The world we live in is complex. Whether we are talking about the lives of humans or dogs, there are just so many factors to consider. So, asking questions such as ‘How long do dogs live for?’ is never going to have an entirely straightforward answer. Having said that, we can provide a few useful facts about the lifespan of dogs.
The world’s oldest known dog was called ‘Bluey’. He was an Australian Cattle Dog and lived on a farm in Victoria, Australia. Bluey lived until the age of twenty-nine.
When we look at Bluey’s life, we can see that he was fortunate enough to live his entire life on a farm in the outback. He was also a working dog until late in his life. That meant that he was exercising well every single day.
Interestingly, about two years ago, Bluey’s record was broken – by another Australian Cattle Dog called Maggie. Again, the dog lived on a farm in Victoria, Australia. She passed away peacefully at the age of thirty. What is fascinating is what these two dogs have in common. They are both Australian Cattle Dogs -also known as Kelpies. The average lifespan for a working kelpie is thirteen years old, which is surprisingly long for a dog.
What these dogs also have in common is that they both lived active lives on farms with owners that treated the dogs like family. In addition, the diet of both dogs consisted of mostly fresh meat, grass and a lot of bones.
Smaller Dogs Live Longer
Different breeds of dog seem to have different average lifespans. Some breeds just seem to live longer. One typical pattern that emerges is that the lifespan of breeds seems to have a lot to do with the size of the dog. The dog breeds with the shortest lifespan are as follows:
- French mastiff
- Great Dane
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Irish Wolfhound
All these dogs are among the biggest dog breeds. Their average lifespan is between five and eight years.
On the other side of the spectrum, besides the anomaly of the Australian Cattle Dog, the longest living dog is the Chihuahua. It also happens to be one of the smallest breeds of dogs in the world. Chihuahuas live an average of eighteen years.
It is thought that these differences in lifespan according to size comes from the higher work rate required of the heart. The same phenomena seem to be observed in humans. The heart must work much harder to pump the blood around the body of a seven-foot man versus a four-foot man. If you have a car and you rev the engine continually, it is going to wear out quicker – that is obvious.
But are there other factors at play here? The Australian Cattle Dog is not considered a small dog. They are somewhere right in the middle of the Great Dane and the Chihuahua – yet they occupy the top two spots. But look at the top ten, and it is very diverse indeed.
Looking after the mental and physical wellness of a dog can have a profound effect on its lifespan. Regular exercise and a whole foods diet can go a long way – as demonstrated by Bluey and Maggie. A regular bone regime is essential since bones contain high amounts of collagen – the vital protein required to rebuild and regenerate the cells of the body. Collagen supplements are also a powerful way to keep your dog healthy.
Mental wellbeing consists of showing your dog affection, making it feel part of the pack and playing with him or her regularly. Dogs are loving pack animals, and they are also playful creatures. Mental wellbeing keeps the muscles of the body relaxed, which allows the blood, oxygen and other compounds to flow naturally in the body. We all know that any reduction in stress has a profound impact on our physical health.
Some other factors that are known to affect a dog’s lifespan are whether it has been inbred or cross-bred, and whether the dog has been de-sexed from a young age. Inbreeding is detrimental to dogs’ genes and can dramatically increase the chances of the dog carrying weak organs and developing cancer at some point in its lifetime. On the other hand, cross-breeding has been shown to strengthen a dog’s genes. Of the top ten oldest dogs in the world, four are cross-bred to the point where they would be commonly classed as ‘mutts’ or ‘unknown breed’.
De-sexing a dog when it is young can also increase its lifespan. It has been suggested that the procedure can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer in dogs.
So how long do dogs live for?
As I said in the beginning, the answer to such a question is never going to be straightforward. But the answer depends on factors of genetics and factors of lifestyle. The most significant genetic factor seems to be around the size of the dog, but also one of cross-breeding v interbreeding. On the other hand, lifestyle factors such as a clean diet, regular exercise and a loving home can dramatically increase the lifespan of your furry friend.