The hardest part about being a dog owner is saying goodbye to your fur-kid, so wouldn't it be great if dogs could outlive us so that we'd never have to deal with the pain and grief when a furry friend passes away? Unfortunately, it's simply not possible for our dogs to live longer than humans. While some hardy pooches can live to the ripe old age of 15 or more, their life expectancy falls well short of our own.
However, there's still plenty you can do to help maximize your dog's chances of living a long, happy, and healthy life, and to ensure that they stay comfortable and content well into old age.
Signs Your Dog is Getting Old
Older dogs make wonderful companions. While everyone makes a big fuss about the joy, enthusiasm, and unbelievable cuteness of the puppy years, older dogs are serene, relaxed, loyal, and loving pets that know exactly where they fit in your life. Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, they want to be right by your side.
However, the telltale signs that indicate your dog has transitioned from adulthood into their senior years can take a little while to detect. The most common sign of aging is simply slowing down — whereas once your dog was always on the go, and always moving at a million miles an hour, as old age encroaches, they start to appreciate the joy of taking things a little more slowly. Some of this adjustment could be down to their personality changing as they grow older, but it can sometimes also be a result of a lifetime of activity starting to take its toll on their aging body.
As joints and muscles start to experience aches and pains, your dog might start to show a reluctance to exercise, or at least take a while to get moving. As their metabolism slows, older dogs can also start to gain weight, which can also place further pressure on joints and limit mobility.
Just like in humans, eyesight and hearing also fade in senior pooches. Your pet may no longer be as efficient at coming when called, while you may also notice your dog's eyes developing that distinctive "cloudy" look.
More frequent trips to the bathroom, and maybe also the occasional accident, complete the picture of a dog that's starting to get a bit long in the tooth.
Dog vs Human Life Expectancy Through History
In 1917, the average life expectancy in the United States was 48.4 years for men and 54 years for women. Of course, the world today is a very different place to the one it was 100 years ago, and advances in medical technology and our knowledge of how to treat an extensive range of illnesses has seen those figures rise substantially. In 2017, the average life expectancy for men in the United States had climbed to 76 years, while women on average live to the age of 81.
At the same time, many of the advances in human medicine have had a trickle-down effect to veterinary medicine. As we've humanized our pets more and more and they've come to play increasingly important roles in our lives, our efforts to understand their health issues and find suitable ways to treat them have similarly grown. As a result, the average canine lifespan is now twice as long as it was just four years ago.
How Long do Dogs Live?
A quick Google search will tell you that the average lifespan for dogs is anywhere between 10 and 13 years. However, the reality is that doggy lifespans vary greatly and are influenced by a wide range of factors, including:
- Size. Smaller breeds are capable of living much longer than larger breeds. As an example, while Chihuahuas have an average lifespan of 15 to 17 years, Great Danes only live for 8 to 10 years.
- Care. Dogs that are fed a healthy diet, get plenty of regular exercise, and stay in a healthy weight range live longer.
- Spaying and neutering. Studies have shown that spaying or neutering your dog at a young age may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, which can in turn have a positive effect on life expectancy.
The average life expectancy differs from one breed to the next:
- Australian Shepherd: 12-15 years
- Beagle: 12-14 years
- Bernese Mountain Dog: 7-10 years
- Bulldog: 10-12 years
- Chihuhua: 15-17 years
- French Bulldog: 11-13 years
- Great Dane: 8-10 years
- Labrador Retriever: 10-12 years
- Newfoundland: 10-12 years
- Pomeranian: 14-16 years
- Poodle: 12-15 years
- Rottweiler: 10-12 years
- Yorkshire Terrier: 12-15 years
Interestingly, the oldest dog on record was an Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey, who reportedly lived to the grand old age of 29!
Helping Your Dog Live as Long as Possible
No matter how long your dog lives, every dog lover agrees that it will never be long enough. However, there's plenty you can do to ensure that your dog enjoys a long and healthy life.
The basic goal is to help your pet stay in as good a shape as possible. This means feeding a high-quality diet designed to meet the nutritional needs of their age and life stage. It also means cutting down on fatty treats, and providing plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to keep their body and mind in tip-top condition.
Vaccinations are also important, while parasite prevention is a must. Regular veterinary check-ups will allow you to pick up on any health problems as they develop, and your vet can advise you on how best to care for your aging canine. Spaying/neutering and looking after your pet's dental health are other simple things you can do to maximize your pet's chances of reaching double digits and living as long as possible.
Of course, it's also vital to remember that no matter what you do, your pet isn't going to be here forever. Make the most of the time you have with them and enjoy every moment as it comes — when your pet does eventually cross the rainbow bridge, you'll be left with many years worth of happy memories to look back on.
By a Labrador Retriever lover Tim Falk
Published: 03/05/2018, edited: 04/06/2020