We doubt that many people will choose a dog simply because, as he ages, he's more likely—due to breed characteristics—to stay healthier. However, as dog lovers we enjoy learning about the traits that some breeds feature more prominently than others. So it could make you wonder: Are there breeds that are usually healthier in the golden years?
Many factors determine overall health
A dog's life is a complicated mix of so many factors, it's impossible (except in the case of an accident) to determine if any single one can determine if he'll be a healthy senior. Diet, exercise, genetics, and happenstance all combine in ways both subtle and complex to influence a dog's health as he reaches the last stage of his life. If there were a magic formula for guaranteeing health and vigor in the senior years, we'd be happy to share it with you. That formula doesn't exist, but here are some general tips that—if followed throughout your dog's life—can help impact his senior health in a positive way:
- Feed your dog high-quality food, starting as a puppy. Make sure his diet is balanced and complete and reflects the nutritional needs he has at every life stage.
- Take your dog to the vet regularly for checkups and vaccinations. And make sure your dog sees the vet if he/she becomes ill or is in an accident. Proper oral care is also very important for the health and well-being of your dog: Serious medical conditions have been linked to advanced periodontal disease.
- Always follow your vet's advice if he prescribes medication or special treatments for your dog.
- Exercise your dog daily, the exact routine based on his capabilities and age. And make sure you don't push him too hard as he gets older. He's not a puppy anymore—but he still needs his exercise.
- Play games with your dog to keep his mind alert and active. Plus, this helps strengthen the bond between the two of you.
The breed factor
Some breeds have a propensity to develop certain diseases and conditions. For example, Basset Hounds, Beagles, Boxers, Schnauzers, and Yorkshire Terriers are among the breeds that are more prone to congenital heart defects. And Dobermans, Irish Setters, Standard Poodles, and Weimaraners are more susceptible to bloat than some other breeds. However, these are general tendencies and are not necessarily age related.
When trying to predict if a particular breed is more likely to be healthy in the senior years, it's tempting to look at life expectancy for clues. Here are a few facts:
- According to a 1999 study published by the British Veterinary Association, smaller breeds, such as Miniature Poodles, Miniature Dachshunds, Whippets and Bedlington Terriers, are among the longest-lived breeds. On the other side of the longevity scale, Great Danes, Bullmastiffs, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and other giant breeds tend to have the shortest lifespans.
- Large dogs are generally considered "seniors" at an earlier age than smaller dogs. To see when your dog will be considered a senior, look up his breed in our Dog Age Calculator.
You must keep in mind, however, that life expectancy is not the same thing as health. To help your dog maintain his health in his senior years—no matter what his breed—you should follow the five tips outlined above.