Do small dogs live longer than large dogs? We want our dogs to be with us for a long and happy life; that’s all part of being a good owner. It makes sense, then, that animal lovers would have questions about their dog’s lifespan, especially as it relates to their particular breed. There is a lot of misinformation out there, as well as some that could be confusing for owners. When we took a look back at some of the questions our readers and clients have asked on this subject, these were the most common:
- Do small dogs live longer than large dogs?
- Why do smaller dogs live longer?
- Is it true small dogs live longer than big dogs?
- How long to small dogs live?
- Do all small dogs outlive big dogs?
Here are the answers to these questions about your dog’s size and what it means for their lifespan.
Do Small Dogs Live Longer Than Large Dogs?
Simply put, the answer is yes. It is widely known and accepted that small dogs live longer than large dogs. For example, a Great Dane is considered ”senior” at seven years of age, while a small poodle or Chihuahua is barely considered middle aged at the same age.
Why Do Large Dogs Have Shorter Life Expectancies?
This is a fascinating question, especially if you have ever owned a small mammal such as a rat that only lives to about two years of age. You would think that a smaller size would lead to a longer life, but this just isn’t true with small mammals. Take a look at elephants, for example; they can live as long as humans, and they are huge!
Nature doesn’t always follow specific rules. In April 2013, Dr. Cornelia Kraus from the University of Göttingen in Germany published some groundbreaking research on this subject to help determine the connection between size and life expectancy in dogs. Dr. Kraus analyzed data on the age of death in over 56,000 dogs from 74 different breeds. She found that small dogs do indeed live longer, and the researchers were able to quantify that number. Their findings indicated that for every 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of body weight, a dog’s lifespan decreased by one month.
Dr. Kraus suggests that bigger breeds die more frequently from cancer than smaller dogs do. This may be due to the tendency of large breed dogs to grow faster, which may be associated with the abnormally fast cell growth seen with cancers and accelerate overall aging. Another risk factor may be that larger breed dogs could have more dangerous lifestyles than smaller breed dogs who are more “pampered,” thus increasing their risk factors.
Why Do Smaller Dogs Live Longer?
The flip side of that question is that if big dogs live shorter lives, is there anything that makes small dogs more likely to live longer? Honestly, no one knows for sure. Here are some of the popular theories on the subject, though:
1. As mentioned above, it is believed that smaller dogs live longer because they grow more slowly than large breed dogs. Smaller dogs don’t have the fast division of cells that big dogs have and can be associated with cancer and accelerate aging.
2. Another theory has to do with concentrations of growth hormone. Studies suggest that small dogs have lower concentrations of the growth hormone IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor 1, in their blood than big dogs. Lower concentrations of IGF-1 shows a reduced risk of age-related diseases and longer lifespans. In humans, high levels of IGF-1 have been associated with increased risk of death from heart disease and cancer.
When Is a Dog Considered a Senior?
The determination of when your dog enters their “golden years” can have big impacts on their health. For example, there are some tests that vets encourage which only become necessary past a certain age or stage of development. When a dog becomes “senior,” however, depends on the size of the dog. Because large breed dogs have a shorter lifespan, they are frequently considered seniors sooner than small breed dogs. Our article, When is a Dog Considered Senior? gives you the lifespan of the most common breeds.
As for a general guideline, it helps to know that dogs are generally considered senior during the last 25% of their life. The following estimates for senior status take a dog’s weight into account:
- For dogs over 80 pounds: approximately 4 to 6 years of age
- For dogs 51 to 80 pounds: approximately 6 to 8 years of age
- For dogs 16 to 50 pounds: approximately 7 to 9 years of age
- For dogs 15 pounds or less: approximately 9 to 11 years of age
How Long Do Small Dogs Live?
Small dogs (those less than 15 pounds) typically have a lifespan of 11.25 to 15 years. However, some small breed dogs can easily live to be 18 years old.
Do All Small Dogs Outlive Big Dogs?
Of course, no one can predict how long an individual dog will live. There’s always the possibility of unpredictable illness or accident, genetic predisposition to disease that may lurk in your dog’s genes, or just sheer bad luck. Generally speaking, however, the larger the breed, the faster they age and the shorter their lifespan is.