How much time can we realistically expect to have with our furry friend?
It’s no surprise that German Shepherds are loved by so many people. These dependable and loyal dogs serve as excellent family protectors and companions. German Shepherds also serve as great police, military, and service dogs because of how easy they are to train and how well they respond to commands. No one wants to think of these furry friends passing on, but it’s a reality that no one can escape. Many current owners or individuals considering getting a German Shepherd wonder how long they can expect their dog to live. If this is a question on your mind, read on to find out the answer and what external factors can influence that number.
How Long Can German Shepherds Live for?
German Shepherds, on average, live for around 11-13 years. This average is quite close to the average age of dogs in general, which is 10-13 years. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule; some German Shepherds have been known to live to be 18 years of age or older. Depending on how well you take care of your dog and what challenges they face throughout the course of their life, they may live to be the average age or even surpass our expectations. But what factors contribute to the duration of their life?
What Factors Contribute to This?
There are plenty of factors that determine how long a German Shepherd will live for. Genetics is one of the factors that play a major role. These dogs weren’t originally bred to be show dogs; they are working dogs and were bred for functionality. If you buy from a breeder, make sure that your breeder is able to provide the proper records that prove their health and the health of their lineage. Breeders today have been more selective with the dogs that they choose, but haven’t been able to fully stop hereditary issues like the characteristic sloped back found in German Shepherds. Over time, the breeds’ backs become stooped and low, making it painful for the dogs to walk around. Sloped back can also lead to arthritis, which makes the situation worse. This, among other common characteristics, contributes to the average length of life.
Feeding your dog the proper diet can have a big impact on your dog’s lifespan. A well-balanced diet should start in puppyhood and continue well into adulthood. Remember to have a good balance of protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, and minerals to make sure that your dog is getting the best nutrition. German Shepherds are prone to obesity, but daily exercise should prevent that. Since German Shepherds were bred to be working dogs, they have a lot of energy. Be prepared to work out with your German Shepherd because they’ll most likely drag you into it with them! Also, remember that when it comes to your dog, your veterinarian is your best source of information. Routine checkups are key to make sure that your dog stays in tip-top shape!
As I stated earlier, dedicated breeders have worked very hard to phase out many diseases that German Shepherds faced in the past, but there are still some diseases that are commonly experienced by the breed. Three of the most common ones are hip dysplasia, bloat, and degenerative myelopathy.
Hip dysplasia is typically thought to affect only larger dogs, but it’s a disease that affects all dogs regardless of size. The hip joint, which looks and functions like a ball and socket, doesn’t fully attach when a dog has hip dysplasia. Over time, the two bones grind together instead of sliding with each other and start to wear down. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, so keep an eye on your GSD for any warning signs.
Bloat, or gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), occurs when your dog’s stomach fills up with air and becomes enlarged. The stomach somehow spins around itself and twists at both ends. Vets don’t know how the twisting happens, but when it does, it completely blocks gases, liquids, and other things from leaving the stomach. Bloat is extremely harmful and can be deadly. If your dog displays any symptoms such as vomiting with nothing coming out, pacing, or pawing at their stomach, take them to the vet immediately.
Degenerative myelopathy, or DM, is a genetic disease in dogs that affects the spinal cord. It typically starts affecting dogs between the ages of eight and 14. DM occurs when the spinal cord begins to break down and affect the use of a dog’s limbs, especially the back limbs. If your German Shepherd has DM, they could lose the ability to walk on their hind legs. They could also lose the ability to control their ability to go to the bathroom on their own. As sad as this sounds, there is a small silver lining – DM is not painful to dogs on its own.
Work and Stress
Health and genetics are obvious factors that can affect your GSD’s lifespan, but the jobs that they work or the stress that they feel can also negatively impact their health. German Shepherds are often the first choice to be military, guard, or police dogs. Many do their job wonderfully and without any incidents, but some do get caught in the line of fire and die on the job protecting others. Stress can also negatively affect dogs. Like humans, dogs can feel stress, especially when it’s hard for them to adapt to new situations. If their stress isn’t dealt with early on, it could lead to a weakening immune system and other diseases may have the opportunity to develop during this time.
It’s hard and uncomfortable to think about your (or any) dog passing on early and being unable to live his or her best life possible. For some German Shepherds, genetic diseases or other causes of death are unavoidable. Others, however, are able to live happy, normal lives with their owners and families. Hopefully, this article gave you some insight into how long a German Shepherd can live and which factors impact that overall age. You can find more information on German Shepherds at Preferable Pups.