The big bodies of larger breeds do more work than those of smaller dogs. Over the course of their lives this tends to put more stress on the heart, organs, and joints, resulting in statistically shorter life spans.
Typically, large breeds like German Shepherds, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers live between 8 and 10 years (for small breeds life expectancy is 12 to 14 years). A big dog is considered a senior citizen by the time it reaches the sixth year of life, so it’s a good idea to closely monitor his diet and exercise by that time.
A trim dog tends to live longer
While every large breed has its own health risks and susceptibility to certain diseases, veterinarians agree that obesity leads to more life-ending injuries and ailments in large dogs than any other risk factor. In a recent study of 23,000 dogs (large and small breeds) at the Mark Morris Institute in Kansas almost 25% of them were overweight. And large breeds tend to be more overweight than other dogs due to their difficulty with sustained exercise, common joint issues like hip dysplasia, and overfeeding.
Interestingly, studies also show that spayed and neutered dogs live longer. This might be because unaltered dogs roam more, increasing the chances of contracting disease. If altering is an option for your dog, speak with your vet about the best time for the proceedure.
Life-prolonging steps that vets agree upon:
- Use a controlled, “lifestage” feeding plan for puppies, adults, and seniors to help them stay healthy, reduce the risk of obesity, and to support their quality of life.
- A low-fat, high-fiber diet lengthens a dog’s life span.
- Twice-a-day feedings work better than other regimens to keep weight down. The morning meal should be slightly larger than the night feeding.
A variety of supplements—from Omega 3 and 6 oils to glucosamine chondroitin sulphate—may help reduce debilitating ailments in large dogs, thereby adding years to their lives. Speak to a veterinary nutritionist to see if preventive food additives could benefit your dog.