The Saint Bernard dog is classed as a large or giant breed that originated in the Swiss Alps, and was widely used originally as a mountain rescue dog, which brought the breed to prominence as a lifesaver and famous search and rescue recovery dog. They have a very large, heavy and muscular appearance, and can stand up to 35.5” tall at the withers and weigh up to 120kg, with males tending to be slightly larger than females.
The coat of the Saint Bernard can be either rough or smooth, and is generally red or mahogany in colour, with white areas around the neck and legs and sometimes, black on the face. Despite their large size, they are generally gentle, calm dogs that are quiet within the home, trustworthy with children, and friendly with both strangers and family members.
While the breed is still used within the Swiss Alps for rescue work and other duties, they are much more widely kept as pets, both within the UK and further afield. If you love large and giant breeds, the Saint Bernard might be one worth considering. It is of course important to do plenty of research into any dog breed before committing to a purchase or adoption, and for giant breeds, it is particularly important to find out about the health and average longevity of the breed in detail. We will look into these aspects of ownership in more detail within this article.
The average lifespan of the Saint Bernard is 7-10 years, which provides quite a wide range of variance, and does not reflect a particularly long lifespan. However, large and particularly giant breeds tend to live shorter lifespans than their smaller counterparts, and as such, the average lifespan for the breed is within the normal range for all breeds of a similar size and build.
The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the Saint Bernard breed is 5%, which falls well within the accepted norm for pedigree dog breeds of 6.25% or lower. This indicates that the Saint Bernard breed as a whole is not subjected to a large amount of inbreeding in order to keep breed lines viable.
The sheer size and weight of the Saint Bernard breed means that a significant amount of strain is placed on the joints and muscles, as well as on the heart itself. Care should be taken, particularly with young dogs of the breed that are still growing, to ensure that they are not strained or placed under undue pressure.
The Saint Bernard is also a serious drooler, and can often be seen with “shoelaces” of slobber hanging from their mouths! As a very large, deep chested breed, the Saint Bernard is also at risk of developing bloat or gastric torsion, a very serious condition in which the stomach fills with a dangerous amount of gas, and may flip over on itself.
The British Veterinary Association and The Kennel Club recommend the following health tests and screening schemes for the Saint Bernard dog:
The Saint Bernard breed is one of fifteen breeds that the UK Kennel Club classes as “high profile,” meaning that the breed is classed as of concern due to the prevalence of a range of hereditary health problems that can have a significant impact on the quality of life and longevity of the breed as a whole.
As well as the conditions noted above, the Saint Bernard is also known to be potentially prone to a range of other health issues, for which no pre-breeding health screening is currently available. Such conditions include: