Everyone who has ever loved a dog wishes that our furry friends were capable of living longer. The hardest part about owning a dog is saying goodbye to your best friend for the last time, but it's an unfortunate side effect of welcoming these beautiful animals into our lives.
Unfortunately, dogs have much shorter lifespans than us, living on average to an age of 10 to 13 years. Even the oldest dog on record throughout history lived to be 29 years of age, so if you're wondering whether dogs can live for 30 years, the answer is not as of yet.
However, there are still plenty of things you can do to help your pooch live a long and paw-some life.
Signs Your Dog is Getting Old
Aching joints, hearing loss, and going gray — many of the telltale signs of old age in humans are also present in our dogs.
However, the first symptom many owners notice is when their pooch starts to slow down. Where once your dog was constantly on the go and always ready to run a marathon, as old age approaches they start to take a more relaxed and laidback approach to life. Part of this may be due to the fact that a dog's personality matures as they age, but it can also indicate that their body is not in the same great shape it once was.
As arthritis takes hold, stiff and aching joints can make it difficult for your pet to get moving. They may be reluctant to exercise, and they simply may not have the same energy levels as they used to.
Hearing and vision loss are common, while you may notice cloudiness in your dog's eyes and graying around the muzzle. More frequent urination, possibly including the occasional "accident", may occur as well.
Finally, don't forget to keep your eyes peeled for any behavior changes. Older dogs can be a little grumpy and even aggressive, or they may become disoriented and confused by any changes in their routine.
The Oldest Dog in History
The oldest dog on record was an Australian Cattle Dog by the name of Bluey. This remarkable canine lived to the ripe old age of 29 years and five months, from June 1910 to November 1939. Bluey may have fallen just short of the 30-year milestone, but it's worth pointing out that he was an outlier.
In fact, Bluey's impressive lifespan, along with the long life of Chilla, a Labrador-Australian Cattle Dog Cross that reportedly lived to the age of 32 (though this was not officially verified), prompted a study into the longevity of the Australian Cattle Dog. The results of this 100-dog study revealed an average lifespan for the breed of 13.41 years.
There have also been a couple of other contenders staking their claims for the title of world's oldest dog. One of them, Max, was a Beagle, Dachshund, and Terrier mix who reportedly lived from August 1983 to May 2013. For those of you playing along at home, that's an age of 29 years and 282 days.
Another well-credentialed contender was Bella, a Labrador cross from the UK. Bella passed away in 2011 at, according to her owner, the age of 29. However, with no documentation to prove Bella's age, this long-lived pooch didn't receive any official recognition.
The Science of Dog Lifespans
Google "average dog lifespan" and the figure you're presented with is 10 to 13 years. However, dogs come in all shapes and sizes and their longevity is influenced by several important factors, so there's every chance your dog could live longer (or shorter) than this ballpark figure.
The biggest factor that affects a dog's lifespan is its size. Small dogs live much longer than large breeds, so if you want a long-lived companion you'll usually be much better off choosing a Chihuahua than a Great Dane. In fact, average life expectancy can differ quite markedly between breeds, as shown below:
- American Staffordshire Terrier: 12-14 years.
- Australian Shepherd: 12-15 years.
- Beagle: 12-14 years.
- Boxer: 8-10 years.
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: 9-14 years.
- Chihuahua: 14-18 years.
- Dachshund: 12-14 years.
- French Bulldog: 9-11 years.
- Great Dane: 7-10 years.
- Labrador: 10-12 years.
- Poodle: 12-15 years.
- Yorkshire Terrier: 14-16 years.
Other factors that can play a part in determining your dog's lifespan include:
- Genetics. Your dog's genes affect the rate at which they age and the diseases they may be prone to.
- Diet and weight. Feeding a high-quality diet is crucial to ensuring that your dog gets all the nutrients they need for a long and healthy life. Along with regular exercise, this can help your dog stay in a healthy weight range, which in turn reduces the risk of a wide range of diseases.
- Level of care. Vaccinating your dog, getting them spayed or neutered, and staying on top of parasite prevention can all improve the quality and length of their life.
Helping Your Dog Live a Long and Healthy Life
It's extremely unlikely that your dog will live to see their 30th birthday, but there are still loads of simple things you can do to maximize your pet's chances of living as long as possible.
The first of those is to feed the best-quality diet you can reasonably afford. Super-premium pet foods are backed by years of scientific research and are specially formulated to meet all of your pet's nutritional needs. Make sure you choose a food designed for your dog's size and life stage, and only give treats in moderation.
Next, don't forget the importance of exercise for both body and mind. Though your pet may not be as energetic as they once were, regular exercise is still vital for their general health. So too is mental stimulation, such as that provided by puzzle toys or obedience training, as it helps aging canine minds stay as sharp as possible.
Of course, the right diet and regular exercise should also ensure that your dog stays in a healthy weight range. This may not seem all that important at times — after all, it's not like your pooch has to worry about squeezing into their favorite pair of jeans or anything — but it's crucial to reduce the risk of your dog suffering from a range of illnesses and diseases.
Other important steps you can take to keep your dog in optimum health include:
- Staying up to date with vaccinations
- Spaying or neutering your furry friend
- Taking your dog to the vet for a once-yearly check-up
Last but not least, don't forget to shower your dog with all the love and attention they deserve. Considering the joy and companionship they bring into our lives, it really is the least you can do.
By a Labrador Retriever lover Tim Falk
Published: 03/21/2018, edited: 04/06/2020