By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 15 January 2012)
A large-scale study of more than 3,000 dogs conducted by Michell (1999) found that the average age of death for all breeds was 11 years, 1 month (12 years, 8 months for natural causes only). Just 8% of the dogs made it past age 15.
The most common cause of death was disease or euthanasia due to disease (64%), with cancer accounting for nearly 16% of the overall mortality and heart disease approximately double that figure. Key factors affecting longevity include the following.
Small dogs tend to live longer than large dogs. For example, a Chihuahua, at 2-9 pounds, may live 18 years, whereas a Great Dane usually has 7-10 human years of life, according to Paylo (2012). Eckstein (2009) notes that almost 40% of small-breed dogs make it past the 10-year mark on average, whereas just 13% of very large breeds (100+ pounds) can be expected to live past a decade (many of these big dog breeds are considered elderly at 6-7 human years).
Mixed Breed vs. Purebred
Mixed-breed dogs (mongrels) usually live longer than purebreds, with a few exceptions, such as Whippets, Miniature Poodles, and Jack Russells (Michell, 1999). This is unsurprising, given the genetic disorders and vulnerability to certain diseases that afflict many purebreds.
Spay-Neuter Surgery and Gender
Michell (1999) found that spayed female dogs live longer than unspayed females or males, on average. According to Margaret V. Root Kustritz, DVM, PhD, DACT (cited in Keith, 8 January 2008), animals of both genders that have been fixed typically live longer, but “In dogs and cats, this may be a reflection of enhanced care of animals by owners who have made the investment of surgery or a decrease in risk-associated behaviors (such as roaming).”
Unfixed pets are more likely to suffer accidents and severe fight injuries, and to be euthanized due to serious behavioural problems, so the survival advantage for fixed pets probably has more to do with behaviour than general health. The risk for some cancers is reduced or eliminated with spay-neuter surgery (mammary, testicular, uterine, ovarian) and increased for others (prostate, bladder, bone)(Keith, 8 January 2008). The North Shore Animal League (n.d.) states that spay-neuter surgery adds 1-3 years to the average canine lifespan.
There are also common-sense factors that affect the longevity of dogs. A dog fed appropriate high-quality food (look for real meat, poultry, fish, or eggs as the first ingredient on the ingredients list and avoid foods with artificial ingredients), encouraged to exercise regularly, and provided with good veterinary care will probably live longer than a dog that eats junk food, is allowed to grow obese, and never has a veterinary check-up.
Lifespans by Dog Breed
Paylo (2012) provides the following breakdown of lifespan by dog breed:
Lifespan in Human Years
|Chihuahua, Dachshund, Miniature/Toy Poodle||15-18|
|Boston Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Irish Setter, Maltese Terrier, Parson Russell Terrier, Schnauzer, Shih Tzu, Standard Poodle, Welsh Corgi, West Highland White Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier||14-16|
|Beagle, Bichon Frise, Collie, Papillon, Pomeranian||12-15|
|Airedale Terrier, Dalmatian, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Scottish Terrier||10-13|
|Bloodhound, Boxer, Chow Chow, French Bulldog||9-11|
|Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Great Dane, Newfoundland||7-10|
Similar but slightly different figures for the 20 most popular dog breeds are provided by The 2008 World Atlas of Dog Breeds (cited in Eckstein, 2009).
Lifespan in Human Years
|German Shorthaired Pointer||12-15|
The Oldest Living Dogs
Sadly, the world’s oldest living dog, certified by Guinness World Records, died on December 5, 2011. Pusuke, a mixed-breed Japanese dog, reached the grand age of 26 years, 8 months (Shimbun, “World’s Oldest Dog Dies in Japan,” Vancouver Sun, 7 December 2011).
A contender for the oldest living dog at the time of this writing is Max, a terrier cross with a veterinary birth certificate to prove the fact that he is 28 at the time of this writing. Max, who lives in the United States with owner Janelle Derouen, has mild arthritis and cataracts, but is otherwise in good health. His owner is awaiting verification by Guinness (The Telegraph, “World’s Oldest Dog Turns 26,” 10 August 2009).
Another contender for world’s oldest dog is Sako Wilde (scroll down this page for a video about Sako). An Australian Kelpie cross, Sako recently celebrated his 22nd birthday.
Billy, a Yorkshire Terrier living in Halifax, is also among the world’s oldest dogs, having recently celebrated his 22nd birthday (Halifax Courier, “Meet Billy, He’s the World’s Oldest Dog!” 23 September 2010).
Misty, another Nova Scotia dog (mongrel – breed mix unknown), is also a contender at 25 years of age, assuming that her age can be verified (CBC News, “N.S. Dog May Be World’s Oldest: Owner,” 15 December 2010).
Before Pusuke, the title of oldest living dog was held by a dachshund-terrier cross named Otto (scroll down for video).
The Oldest Dog That Ever Lived
The oldest dog that ever lived, as verified by the Guiness Book of World Records, was an Australian cattle dog named Bluey who lived 29 years, 5 months. There have also been unverified claims of even older dogs.
Which Dog Breeds Live the Longest?
Wikipedia’s well-referenced list of the world’s oldest dogs (most of which are dead, though a few are still living) includes:
- 5 crossbreeds/mutts/unknowns (Minium, Pusuke, Sugar, Piccoli, Kathy T. Dog)
- 2 Dachshunds and 1 Dachshund-Terrier cross (Chanel, Heidi, Otto)
- 2 Labradors (Bella, Adjutant)
- 1 Terrier (Max)
- 1 Australian Cattle Dog (Bluey)
- 1 Poodle (Teddy)
- 1 Border Collie (Bramble)
- 1 Beagle (Butch)
- 1 Shih Tzu (Smokey)
However, it should be noted that Sako Wilde (an Austalian Kelpie), Billy (a Yorkshire Terrier), and Misty (a dog of unknown/mixed breed) were not included in the list.
For more dog articles, see the main Dogs page.
- Eckstein, S., Reviewed by Elizabeth A. Martinez, DVM. (2009). “Dogs and Life Span: Which Breeds Live Longest?” Pets.WebMD.com.
- Keith, C. (8 January 2008). “Spay/Neuter: What Does the Science Say?” PetConnection.com.
- Michell, A.R. (1999). “Longevity of British Breeds of Dog and Its Relationships with Sex, Size, Cardiovascular Variables and Disease.” Veterinary Record, 145(22), pp. 625-629.
- North Shore Animal League. (n.d.). “Benefits of Spay/Neuter Surgery for Cats and Dogs.” SpayUSA.org.
- Paylo, J. (2012). “How Long Will My Dog Live?” PetPlace.com.