- The Daily Wag!
- Can Dogs Live for 20 years?
Can Dogs Live for 20 years?
Perhaps the only fault dogs have is that they live much shorter lives than us. While Americans live to an average age of almost 80, our canine companions tend to say their final farewells anywhere between 10 and 13 years of age.
We all want our dogs to be by our sides forever, but unfortunately, there are limits on just how much these amazing creatures can achieve. However, if you're wondering whether dogs can live to the ripe old age of 20, the answer is a definite yes — but only in rare cases.
So, which breeds live the longest and what can you do to improve your pet's longevity? Keep reading to find out.
Signs of Old Age in Dogs
A dog's transition into old age can often sneak up on its owner. It seems like one minute your pet is a playful, boisterous puppy, and the next they're at retirement age and nearing the twilight years of their life.
The first sign many people notice is a change in their dog's energy and activity levels. While most dogs naturally tend to relax and slow down a little as they mature, the pain of stiff joints and simply the tiredness that comes with growing old can see them start taking life at their own pace.
You may notice that your pooch takes a while to get moving in the morning, especially in winter, or that they're simply not all that enthusiastic about exercise anymore and are much happier curling up for a snooze in the sun.
Just like humans, dogs can also start to lose their hearing and sight as old age encroaches. You might notice cloudy eyes, your dog bumping into objects, or maybe that your pooch doesn't always respond straight away when you call their name. Increased urination is another telltale sign, and crankiness, irritability, and even confusion and disorientation may also occur.
Seeing these signs in your gorgeous fur-baby can be heart-wrenching, but growing old doesn't mean your dog can't enjoy a happy and fulfilling life.
The Oldest Dogs Ever
Dogs don't often live to 20 years of age, but history has taught us that it is possible. The oldest dog to have ever lived (and to have its age officially verified) was an Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey. Born in 1910, this remarkable canine lived to the astonishing age of 29 years and 5 months — a whole lot more than the average life expectancy for the breed, or for any other dog breed for that matter.
The second oldest dog to have lived is a Beagle named Butch, who reportedly lived for 28 years from 1975 to 2003. There are more than a dozen other sensational seniors to have had their ages authenticated, and all of them lived to be at least 20 years or older.
However, there have been plenty of other owners claiming to be the proud pet parent of some amazingly long-lived pooches. For example, in 1984, a Labrador / Australian Cattle Dog Cross was reported to have passed away in Queensland, Australia, at the age of 32. Elsewhere, when a Labrador named Bella passed away in the United Kingdom in 2008; her owner claimed she was 29 years old. However, with no documentation to support the claim, Bella's long life never received any official recognition.
Science Behind Dogs Living to be 20
The length of your dog's life isn't set in stone, and there are many factors that influence how many candles your pooch blows out on their last birthday. These include:
- Size. On average, smaller dogs live much longer than large breeds. For example, while it's not too uncommon for Chihuahuas and Jack Russell Terriers to live for 15 years or even more, Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds have an average life expectancy of around 8 to 10 years.
- Genetics. The genes your dog inherits play a crucial role in determining the diseases they are prone to and how quickly they age.
- Diet, exercise, and weight. Feeding a high-quality diet that's specially formulated to provide all the nutrients your pet needs is crucial, while regular exercise is similarly essential for general health and wellbeing. These can also help ensure that your pooch stays in a suitable weight range throughout their life, which lowers their chances of suffering from a long list of potential health problems.
- The care you give them. You can also have a big say in how long your dog lives. By spaying or neutering your pet, vaccinating them against dangerous infectious diseases, and staying up to date with parasite prevention, you'll greatly improve their longevity.
Caring for an Older Dog
Older dogs may not be as energetic and playful as they once were but that doesn't mean they can't still live full and wonderful lives. However, as an owner, you'll need to take extra-special care of your furry friend to help them stay as happy and comfortable as possible.
The key is adjusting your lifestyle and routine to suit your pet. For example, your five-mile runs together may gradually come to be replaced by relaxing strolls; rather than doggy sports like flyball or disc throwing, your pooch might prefer a lazy game of tug-of-war or maybe just a bit of snuggle time.
Your veterinarian will also play an important role in caring for your senior pooch. Speak to your vet about how to feed the right diet for your golden oldie, and keep an eye out for any worrying health symptoms that might require veterinary attention. Scheduling regular check-ups will also help you detect any problems as they arise.
Finally, remember to be willing to adapt to suit your pet. Don't force them to exercise when it's beyond their capabilities, don't get frustrated if they're a bit slower to come when called, and make sure you keep involving your pet in family life as much as possible.
Most importantly, don't forget to make the most of the precious time you have together!
By a Labrador Retriever lover Tim Falk
Published: 03/21/2018, edited: 04/06/2020
More articles by Tim Falk