By Jennifer Coates, DVM
Dog ownership is one of the great joys of life. Our furry friends provide us with unconditional love, companionship, and more smiles than can possibly be counted. There are pitfalls associated with dog ownership, however. We can deal with the messes and other passing aggravations; it’s the undeniable fact that people live longer than dogs that eventually brings most owners to tears.
Thinking about the inevitable loss of a beloved pet often compels owners to ask, “How long will my dog live?” Of course, there is no way to specifically answer that question when it comes to a particular individual, but averages are available for many well known breeds, including the Golden Retriever, Bulldog, Dachshund, German Shepherd and Pug.
Reference: Dog Longevity, Dr. Kelly M. Cassidy
For mixed breed dogs, owners can use an individual’s weight to help determine how long he or she would be expected to live. In general, small dogs enjoy longer lives than do their larger counterparts. A recent analysis of veterinary records revealed that dogs under 20 pounds had an average lifespan of 11 years while those over 90 pounds typically lived for only 8 years. Medium and large dogs fell in the middle at around 11 years. (State of Pet Health 2013 Report, Banfield Pet Hospital).
But average life expectancy isn’t the whole story. The very definition of “average” means that many individuals will have shorter lifespans while others can be expected to live much longer than the norm. Perhaps a better way to evaluate a dog’s longevity is to convert “dog years” into “human years.” In this way, we can understand just when a dog is an adult, a senior citizen, geriatric, or the equivalent of a human centenarian.
Information about a dog’s expected lifespan won’t help blunt the pain of his or her loss, but it can help owners plan how to best care for their companions during the time we do have together.