veterinary care can add up quickly, making it difficult to provide your dog with the best possible care. Embrace offers a variety of customizable dog health insurance plans to meet your specific needs and budget. Whether your dog requires routine check-ups, diagnostic tests or emergency and specialty care, our plans cover everything from exam and consultation fees to procedures and treatments. Request a free online quote today.   Sources: