How Long Do Dogs Live—and How Can You Help Your Dog Live Longer?
We all wish our furry friends could live forever. But how long do dogs really live? Here's what we know about the life expectancy of our dear pups.
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really,” said author Agnes Sligh Turnbull, famously. The quote captures the truth felt by all dog lovers: That no matter how long our furry four-legged companions live, it’s never long enough. If you’ve ever looked at your own pup and wished they could live forever, you’re not alone. But how long do dogs live exactly? And why do the biggest dog breeds seem to have shorter lifespans than small or toy dog breeds?
“If we could take every drop of love we have for our dogs and turn them into minutes, then they would live forever,” says Bethany Hsia, DVM, and co-founder of CodaPet, which offers peaceful at-home pet euthanasia services. “Unfortunately, we don’t have these powers, so we keep on researching and advancing veterinary medicine to give our pets the best and longest lives we can.”
We spoke to the experts to find out which dogs have the longest dog lifespans, how long you can expect your own dog to live, depending on their breed, size and lifestyle, and tips to improve the health of your pup—and hopefully lengthen their time with you.
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How long do dogs live?
“Dogs, on average, live anywhere from 10 to 13 years,” says Cheri Honnas, DVM, veterinary advisor to Bone Voyage Dog Rescue. But “average” is the key word here. The dog that currently holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest dog ever is a 31-year-old named Bobi, whose breed (Rafeiro do Alentejo) is only expected to live an average of 12 to 14 years. Bobi is a great example that, with the right care, dogs can far surpass their expected lifespans. These other factors can also greatly influence how long dogs live.
- Breed: Some breeds naturally have longer lifespans, including some of the healthiest dog breeds. While other breeds live for fewer years and are more likely to be at risk for certain ailments. For instance, Labrador retrievers have higher instances of cancer than other breeds, while French bulldogs are more susceptible to heat stroke (this is thanks to their flat faces and shorter airways, which make breathing more challenging).
- Genetics: Just like humans, a dog’s genetic lottery plays a big role in determining how long a dog may live.
- Size: In general, smaller breeds tend to live longer than larger ones.
- Lifestyle: A balanced diet, regular exercise, routine vet checkups and a loving environment can positively impact a dog’s lifespan.
- Illness: Certain medical conditions, such as cancer, arthritis and obesity, can greatly decrease a dog’s life expectancy, if not treated in time (so be aware of dog illness symptoms).
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How long do big dogs live?
Large dogs—or dogs that weigh more than 50 pounds, such as German shepherds and Great Danes—live an average of 8 to 12 years, but that, too, can vary, says Dr. Honnas. Generally speaking, the bigger the dog, the shorter the lifespan.
How long 8 popular big dog breeds live
- Great Dane: 8 to 10 years
- Irish wolfhound: 8 to 10 years
- Golden retriever: 10 to 12 years
- Newfoundland: 10 to 12 years
- Rottweiler: 10 to 12 years
- St. Bernard: 10 to 12 years
- Labrador retriever: 10 to 14 years
- Akita: 11 to 15 years
- Irish setter: 12 to 14 years
- Belgian malinois: 14 to 16 years
How long do medium-size dogs live?
Medium dog breeds—or dogs that weigh between 20 and 50 pounds, such as border collies and Australian shepherds—live around 10 to 13 years, says Dr. Honnas. However, there are plenty of exceptions. For instance, the English bulldog lives 8 to 10 years on average, due to genetic conditions that affect its breathing. But the second-oldest dog on record was a medium breed: an Australian cattle dog named Bluey, that lived to the ripe old age of 29.
How long 8 popular medium dog breeds live
- Boxer: 10 to 12 years
- Chow chow: 11 to 13 years
- French bulldog: 11 to 13 years
- Australian shepherd: 12 to 15 years
- Beagle: 12 to 15 years
- Poodle: 12 to 15 years
- Whippet: 12 to 15 years
- Cocker spaniel: 13 to 15 years
How long do small dogs live?
Small-breed dogs—or dogs that weigh less than 20 pounds—live 12 to 15 years on average, but have been known to far surpass that. “Chihuahua and dachshund often rank among the longest-living breeds,” says Dr. Honnas. Chihuahua lifespans can be as long as 20 years. In fact, a Chihuahua named Spike from Ohio celebrated his 23rd birthday in January 2023.
How long 8 popular small dog breeds live
- Shih tzu: 10 to 18 years
- Jack Russell terrier: 12 to 14 years
- Yorkshire terrier: 12 to 15 years
- Rat terrier: 13 to 15 years
- English toy spaniel: 13 to 15 years
- Wire fox terrier: 13 to 15 years
- Pomeranian: 14 to 16 years
- Chihuahua: 15 to 17 years
Why do large dogs have shorter lifespans?
In the animal kingdom, often the largest animals—like the blue whale and the elephant—live the longest, so it seems counterintuitive (and unfair!) that large dogs tend to have shorter lifespans. But experts think a variety of factors are at play.
They grow faster
Large-breed dogs grow faster than small breeds, and they undergo swift changes during the first few years of their lives. “This rapid development, combined with their naturally faster metabolic rates, may lead to increased cellular stress,” says Dr. Honnas. Over the years, this heightened cell activity could make large dogs susceptible to the earlier onset of age-related diseases, impacting their overall lifespan. In other words, they grow faster—and age faster—causing their bodies to show signs of wear and tear sooner than small, slower-growing dogs.
They are more prone to medical challenges
Large breeds are inherently more prone to certain medical conditions, such as cardiac issues and joint disorders. Just like humans who struggle with obesity, a dog’s larger size can place added strain on their cardiovascular system, leading to potential heart-related problems. “Similarly, the demands of supporting a more massive frame expose them to skeletal issues, such as hip dysplasia and arthritis,” says Dr. Honnas.
They’re at increased risk for cancer
It’s long been known that certain large-dog breeds like Labrador retrievers have higher incidences of cancer, but not until a recent study published in the American Naturalist did researchers understand why. Because humans are responsible for the rapid and recent selective breeding of bigger dogs, “large-breed dogs may not have had enough evolutionary time to develop robust defenses against diseases, particularly cancer,” says Dr. Honnas. “This lag in evolutionary adaptation means they might not only be more susceptible to [cancer], but they might also face faster progression rates when afflicted, further curtailing their lifespans.”
How long do mixed breeds live?
While many people look to purebreds for their predictability in size, temperament and appearance, if you want a dog that has a longer lifespan, a mixed breed may be a better choice. A 2019 study from the American Animal Hospital Association found that mixed-breed dogs live significantly longer than purebred dogs.
“Mixed-breed dogs tend to have fewer health issues compared with purebred dogs due to their broader gene pool,” says Dr. Hsia. “This genetic diversity can contribute to increased overall health and potentially longer lifespans.” Of course, genetic makeup is only one factor, and the size of the dog and how it is cared for can also determine how long dogs live, whether they’re mixed breed or not.
How can you help your dog live longer?
While there are factors out of your control, such as size, genes and hereditary diseases (try a doggie DNA test to learn more), there are plenty of things you can do to make sure your dog has the happiest, healthiest and longest life possible. “Remember, each dog is an individual, and with proper care and love, they can often exceed these average lifespans,” says Dr. Honnas.
Feed them a high-quality, healthy diet
“Feed your dog high-quality commercial or home-cooked food, appropriate for their age, size and activity level,” says Dr. Honnas. Talk to your vet to learn the best diet for dogs that will suit your pup’s needs, and make sure you’re limiting table scraps and not overdoing it with the treats. Just like in humans, pet obesity can cause a number of health problems, so keeping your dog in a healthy weight range for its size and breed is imperative for a long life.
Tailor their exercise plan
“Regular physical exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, strengthens muscles and joints, improves cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of obesity-related diseases,” says Dr. Hsia. The key is making sure the exercise is tailored to your dog’s size and breed. For example, larger breeds should not be taken running when they’re puppies, as it could exacerbate joint issues when they’re older. And don’t forget to exercise their largest organ—the brain! “Regular mental exercise such as interactive toys, puzzles and training exercises also contributes to a healthier and happier life for your dog,” says Dr. Hsia.
Get to the vet regularly
Take your dog to the vet for yearly physicals. “These are essential for early detection and prevention of potential health issues,” says Dr. Hsia. Make sure you’re cleaning their teeth regularly as well, as a recent study found that periodontal disease negatively impacts a dog’s overall health. This is especially important for small dogs, as small breeds are more prone to dental disease.
About the experts
- Bethany Hsia, DVM, is a co-founder of CodaPet, which offers peaceful at-home pet euthanasia services. She graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and has been practicing veterinary medicine since 2010. Prior to her graduate degree, Dr. Bethany studied at San Francisco State University, earning her bachelor of science in biology and a double minor in chemistry and speech and communications.
- Cheri Honnas, DVM, is veterinary advisor to Bone Voyage Dog Rescue. After earning her degree in veterinary medicine from Texas A&M in 2017, she traveled the globe to work with animal sanctuaries and has been featured on CNN, the Travel Channel and National Geographic.
- Guinness World Records: “Oldest dog ever record broken by 30-year-old Bobi from Portugal”
- American Kennel Club: “How long do dogs live?”
- Guinness World Records: “Oldest dog living: Chihuahua mix from Ohio claims the record”
- American Naturalist: “Dog Life Spans and the Evolution of Aging”
- Research in Veterinary Science: “Relation between periodontal disease and systemic diseases in dogs”