We all want our dogs to live for as long as possible, but sadly their life spans are never as long as our own. There are many different things that can affect how long our dogs might live, and how likely they are to die when they are young. Some of these are outside our control. But there are steps that we can take to give our dogs the best possible chance at a long, healthy life. 

1. Obesity

Carrying a few extra pounds can shorten our dogs’ life spans significantly. One study suggests that it may take anywhere between six months and two-and-a-half years off their life, depending on their breed. It also affects their quality of life, too. Overweight dogs are more likely to suffer with arthritis or skin conditions when compared to dogs who are a healthy weight. 

If you want your companion to live for as long as possible, do your best to keep them trim. If you’re struggling with this, then speak to your vet for some help. 

2. Pedigree 

Sadly, many studies suggest that pedigree dogs do not live for as long as cross-breed dogs (also called mutts, or mongrels). This may be by as much as a year or more. The breeding that is needed to produce a pedigree means that most breeds have certain illnesses that they are predisposed to develop.

If you have a pedigree, ask your vet about what illnesses they may be prone to develop. This is so you can keep a close eye out for any problems. 

3. Escape Artist

Sadly, one of the most common causes of death in young dogs is trauma, often from a road traffic accident. If your dog likes to escape and roam free, then they may be increasing their risk of death or injury.

Be sure to make your home and garden secure, so your dog cannot roam freely around the neighbourhood. When you are out and about, keep them on a short, fixed lead to prevent them jumping into the road. Stick to fenced-in spaces for off-lead exercise, and practice your recall regularly to make sure you can get them out of harm’s way. 

4. Neutered Or No?

When it comes to life expectancy, neutering is a complicated topic. In most large-scale scientific studies, neutered dogs will live for longer than unneutered dogs. So there does seem to be an overall health benefit. Neutering also means that dogs are less likely to roam and get into accidents. However, we also know that it’s important to neuter dogs at the correct age – do it too young, and you can actually increase their risk of certain illnesses. 

Speak to your vet about the right age to neuter your dog. 

5. Difficult Behaviour 

The most common reason for a young dog to be euthanised is due to aggressive behaviour. These situations are always tragic, and the decision to euthanise is usually only taken after other dogs or humans have already been injured. 

It is important to be proactive about our dogs’ problem behaviours. If you are concerned, seek advice from a vet or qualified behaviourist early, before it gets to the stage where your dog is unhappy or feels threatened. 

6. Size

Unfortunately, large-breed dogs will usually not live as long as small-breed dogs. For example, in one study Miniature Poodles live for an average of just over fourteen years, whereas for Great Danes, the average was just six years. 

This is not an absolute rule – for example, in several studies, Border Collies lived for as long as many terrier breeds, despite being a medium sized dog. But sadly, it is more likely that large- and giant-breed dogs will die young. 

7. Diet 

Our dogs’ diet is hugely important for their overall health. Sadly, not feeding a balanced diet can lead to a range of health issues in dogs of any age, but particularly puppies or young dogs. Some of these issues can be severe, or even fatal. 

Choose a complete and balanced diet for your dog, which has been made by a reputable manufacturer who employs nutritional experts to check the quality of the food. Avoid home-made diets, as these are almost always lacking in certain key nutrients. Raw foods will also expose your puppy to an increased risk of infection at a time in their life when their immune system is not yet fully developed, so again these should be used with great care, or avoided. 

8. Known Health Conditions 

If your young dog is known to have certain health conditions already – such as epilepsy, or a heart problem – then sadly this does mean that they are more likely to pass away when they are young. 

It is unusual for young dogs to become unwell, but sadly there are some illnesses that will affect them in the earlier part of their life. If you are concerned about your dog, don’t delay just because they are young – speak to your vet for advice. 


There are many different things that can affect how long our dogs will live for. Some of these are outside our control, but there are some important steps that we can take to try and improve our dogs’ lifespans. A healthy diet, exercise, training, and neutering (at the right age) will all increase our dogs’ changes of living long, healthy lives. 

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