Updated by Sheryl on Aug 13, 2021
Owning a dog brings joy to millions of people around the world so it’s no surprise that they are commonly referred to as man’s best friend. As well as providing companionship and affection, our pets can also act as important life lessons for our children, teaching them about death and grief from an early age.
No matter what your age, losing your dog is an upsetting but unavoidable event. So, it’s important to be realistic about how long your dog is expected to live so that you can be prepared for their death. Read our article below to understand how long the average dog lives and how to calculate your dog’s age!
The average lifespan of a dog is 10-13 years old. So, 13 is technically classed as old age for a dog. But this figure varies due to several factors including lifestyle, breed, and diet.
While an active dog with a healthy diet may live 5 years longer than an overweight dog with various health conditions, it’s impossible to predict how long your dog will live. After all, even ‘unhealthy’ dogs can outlive ‘healthy’ dogs.
The official record for the oldest dog in the world goes to Bluey, an Australian cattle-dog from Victoria, Australia! Obtained as a puppy in 1910 by Les and Esma Hall, Bluey lived exactly 29 years, 6 months, and 12 days before being put to sleep in 1939.
Dog size and growth are great indicators of age. Most puppies are classed as adults when they are 1 year old. And many reach their physical maturity after this.
While the majority of dogs stop growing when they are around 1 year old, larger breeds like Saint Bernard’s often take anywhere up to 2 years to fully develop. Yet, some small breeds can reach full growth at ages 6 to 8 months.
So, this depends on what type of dog you have. Even when your puppy is ‘fully grown’, they will continue to develop fat and muscle like human adults do.
Dog years and human years are comparatively very different. Although it’s commonly thought that 7 human years is equal to 1 dog year, it’s not that simple. Dogs mature much quicker than humans do, so their first-year equals around 15 human years. This means that your dog is technically a teenager at age 1!
Size and breed also play a factor in this, as smaller dogs generally live longer than larger ones. There are countless dog age charts to help owners figure out the age of their pup. Take the one below as an example. Age disparities between breeds truly begin to show at around 6 dog years old.
Larger dogs like Great Dane’s have an average age expectancy of 8-10. So, they are noticeably 5 years older than smaller breeds in human age even though they are both age 6 in dog years.
This gap gradually increases as your dog’s age does. In contrast, Chihuahua’s have a life expectancy of anywhere between 12-20 years. So, many are not even close to middle-aged at 6 dog years old.
Dog age calculators are also very popular. These handy formulas will help you to calculate your dog’s age stage. Research shows that the first year of your dog’s life is equal to 15 human years, then the second year is equal to 9 human years, then each following year is equal to 4-5 human years.
If you don’t want to do this sum yourself, there are loads of automated dog age calculators online to help you all at a quick google search away!
It’s important to know your dog’s age so that you can understand what stage of life they are in. This will help you to determine their needs including which food to buy them and how much physical activity they need. If you don’t know your dog’s exact age, you can make a rough guess based on some physical characteristics.
Firstly, you can analyze their teeth. By 8 weeks old, most of your puppy’s baby teeth will have grown and by 7 months clean permanent teeth should be present. Middle-aged dogs generally have tartar buildup with some signs of disease whilst old dogs usually have weak teeth with heavy tartar and some missing teeth.
Secondly, you can look at their coat. A lot of dogs’ fur gets slightly grey when they are older as humans do. This occurs mostly between the ages of seven and ten, but this can be due to stress too.
Thirdly, older dogs’ eyes often have a cloudy or milky appearance. This may eventually lead to blindness or cataracts so it’s a good idea to get their eyes checked now and again by the vet.
Finally, observing mobility levels is a good indicator of dog age. Young dogs are more eager to play and run around whereas older dogs are generally less energetic. Many also have difficulties going up and downstairs, jumping on the couch, or running, especially breeds that are more likely to have arthritis like Labradors.
Sadly, there are countless issues that could cause your dog to have a premature death. Trauma to the body is especially common for dogs who are left outside unattended. Freely roaming dogs can be attacked by wild animals, humans, dogs, hit by cars, or fall over. All of these may cause fatal injury, so the best prevention is to always supervise your pooch.
Letting your dog roam free also makes them much more likely to come into contact with poisons. Whether done on purpose or accidentally, dogs can easily eat rat poisons, pesticides, and fertilizers. So, if you think that your dog has been poisoned you should take an emergency as soon as possible so your dog can be treated.
Cancers are also major causes of early dog death, especially for senior dogs. Although there is no particular cure or prevention method, keeping your dog on the highest quality food you can afford and their diet extremely healthy will reduce the risks. Highly processed foods like meats are linked to cancer and so they are best avoided if possible.
Congenital diseases are another major cause of early dog death. This means that your dog has some form of sickness that has existed since birth, often going unnoticed for months or even years. These can trigger a wide range of health problems like abnormalities to the internal organs and blood disorders.
These are impossible to prevent but they highlight the importance of checking your dog’s parental lineage if possible before buying. It’s also a good idea to get dog health examinations regularly as the vet may pick up on any number of congenital issues which may stop them from getting worse with the correct treatment early on.
As explained above, these issues are why it’s vital to get your dog examined by a vet often. In general, all dogs should have a physical check-up at least once a year. This will help to track any potential issues and prevent early death.
For instance, if your dog is obese, the vet will instruct you to put your dog on a diet and advise you to exercise them more to prevent heart disease, sore joints, and even diabetes.
Young puppies need to visit the vets every 3-4 weeks until they’re around 16 weeks old to get their correct vaccinations. In contrast, senior dogs should probably have a dog health examination every 6 months. This is especially the case if they are experiencing constant health problems or have special medical needs which require a medication from the vet.
Letting your dog go is never an easy thing to do. Give your dog a happy life and make sure they're taken care of well, that’s all a dog could ever want from an owner.Death is a natural part of the life cycle, so it should not put you off getting a dog. All of the fun times you have with your pet and the joy they bring you will definitely outweigh the grief that you may lose them someday.