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How Long Will My Dog Live?

By: Joan Paylo

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Living Longer Lives

Since the 1930s, the canine life span has increased more than 70 percent, from seven years to 12! And that's just the average. With advances in veterinary care and nutrition and more knowledgeable owners, many good-sized dogs now live to 14.

Of course, no one can really predict how long an individual dog will live. There's always the possibility of unpredictable illness or accident. Or, a genetic predisposition to disease may lurk in your dog's genes. But generally speaking, the larger the breed, the faster it ages.

Giant breeds - even pampered and exercised St. Bernards - can begin to show their years as early as four and have a life expectancy of 7 to 11 years. The chihuahua is the smallest breed, with adults weighing between 2 and 9 pounds. They can live 18 years or more. Certain breeds do better than others, as do mixed breeds. On average, smaller mutts and mutts with dominant genes from smaller breeds live longest.

Vets can't yet explain why length of life varies so much with size. "We think of large dogs as having a different metabolism, as living their allotted time faster than smaller dogs," says Dr. Harold Zweighaft of New York City.

Life Spans By Breed

The following list of predicted life spans shows how long various breeds may live.

  • 7-10 years. Great Dane, Newfoundland, Cavalier King Charles spaniel. (Mitral valve disease may affect 50 percent of these toy spaniels in North America.)

  • 9-11 years. St. Bernard, bloodhound, chow chow, boxer, French bulldog. (Von Willebrand's disease, akin to human hemophilia, can impede blood clotting in Frenchies.)

  • 10-13 years. Airedale terrier, Dalmatian, golden retriever, German shepherd, Scottish terrier. (Scotties also may inherit von Willebrand's.)

  • 12-15 years. Beagle, bichon frise, collie, Doberman, papillon, Pomeranian.

  • 14-16 years. Boston terrier, cairn terrier, cocker spaniel, Welsh corgi, Irish setter, Parson Russell terrier, Maltese terrier, poodle (standard), schnauzer, shih tzu, West Highland White terrier, Yorkshire terrier.

  • 15-18 years. Dachshund, poodle (miniature and toy), Chihuahua.

    It's up to you to maintain your dog's health and sense of security and to make sure that she's able to enjoy her natural athletic ability as long as possible. You must be perceptive, noticing changes in your dog's moods and habits. It takes love and commitment to help your dog navigate old age, but it will be returned in kind.

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