Those of us who adore the world’s biggest dogs may be stuck on the question “how long do Great Danes live?” This XXXL cuddlebug is a great companion that, unfortunately, has one of the shortest lifespans of all dogs.
Large dogs generally don’t live as long, mostly due to many medical problems that come with such an extreme body size, and the Great Dane is no exception. Life expectancy is one of the most vital factors to consider before getting a dog, particularly if you need a long-life breed.
Another factor to remember is the kind of health conditions that Great Danes may suffer from, as these hefty hounds are certainly not easy on the wallet. And once we have a Great Dane, we also need to consider how to keep them healthy to increase the average Great Dane life span. So we will also look at vitamin dog chews, exercise and other essentials of for giant breed dogs.
How Long Do Great Danes Live?
With a life expectancy of 8 to 10 years, a Great Dane’s average lifespan is sadly short but sweet. Some live for only 6 to 7 years, and a lucky few make it past the ripe age of 10 to 12. This is in sharp contrast to smaller dog breeds that can live twice as long.
The Dogue de Bordeaux is one of the few large dog breeds with a shorter lifespan than the Great Danes for the same reasons; health issues. While larger animals, like elephants, live longer in the wild animal kingdom, the complete opposite is true for dogs.
One popular theory for this is that larger dogs age faster, as suggested in one study of 74 breeds of dogs. It’s almost like smaller dogs live in slow motion, while larger ones live in double speed.
The the more obvious reason for shorter lives in giant dog breeds is the prevalence of health conditions like heart issues, arthritis, and dysplasia. Many of these problems stem from their size. Bigger dogs mean that their hearts have to work harder to pump blood for those huge bodies, leading to more heart issues. It also means more wear and tear on their skeletons.
Of course, inbreeding dogs for size also leads to more genetic issues.
Thankfully, despite getting a raw deal in longevity, you can still enjoy fulfilling years with your Great Dane. This is especially if you’re aware of possible health issues and take precautions.
7 Most Common Health Problems Great Danes Suffer From (Why Do Great Danes Die Early?)
Disease is by far the biggest reason Great Danes, and all other bigger dogs, die early. A knowledge of these issues helps you seek medical intervention and precautions early to them later in your canine’s life.
The Great Pyrenees is one of the rare giant dogs that enjoy a pretty healthy life for about 10 to 12 years. But, for the Great Dane, nicknamed the Apollo of dogs, these are the most common medical problems:
1. Bloat or Gastric Dilation and Volvulus
Bloat is arguably the most prevalent medical issue in these dogs. A whopping 37% of Great Danes experience it at some point in life. This fatal condition results in the intestines twisting, which in turn, cuts off the blood supply to essential organs. It also causes a deadly intestinal blockage and build up of gas.
Deep-chested canines like Danes and German Shepherds are at risk of GDV. The exact cause is still largely undefined, but heavy meals or lots of water before strenuous activities is a likely reason for GDV.
Bloat is one of the leading causes of spontaneous death in dogs, with death occurring within 24 hours sometimes. Watching for signs of GDV can save your dog’s life if emergency medical action is taken, and they include:
- Swollen, hard stomach
- Retching but unable to vomit
- Pain to the touch around the abdomen
Luckily, GDV risk can be reduced by a preventive surgery called gastropexy, where the stomach is tucked into the body wall. Feeding your dog smaller meal portions twice and preventing your dog from moving about significantly reduces GDV occurrence.
2. Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
These are big dogs with big hearts, both physically and figuratively. However, they’re at risk of a disease characterized by an enlarged heart called DCM. In this condition, heart muscles weaken and eventually stretch, affecting blood pumping.
While genetics plays a major role in the occurrence of DCM, diet and other underlying medical conditions also contribute. The FDA cites improper diet being one of the major causes of non-hereditary DCM in dogs.
You must, therefore, be keen on popular diet trends like “grain-free” diets that do more harm than good.
3. Elbow and Hip Dysplasia
Dysplasia is the curse of every large dog breed. Even seemingly large healthy breeds like the Alaskan Malamute and Black Russian Terriers suffer from hip dysplasia, and the Great Dane is no exception. This is a developmental condition where the joint bones don’t develop normally and, therefore, don’t fit together perfectly.
Hip and elbow dysplasia worsens over time, causing slow deterioration and pain that can affect a Great Dane’s life span. It can ultimately force pet parents to make the painful decision of euthanization for the sake of their dog’s quality of life. Most dysplasia cases can be eliminated with careful breeding when breeders screen the parents for these issues.
As dogs that age faster, Great Danes experience arthritis much earlier in life. These joint issues significantly reduce the dog’s quality of life due to the pain and immobility. Adding a joint mobility supplement is an early intervention for bone and joint problems in Great Danes.
Thyroid issues result from insufficient thyroid hormone production and cause the slowing of some vital functions. If your dog has this issue, you’ll notice lethargy, weight fluctuations, and appetite changes. Luckily, thyroid issues are manageable with medication and proper diet.
All dogs are susceptible to cancer, but in Great Danes risk for osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is heightened. Early signs of this cancer are swelling around the painful tumors and lameness.
Survivors of this condition are often three-legged champions because amputation is a great possibility. Blood and organ cancers are also prevalent in these dogs.
7. Back and Neck Issues
Due to their long necks, Great Danes can suffer from wobbler syndrome, where the neck is painful and unsteady. They can also experience degenerative spinal conditions causing lower back pain called degenerative lumbosacral stenosis.
Feeding your dog a large breed puppy diet till they’re 18 months reduces the likelihood of these diseases.
Great Dane Old Age Symptoms
You have lived a good life with your Great Dane and know they’re approaching their sunset. If your Great Dane is aging, you may also want to see our articles on where dogs go when they die and if dogs know when they are dying.
Old Great Danes display these signs:
- Reduced exercise tolerance
- Increased tiredness and going out of breath
- Reduced appetite
- Extreme weight loss
- Cloudy eyes or vision loss
- Forgetfulness and confusion
- Stiffness due to joint issues
- Poor coordination
How Long Did The Oldest Great Dane Live?
According to the Guinness world records, the oldest one is an 8-year-old Great Dane called Freddy.however, it’s hard to say who’s the oldest Great Dane because some owners prefer anonymity. There are several unverified reports of Great Danes living for 11 to 13 years and even 15 years.
There are countless other Great Danes who live longer than Freddy but aren’t documented, possibly due to a lack of proof. An excellent example is Maggie Mae, a senior Great Dane from Florida who is claimed to be an impressive 16 years old.
How to Make Sure Your Great Dane Lives as Long as Possible
While you can’t change your dog’s genetics in a dog breed like the Great Dane, you can make e lifestyle changes to increase longevity.
1. Find a responsible breeder
Responsible breeders ensure your Dane’s parents are healthy through genetic tests of eyes, hips, and elbows, to mention a few. You may not have control over your dog’s pedigree if you adopt, but medical tests will show what you’re up for medically.
2. Have your Great Dane screened with genetic testing
A great way to extend your Great Dane’s life span is to have them genetically tested for issues like cancer. Many great genetic tests can tell you exactly what diseases may be lurking in your dog’s DNA. This allows you to stay up-to-date with checkups and catch problems early.
3. Keep your dog’s teeth clean
Practicing oral care reduces health complications arising from dental issues like periodontitis. Keeping a dog free of dental disease means less inflammation in their hearts and organs and even reduces their chance of diabetes. In addition to brushing your Dane’s teeth at least twice weekly, feed them twice daily to avoid bloat.
You can also use a canine mouthwash in their water to keep their oral hygiene intact.
4. Feed them a proper diet
Great Danes need special diets for large dogs, particularly when they’re puppies. Feeding your Great Dane puppy adult food early in life, below 18 months, will cause them to grow too quickly. This results in musculoskeletal diseases like dysplasia and osteochondrosis down the line.
Since Great Danes require more joint support, many of their dog foods are higher in ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin. Large-breed puppy diets are formulated with less vitamin D, Phosphorous, and Calcium, making “whole life” diets inappropriate.
We recommend a slow feeder for your Great Dane and two meals to avoid GDV.
5. Regular exercise & weight management
Daily exercise for about an hour prevents obesity, boredom, and anxiety. Avoid high-impact activities like running or jumping due to the delicate joints, and opt for walking or swimming.
Also, keep your Dane slim. The less weight they have to carry, the less strain there is on their joints, reducing arthritis and joint problems. It also reduces the strain on their hearts and other organs, allowing for a longer life.
6. Take your Great Dane for regular check ups
Avoid missing vet appointments, even if your Great Dane is seemingly healthy. General medical examinations ensure that any underlying medical conditions are identified for early intervention.
Sadly, Great Danes have a very short lifespan despite their massive sizes]. Medical issues like heart disease, bone cancer, bloat, and joint issues contribute to their reduced life. A proper diet, regular exercise, and medical check-ups keep your dog keep your Great Dane healthy for several years.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.