It is a tragic and seemingly unfair truth of life. We would love for our furry friends to stay with us for as long as we live. But dogs will not live as long as humans can, despite the great happiness and joy they bring into our lives. Minds both young and old have pondered this question, and we may never find a satisfying answer. But here are some things we do know.
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Sizing up the question
It is a complex question with no easy answer. As a rule of thumb (there are outliers of course), lifespan is usually related to size in the animal kingdom. Larger animals such as elephants have remarkably long lifespans of up 70 years (or even centuries in the case of tortoises!). While small creatures such as mice will only live to about 1-2 years. Dogs fall somewhere within this range and have a lifespan of between 8-15 years, depending on breed and other factors. Dogs being a smaller size than the average human adult means that they have a shorter lifespan than we do.
The growing race
As a species, dogs have a shorter lifespan, meaning they grow up much faster than humans do. Those of us who have had the joy of raising a puppy will know: their baby teeth will usually erupt by the time they’re 6 weeks old, and will have a full set of permanent teeth by 6 months! Compare this to human babies, who take their time and only start teething at around 4 months old. The much faster pace at which dogs grow means they also age much quicker. So they will reach the end of their lives sooner than their human friends will.
The breed exception
The explanation that larger animals live longer is often debated over and isn’t without its exceptions. After all, it is known that smaller breeds of dogs will in fact tend to outlive larger breeds of dogs. On average, small breeds such as Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers can live up to 15 years. While large and giant breeds including Golden Retrievers and Great Danes have a shorter expectancy of between 8 to 12 years.
There are several theories for this, with the main one being that larger breed dogs grow at an accelerated pace compared to their smaller counterparts. This means they undergo the ageing process faster. Growing at such a fast pace, however, comes with its potential downfalls. The organs and skeletal structures struggle to keep up with the high growth rate and must work harder, putting them under more strain. Thus increasing the likelihood of developing unwanted conditions such as osteoarthritis.
A happy, healthy dog is a long living dog
Breed is a major factor in determining the lifespan of a dog. But there are a whole host of other factors which may influence how long a dog lives. As with humans, dogs benefit from a healthy lifestyle with good exercise, weight and diet and will be more likely to live longer with these things in place. Getting those steps in with your dog will help everyone, mentally and physically!
Another important thing as a pet owner is to make sure you are staying on top of your dog’s physical health. Visit the vets’ regularly for a checkup and vaccination, so that any early signs of problems can be picked up and addressed quickly. Doing routine procedures such as regular dental work (where recommended by a vet) is also beneficial as this can help avoid dental disease; which may, in turn, affect your dog’s appetite and health. Taking care of your dog’s health may help them live longer, meaning more time you can spend together!