Discover the factors that determine how long Great Danes live and learn how to potentially extend their time with you. This article offers insights into the life expectancy of these noble dogs and tips for their care.
Great Danes typically live 7-10 years, and better healthcare and breeding are helping to increase this lifespan. Still, they face several health issues that can significantly reduce their years.
Great Danes generally live shorter lives than smaller dogs, but proper care and love can help prevent many health issues and extend their lifespan.
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Why Size Matters
For better or worse, a dog’s size can play a major factor in how long they live. Generally speaking, the bigger a dog is, the shorter its life expectancy will be. Oddly enough, this is the opposite of life expectancies for other animals!
Typically, larger animals e.g. elephants have a longer lifespan than smaller animals e.g. rabbits. While these examples seem to counteract what’s seen in Great Danes, other studies have discovered some interesting data points that seem to shed some light on the situation.
- One recent study determined that large dogs tend to age faster than small dogs. If you’ve heard the “rule” that one human year is seven dog years, you may want to know that that doesn’t apply to all dogs.
- The scientists found that an extra 4.4 pounds of body weight can take a month off of a dog’s lifespan. That means an extra 52.8 pounds can reduce a dog’s life expectancy by a full year.
- Because of this, one theory for a Great Dane’s short life is that they can develop age-related illnesses sooner than small dogs. If a dog ages faster, that makes sense as they would be “older” physically.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the (comparatively) extra weight that a big dog carries can affect them in more ways than one.
While you may not be able to make your Great Dane smaller, their size isn’t the only factor in determining their short life.
Common Health Problems for Great Danes
While a Great Dane’s size seems to have a correlation to their shorter lifespans, they also experience more health problems than smaller breeds. When these problems become serious, they often result in shorter life expectancies.
While some conditions can be avoided, not all are fully understood to determine if they’re caused by external factors, simply specific to the breed, or a combination of the two.
- Bloat is a serious condition where the stomach twists and then cuts off the blood supply. Great Danes are particularly prone to getting it, but your vet can tell you what to do to lower the risk of your dog getting it.
- While Great Danes are known for their big hearts, those big hearts can be problematic. Cardiomyopathy is a condition that many Great Danes have that causes an enlargement of the heart muscle.
- Autoimmune thyroiditis is another condition that Great Danes can develop. This can lead to hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid. Dogs with this condition will need medication and regular monitoring of their thyroid levels.
- Great Danes are large, and their large bodies put them at risk for conditions like hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis.
If you have a Great Dane, you should learn as much as you can about the health problems they’re most likely to develop.
The Right Breeder
Choosing the right breeder can make a huge difference in how long your Great Dane can expect to live. Good breeders test their Great Danes for problems like hip dysplasia and genetic conditions, as well as eye problems.
You should always ask about a dog’s family history and genetic predispositions. Even if your dog is at high risk for many diseases, you can take action to prepare for those diseases.
If you know ahead of time, you can treat your dog early, which can help lessen the effects of said conditions.
If you adopt your Great Dane, your vet can evaluate the dog. From there, your vet can give you and your dog a specialized plan for taking care of your dog and keeping them healthy.
The Right Diet
Another key element to keeping your dog healthy is to feed them a healthy diet!
All dogs can benefit from a proper diet, and that is even truer when it comes to Great Danes. Great Dane puppies especially need the right diet to flourish and avoid growth-related diseases.
As a puppy, your dog is growing, and they need a good diet to support that. However, Great Dane puppies need a diet that won’t cause them to grow too quickly.
Too much growth can cause musculoskeletal diseases, including hip dysplasia. For more information about feeding a Great Dane puppy, make sure to take a look at our dedicated article here.
Once your Great Dane reaches adulthood, they need to maintain a healthy diet. Obesity is surprisingly common among large dogs, and it can make a dog’s life expectancy even shorter.
As much as Duke may ask for extra treats, avoid the temptation, because it may change his life. Food recommendations for Great Danes can be found in our article here.
Pamper Your Pup
Along with feeding your Great Dane the right diet, they need some exercise.
You can take your dog on a walk to let them run around in the yard. Enough exercise will help them avoid obesity, which can lead to excessive joint wear (in addition to other negative effects).
In addition to weight management, exercise has a long list of added benefits. Just to name a few, exercise improves:
- Strengthens muscle
- Better flexibility
- Enhanced cardiovascular function
- Improved blood flow
- Reduces anxiety
While there is certainly such a thing as too much exercise, it takes a lot to overdo it! The benefits clearly outweigh the risks here. The most important thing is to ensure that you find a way to consistently exercise your Great Dane.
Whether it be playing fetch in the back yard, or a trip to the park, consistency is key.
The dog park is an especially good place to take your dog, at least occasionally. You can use the dog park as a place to socialize your dog and train them.
If your dog is well-trained and knows how to interact with other dogs, that can also help bolster their health and their quality of life. For tips on making the most of trips to the dog park, take a look at our article here.
After their exercise session, consider grooming your dog. While skin conditions aren’t the most common among Great Danes, they do happen.
Keeping your dog well-groomed can help prevent the development of skin conditions, which can help their overall health.
Great Danes benefit tremendously from preventative veterinary care. Be sure you make regular visits to your vet so that they can examine your Great Dane.
That way, your vet can catch any problems early on, and you can begin treating your Great Dane as soon as possible.
If you don’t have a vet, consider looking for one with experience treating Great Danes or other large dogs. You should also take advantage of any vet visit to ask questions about your dog’s diet or life.
Specialist or not, your vet will be able to answer most questions you have, and they can tell you if you should make a change.
While the number of health problems may seem impossible to overcome, the right care can also help extend your Great Dane’s life.
Your Great Dane may not live as long as a Chihuahua, but you can enjoy a bit of extra time with your dog by raising and caring for them correctly.
Be the Daily Vet!
While you can, and should, visit your vet regularly, you are still the person primarily responsible for your dog. Because you see your dog on a daily basis, you have the best chance to catch things early.
While seeing them daily can sometimes make it difficult to spot very small changes, it should be much easier to spot changes to your dog’s personality or demeanor. These are often the first noticeable indicators that there is an issue.
Raising a dog is very similar to raising a child in that you take care of the day-to-day stuff. But your vet is there to diagnose and treat the major medical problems when they come up.
However, your vet can’t do their job if they don’t have a chance to see the dog!
That’s why it’s super important that you educate yourself on the signs of common health problems. Of course, regular vet visits can help detect certain problems. However, some conditions can develop quickly and thus require immediate medical care.
If you know what to look for, you can start to notice the signs and symptoms of common health conditions. Then, you can take your dog to the vet for treatment, and you won’t have to wait until your next regular visit.
Recognizing and Treating Bloat
In us humans, bloating isn’t something to worry about. If you eat too fast, you may bloat a little, but you’ll be fine after a few hours.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case with dogs. In dogs, bloat develops the same way as for us, but it can be fatal if left untreated.
When a dog develops bloat, its stomach twists from the gas building up. That twisting can prevent the gas from escaping the stomach. It can also result in a lack of blood flowing to the area, which can then cause the stomach tissue to die.
If a dog experiences bloat, it likely will need emergency treatment. So it’s especially important that you know the signs of bloat.
- A dog with bloat will act and look different.
- Their stomach will appear larger and harder.
- You won’t be able to hear normal digestive noises due to the blockages.
- Your dog might stand hunched over, and they may not be able to get comfortable. They may refuse to lay on their side.
- A dog with bloat may start to pace around, whine, or otherwise act anxious. They may attempt to lick the air.
- Your dog may look at their abdomen or stand with their legs spread.
- They may breathe shallowly and have a weak pulse. A dog with bloat might collapse to the ground.
The best course of action for a dog with bloat is to take them to the vet. Depending on the stage of the bloat, your vet might sedate your dog and put a tube down the dog’s throat to get the gas out.
If the bloat has caused the stomach to twist, your vet will probably perform surgery to remove the excess gas. Sometimes, your vet may also staple your dog’s stomach.
That can keep the stomach from expanding in the future. Since bloat is very serious, knowing the signs can literally save your dog’s life and extend its lifespan.
Recognizing and Treating Hip Dysplasia
A Great Dane’s size puts them at risk of developing bone problems, like hip dysplasia.
Hip dysplasia is a chronic condition, and it occurs when the head of the femur bone doesn’t fit into the hip socket as it should.
That can cause many painful and uncomfortable symptoms!
- A dog with hip dysplasia may have pain or feel uncomfortable while exercising.
- They may have stiff back legs, and they may start to run like bunny hops.
- Your dog may find it difficult to get up, and they could lose muscle tone in their back legs.
- Worst of all, your dog may stop enjoying physical activities that they used to love. That could mean walks or just playing in the yard.
Fortunately, hip dysplasia doesn’t require immediate treatment, like bloat. However, you should still take your dog to the vet if you see signs of hip problems.
Your vet can perform an x-ray of your dog’s hips and then make a diagnosis and form a treatment plan.
While hip dysplasia may not kill your Great Dane, it will certainly lessen their quality of life. Treating the condition can help your dog enjoy their time more.
Recognizing and Treating Heart Problems
Many Great Danes develop enlarged hearts, and that can lead to various heart problems. Unfortunately, a common problem called cardiomyopathy can be difficult to detect.
However, if you notice your dog can’t breathe well, that may be a sign, and you should take your dog to the vet.
Another heart problem is called tricuspid valve disease. This is a congenital condition that causes the heart valve to function incorrectly. It can lead to a failure of the left side of your dog’s heart.
Luckily, there are some signs you can watch for:
- If your dog can’t seem to exercise as well as they used to, it may be that they have some sort of heart problem.
- Difficulty breathing is another potential sign that your dog has tricuspid valve disease or some other heart condition.
- Your dog may develop a heart murmur as a symptom of the disease. On the other hand, an increased heartbeat can also be a sign of something more serious.
- General weakness is another sign that your dog may have a heart problem like tricuspid valve disease.
If you see any of these signs, take your dog to the vet. Your vet can examine your dog’s heart and remove any excess fluid if necessary.
You may need to switch your dog to a low-salt diet, and your vet may suggest giving your dog supplements. However, you should follow what your vet says, not online recommendations.
Some heart conditions, like cardiomyopathy, can be fatal while others are treatable. In any case, seeking treatment can add an extra year or more to your dog’s life.
Recognizing and Treating Addison’s Disease
A less common but still troubling condition affecting Great Danes is Addison’s Disease. This condition is sometimes called hypoadrenocorticism, and it develops after a decrease in corticosteroid secretion from the adrenal gland.
It’s common in young to middle-aged female dogs, though other dogs may develop it. There are a few signs and symptoms you can watch for this condition.
- Your dog may start to look and act lethargic due to the lack of hormone secretion.
- Some dogs may develop anorexia as a symptom of Addison’s Disease. Don’t be afraid to watch your dog to ensure they are eating.
- If your dog vomits and they’re not otherwise ill, they may have the condition.
- Muscle weakness is another sign of Addison’s Disease.
Take your dog to the vet for treatment, where your vet may prescribe medication to replace the lost hormones. Your vet may need to run your dog’s sodium and potassium levels to determine the best dosage.
In some cases, your vet may prescribe an injection, which can be better at regulating levels than other medications.
Treating Addison’s Disease well can help give your dog more time to do the things they love. It may not be fatal, but without treatment, you and your dog could suffer.
Unfortunately, Great Danes don’t live as long as some other dogs, but you can take certain steps to maximize the time that you spend together. Knowing the signs and symptoms of common conditions means you can get your dog treatment more quickly.
While some of the conditions that affect Great Danes may not have anything to do with their short lifespan, treating the condition can give your dog a better quality of life.