Skip to Primary Content

Sunset Veterinary Clinic

Ask the Vet: Why Do Dogs Have Short Life Spans?

Owner Sitting with Dog at the Dock by the Lake

All animals have different lifespans. Yet it seems especially cruel that dogs, a species so close to humans in so many ways, have such short ones.

Dogs live anywhere from 8 to 15 years, depending on their breed and a number of other factors, such as their:

  • Genetics

  • Overall size

  • Living environment

  • Daily diet

  • Frequency of exercise

  • Weight, in proportion to their frame and average breed size

  • Dental health

 Other factors can influence a dog’s lifespan as well.

  • Do the owners provide parasite and disease prevention?

  • Was the dog spayed or neutered? Early spaying and neutering can minimize reproductive organ disease risk and help dogs live longer.

Why do even the healthiest dogs have short lifespans?

Even if you helped your dog stay as healthy and disease-free as possible, it’s a wretched truth that they simply cannot live as long as the average human.

Why not? Like many animal species, the answer lies in how fast they grow and develop. Dogs grow faster than humans, and therefore, their entire lives are accelerated.

Humans, for example, don’t start developing teeth until around month 4. Dogs, on the other hand, start teething when they’re around 3 or 4 weeks old. After puppy-hood, middle-age and old-age come on earlier for dogs — while humans are still entering childhood and adolescence.

Why do larger dogs have shorter lives than small dogs?

The average lifespan for dogs below 20 lbs. is 11 years, but the average lifespan for dogs above 90 lbs. is 8 years.

These stats underscore the general rule of thumb: The bigger the breed, the shorter its average lifespan.

Why is this? Veterinarians and researchers aren’t exactly sure. Still, it has been suggested that it’s because larger dogs’ organs need to do more work or because bigger dogs grow at an accelerated rate and have organs that shut down sooner.

What are the most common signs of aging in dogs?

  • Arthritis — often characterized by trouble getting up in the morning

  • Graying or whitening of the coat

  • Increased anxiety, which may be caused by diminished vision and hearing

  • Lethargy and increased sleeping

The best thing you can do is keep your dog healthy

It’s important to remember that old age is not a disease. This goes for pets, as well as humans.

Still, it is up to us to monitor and support our dogs’ health and to be proactive when problems do arise. If detected, we may be able to intervene and hopefully maximize our pet’s life expectancy while supporting their well-being.

To help your beloved dog live as long and healthy of a life as possible, make sure you schedule a physical checkup for your dog at least once a year. Call Sunset Veterinary Clinic today to arrange your appointment.

“Old age is not a disease. We need to remember that with regard to pets, as well as humans. However, with time the body may need more support and proactive monitoring to detect problems which commonly arise. If detected, we may be able to intervene and hopefully maximize our pet’s life expectancy while supporting their well-being.” – Danel Grimmett, DVM

The World’s Oldest Known Dog

The world record holder for world’s oldest dog is Bluey, an Australian Cattle Dog. Bluey lived in Victoria, Australia on a farm from 1910 to 1939 before dying peacefully at the age of 29 years and five months.