How long do Great Danes live? On average, it’s said that the Great Dane lifespan is just 6.5 years – much shorter than most other dog breeds.
But it has been reported that a Great Dane can live as long as 11 to 13 years – certainly not average, but possible.
Now that we’ve given you the short answer, we’ll explore why Great Danes have shorter lifespans, and what pet owners can do to give their Great Danes the best possible chance of beating the average.
After all, you’d love your giant fur baby to be with you, and be happy and healthy, for as long as possible.
Why Do Great Danes Have Short Lives?
Some sources will tell you that Great Danes have shorter lifespans because they are more likely to get health issues at a younger age.
That’s only part of the bigger picture, however. Great Danes certainly aren’t especially weak or unhealthy when compared to other breeds. A more accurate answer is in order. Here it is.
As animals age, they become more prone to health problems – just like older people are more likely to have health issues than younger ones.
Bigger breed dogs age more rapidly than their smaller counterparts. The simple answer for why this happens is that bigger bodies take more of everything to keep going and with every part of their bodies working harder, they also wear out more quickly.
So, while a 7-year-old Maltese Poodle is still relatively young and resilient, a 7-year-old Great Dane is already an elderly dog.
With age and loss of resilience, various health issues arise. So, it’s not really a matter of Great Danes being weak or unhealthy – they just age a lot faster than other dogs.
Having said this, we can’t overlook that Great Danes, especially older ones, are prone to specific health conditions. Most of them die from a relatively narrow range of illnesses.
This can be to your advantage, since knowing your dog’s enemies may be able to help you to keep them healthier for longer.
What Are The Leading Causes Of Death Among Great Danes?
Unless one classifies bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in a category of its own, cancer is the leading cause of death in Great Danes – but only by a small margin. Sadly, heart disease is only a few percentage points behind.
Although it’s hard to pin down the figures precisely, it’s fairly safe to say that cancer and heart disease account for over 60 percent of Great Dane deaths.
Gastric torsion, a nasty situation in which the stomach twists out of place, accounts for a further 24 percent or so, and musculoskeletal issues (usually arthritis) are a reason why Great Danes are euthanized about 9 percent of the time.
So, is this a result of some weakness in Great Dane genetics? Not really. Cancer and gastric torsion are leading causes of death among older dogs of almost any breed.
Heart issues, and arthritis that gets so bad that a dog shouldn’t have to live with it, are less common causes of mortality.
But only if we look at averages across all dogs. If we adjust for size, you’ll find that many large breed dogs have similar issues as they age.
Great Dane Lifespan: How To Help Your Dog Live Longer
It’s much harder to measure things that don’t happen than things that do, so we can only offer you sensible advice that might help you add a few years to Great Dane’s life.
While being aware of things you can do to improve your dog’s chances of a relatively long life, don’t be overprotective.
You might just end up driving yourself and your Great Dane crazy! Keep it simple and stick to a few basic principles.
Let’s examine some broad tips for overall health before looking at ways to avert specific health issues. The “overall health” tips may apply , but we’ll take that as read.
Factors Affecting The Overall Health
Genetics do matter. Choosing a Great Dane from a healthy breeding line could reduce their chances of developing certain health problems.
Ethical breeders don’t just breed dogs for specific physical attributes – they also breed for health.
The top tip for finding an ethical breeder is to visit them and their dogs. They should be treating their dogs like family pets rather than “breeders” and they should be passionate about their dogs and dog breeding.
That means they’ll be happy to answer your questions about their breeding philosophy, and health should be a high priority for them.
By this, we mean choosing a good quality, life-stage-appropriate feeding program for puppies, adults, and senior dogs.
Proper feeding also means watching your Great Dane’s weight as compared to its height and doing your best to ensure that it is neither under nor overweight.
Yes! Training your dog can extend its life! A well-trained dog is easy to take out for exercise and listens to you when you direct it away from danger.
Like feeding, it’s a matter of balance and being sensitive to your Great Dane’s needs at different life-stages.
The right amount of exercise helps your Great Dane to develop strength – but don’t overdo it, especially when they are still growing.
Regular And Timely Visits To The Veterinarian
Regular visits to the vet (at least once a year or as recommended) help your veterinarian to monitor your dog’s condition. They pick up any signs of trouble before you can, and before they affect your dog too badly.
Aside from this, vaccinations and parasite control are incredibly important for all dogs.
The only reason why diseases like canine distemper and parvo virus aren’t higher on the list of things dogs die of is because those vaccinations work.
Finally, if you do notice signs that all is not well with your Great Dane, don’t hesitate to go to the veterinarian with the issue.
Reducing The Chance Of Cancer In Great Danes
There is a lot of smoke-and-mirrors stuff about cancer ranging from attempts to sell unnecessary supplements to sheer paranoia. Keep it simple.
- Don’t feed your Great Dane from a plastic bowl
- Discuss the spay or neuter option with your veterinarian (more on this below)
- Consider getting antioxidant supplements for older Great Danes
- Keep your dog away from pesticides, herbicides, and other harsh chemicals
To expand on some of the points above, there are some cancers that seem to be less prevalent if a dog is spayed or neutered before maturity.
But there are other types of cancer that seem more likely. Research is ongoing, and your vet will be able to give you advice.
There is some research showing the benefits of antioxidant supplementation in older dogs – it doesn’t seem to do much for younger ones. Still, it’s your call if you’d like to give your Great Dane supplements earlier.
Finally, if you’d like to go all out with keeping your Great Dane away from pesticide and herbicide residues, consider getting a certified organic dog food brand.
What To Do About Heart Issues
Beyond some of the things we already discussed under “overall health,” there isn’t much you can do about heart disease other than follow your vet’s instructions.
Treatment will extend your Great Dane’s life for as long as possible.
Gastric Torsion (Bloat)
There’s a lot you can do to lower the chances of bloat. Don’t feed your Great Dane too much at once. Instead, provide two to three portions of food per day.
If he seems to eat fast, get a slow-feeder bowl – and never elevate the bowl. It doesn’t help and it may even increase the chances of bloat.
Bloat develops quickly – within three hours of feeding – and rapid action can save your dog’s life. If your Great Dane appears bloated and uncomfortable after eating, treat it as an emergency.
Hip Dysplasia And Arthritis
Start guarding against these issues while your Great Dane is still a puppy. Overfeeding can cause abnormal bone development, and puppies shouldn’t be over-exercised.
An overweight Great Dane of any age places more strain on the bones and joints, so keep your dog trim with sensible feeding and exercise.
A weight chart can help you during that tricky time when your puppy’s feeding needs change from month to month.
If your dog does get arthritis, and most older dogs do, your veterinarian can prescribe pain medication and help you choose a supplement for your Great Dane.
Magnificent, Elegant, And Kind: Enjoy Your Great Dane!
All things come to an end at some time or another, and if you’ve chosen a Great Dane, you’ll know that you’re onto a really good thing!
Yes, their lives are shorter than those of small-breed dogs, but you won’t want to trade the experience of having a Great Dane for anything in the world.
Build happy memories together. Have the time of your lives! There are few dogs as loveable as Great Danes and they’re also among the most beautiful pets the world has to offer.
Sadly, the Great Dane lifespan isn’t as long as you may like it to be, but then, no dog’s ever is.