Why do giant dog breeds live shorter lifespans?

Why do giant dog breeds live shorter lifespans?

Health & Safety

A very rough rule of thumb when it comes to dogs and dog breeds is that smaller breeds as a whole tend to live for longer lifespans than larger dogs, and particularly giant breeds. In fact, many giant breeds only reach an average age of seven or eight, or even shorter in some cases, although there is of course some scope for variance at the higher end of the scale.

This means that if you own or hope to own a giant dog breed at some stage, it is important to find out what their average lifespan is likely to be, and to understand that you may not get as many years with your giant dog as you would with a small or medium breed.

However, one common question when it comes to giant breeds with shorter lifespans is why they tend to live for less time than the average dog, and what factors combine to make many giant breeds among the most short lived of dogs.

In this article we will examine the various factors that contribute to a shorter lifespan in giant dog breeds, and some of the steps that you can take to try to ensure that you buy or adopt a healthy puppy. Read on to learn more.

What makes a giant breed?

There are quite a lot of different giant dog breeds in the world, although some of them are uncommon or even not recognised in the UK, and giant breeds come from all over the world from all sorts of different backgrounds and environments, with the only commonality across all of them being their size.

Many dog breeds that hail from mountainous regions are classed as giant breeds, such as the Bernese mountain dog, but many shepherd breeds from various countries too are often larger than life, as are some dogs of the mastiff type like the Tibetan mastiff. In order for a breed to be classed as giant, they usually possess a combination of both great height and a lot of bulk, although there are some exceptions such as the Irish wolfhound, which is tall but lean.

Giant breed development

One other factor that most giant breeds share as well as their large size is that they tend to grow and develop more slowly than smaller dogs. When the average pup reaches one year of age they are generally classed as an adult dog, and have essentially grown and matured physically as much as they are going to. However, giant breeds take a lot longer to reach their full physical size and for their bones to fully mature, sometimes not becoming true adult dogs until they are two or in some cases, even older.

This means that while these large dogs might look like adults from the time they are around a year old, there is a still a lot of growth and development going on. Essentially, the bones and joints continue to grow and harden as they get older, which means that for many giant breeds, you must take care when they are young to avoid overexertion or strain on the joints and bones.

Injuries or strains developed before the pup has become a true adult can have repercussions later on for their joint and bone health, and typical bone and joint problems such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia tend to be greater risks for giant breeds than they are for younger dogs.

While neither of these conditions are potentially direct causes of death, they may require an operation or treatment to correct, and the risks of surgery and anaesthetic are greater for giant breeds than for smaller dogs.

This means that bone and joint problems that may develop when the dog is young or that may happen as the dog ages can impact upon the dog’s mobility and quality of life when they are older, potentially shortening their lifespan due to the ways in which this can affect health and wellness later on.

Why the shorter lifespan?

When it comes to causes of death in large and giant dog breeds, there is no one root condition or cause that is across the board the most common or leading cause of death.

All told, it is generally a combination of factors that lead to the young lifespans of most larger breeds, many of which are related to the sheer size of the dog itself, and the impact that this has on the essential organs and other bodily systems.

The impact of chronic or hereditary predispositions to problems such as hip, bone and joint problems contribute to this, as pain or discomfort take a toll, and a lack of mobility of course affects weight and fitness, which in turn also shorten the lifespan.

Heart problems are reasonably common in older dogs of large breeds too, simply due to the amount of work that a large or giant dog’s heart has to undertake to circulate air and blood around the body. Heart murmurs, blockages and malformations are reasonably common in older dogs, and are often the ultimate cause of death, or a great contributor to it in many cases.

Keeping giant dogs fit and healthy and vitally, keeping their weight within healthy norms and feeding a suitable diet is vital in order to keep the dog healthy for as long as possible, as is having regular health checks with the vet-ideally every six months for dogs over five or with any known problems-in order to pick up on any problems that may be in the developmental stages as early as possible.



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