Ranking as America’s fourth most popular dog, the German Shepherd is known for its versatility and courage. However, the average German Shepherd lifespan and health is one of the breed’s most controversial issues.
While you might be familiar with these large dogs, you ought to know the essential facts about their health and lifespan, especially if you’re planning on getting one in the future.
Keep reading to find out more about the German Shepherd’s common health problems, life expectancy, and various ways to give them the best quality of life.
How Long Do German Shepherds Live on Average?
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), a German Shepherd is expected to live 7 to 10 years. This lifespan is considerably short compared to most breeds. Interestingly, a healthy and well-cared-for German Shepherd can live past its average lifespan.
However, references other than the American Kennel Club suggest that the average German Shepherd life expectancy is 10 to 13 years. Compared to other dogs, particularly small breeds, these dogs live shorter lives.
While the general rule of thumb says that larger dogs have a shorter average life expectancy than toy breeds, it is also essential to consider the specific dog breed’s characteristics when comparing a GSD to other breeds.
The Oldest Living German Shepherd: How Old Is the Oldest GSD in the World?
Although it hasn’t been made official, the oldest German Shepherd to date is Abby, who lived a fruitful 22 years. That’s quite impressive given the relatively short lifespan of German Shepherds!
Abby, who was adopted on October 21, 1996, was merely six months old at the time. Albeit imperfect, her diet consisted of raw meat, table scraps, and dog food. Her owner even brought her to the vet only twice during her entire life!
Abby led a happy and playful life with her owner in a rural area in Canada. Unfortunately, this loving German Shepherd died on July 14, 2018.
This fantastic record stands as proof that against all odds, dogs will stick around for their masters.
If you want to see how active Abby was despite her age, watch this video:
Factors That Determine the Lifespan of Your German Shepherd
As a responsible pet owner, you must know the critical factors that will determine your German Shepherd’s longevity.
Knowing these factors is essential as you can readily address potential problems by understanding how a specific factor affects your German Shepherd’s health.
As with any living being, it would be nearly impossible to list down all the factors that will determine the lifespan of a German Shepherd.
Listed below are the main factors that are most likely to affect this dog’s lifespan.
Although there is a notion saying female dogs live shorter than males, it is much more important to be aware that different sexes are predisposed to various diseases.
With exceedingly different symptoms, treatments, and severity, these diseases make it challenging to determine which gender has greater longevity. Regardless, neutered German Shepherds have a better lifespan.
In conclusion, a wise decision is to have your German Shepherd neutered or spayed as early as possible since unaltered dogs are much more at risk from health problems.
To extend your German Shepherd’s longevity, providing them with an environment that promotes healthy and stress-free living is extremely important.
Generally speaking, a German Shepherd Dog kept in an environment free from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and harmful objects will have a longer life expectancy than a GSD living in an unsanitary area.
However, there is such a thing as being too clean. Depriving your GSD of occasional uncleanliness that serves as a challenge for their immune system will also yield unwanted health problems.
To further explain, an extremely sheltered German Shepherd dog will have a worse reaction to diseases than a GSD that is well adapted to the outdoors. Unfortunately, keeping them too sheltered may shorten their lifespan.
In summary, keep your companion’s area clean but also allow them to be exposed to the outside world for them to develop their immunity.
The German Shepherd is quite an active breed, so providing them with the necessary activity and stimulation is appropriate.
While you might think that sheltering your German Shepherd is a good idea, simply keeping this canine inside your home will not suffice. Undoubtedly, a more active GSD will outlive another with a sedentary lifestyle.
The most common problem with less active German Shepherd Dogs is obesity. While your dog will appear only stockier on the outside, there are numerous underlying problems with this condition.
Typically, overweight or obese GSDs will have a more difficult time breathing and doing basic activities such as walking. Finally, the extra weight acts as additional stress on your dog’s joints.
Generally, problems related to the German Shepherd’s weight entail far more complicated conditions leading to a shorter lifespan and worse quality of life.
In contrast, too much exercise is also bad for a German Shepherd’s health. Overexertion usually leads to joint problems, respiratory and heart issues, and excessive stress.
If you have quite some experience with dogs, you probably know how important food is to a dog’s life. Almost every time, the chief criterion in choosing a dog’s diet is the quality of the food rather than the quantity.
The majority of a German Shepherd’s needs come from the dog’s food intake, and these needs are not just to satisfy their hunger.
A GSD will require varying amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals in its diet. Anything lacking or given in excess will subsequently lead to health problems.
In addition, the German Shepherd’s teeth are sensitive to decay, so it is imperative to provide dog food that promotes dental health.
Knowing the ideal diet for your German Shepherd may seem like a nuisance at first, but most dogs that live the longest are provided with high-quality dog food.
Overall Health and Genetics
Genetics will determine what traits and characteristics a puppy may inherit from its parents. These traits always include desirable and undesirable health qualities.
Several health issues arise from the practice of line breeding wherein undesirable recessive genes are passed on to German Shepherd puppies. As an example, this is what occurs in dwarf GSDs.
However, a responsible breeder will choose not to breed GSDs with significant faults to avoid producing low-quality puppies, which may also affect the breeder’s reputation.
If you want to know what to expect from a puppy health-wise, do a background check on their parents. As much as possible, obtain a German Shepherd puppy from a reputable breeder.
Generally, a GSD with superior traits and no hereditary health defects live healthier lives with the longest lifespan.
How to Identify the Age of Your German Shepherd in Human Years
At first, you may be tempted to answer by saying a German Shepherd’s age is simply its age in human years multiplied by seven.
Although it is uncertain when and where this formula was created, there are better and more accurate ways to identify your dog’s age.
According to a 2019 study, one way of translating human years to dog years is by using the equation:
16 ln (Your German Shepherd’s Age) + 31 = Human Age
In other words, simply take the natural logarithm of your German Shepherd’s age in human years, multiply it by 16, then simply add 31.
For your convenience, here’s the age chart for a German Shepherd using the equation above:
|German Shepherd Years||Human Years|
The suggested equation of the study is derived from the concept of epigenetics, in which it is studied how different environmental factors affect how genes work.
The correlation between human and dog years was also based on the fact that humans and dogs share a very similar habitat, receive the same level of medical treatment, and are exposed to the same environmental factors.
Nevertheless, this proposed conversion is still theoretical — future studies may provide more accurate and reliable ways to identify dog years.
What Do German Shepherds Usually Die From?
There will come a time when your canine companion will go to dog heaven, and the German Shepherd is not exempted from this. Albeit athletic and active, GSDs can still experience a variety of life-threatening conditions.
Common Causes of Death in German Shepherd Puppies
The early stages are perhaps the most crucial part of a German Shepherd’s life. This is the time when a dog is most susceptible to a wide array of diseases and accidents.
Here are some of the common causes of death in German Shepherd puppies:
- Parvovirus: Parvovirus infection is one of the leading causes of death in young unvaccinated dogs. A common symptom of infection is bloody diarrhea which persists for hours until the dog dies. Conversely, an affected dog has a higher chance of surviving if given immediate medical attention.
- Distemper: A viral disease, canine distemper may exhibit signs similar to parvovirus infection. In addition to diarrhea, behavior changes and respiratory symptoms may also be seen in affected dogs. Ultimately, vaccination can prevent this disease.
- Vomiting and Diarrhea: Vomiting and diarrhea are merely signs of a multitude of diseases, but they are commonly associated with dogs that ingest harmful substances. Widely seen in very young puppies, this condition can quickly dehydrate an animal, eventually leading to death.
- Physical Trauma: Although a puppy will be watched over more carefully, it may still die from forceful physical trauma. A common situation is when the mother clumsily steps on her days-old puppy, eventually crushing them. This occurrence is particularly more common in large breed puppies.
While these conditions sound frightening to any dog enthusiast, most viral diseases can be simply prevented by vaccination. In addition, ensuring that your GSD puppy is in a clean and safe environment will prove helpful.
Common Causes of Death in German Shepherd Adults
Although adult dogs are expected to be more resistant and protected against some diseases, different external factors and genetics may still result in death.
Below are some of the common causes of death in adult German Shepherds:
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is perhaps the most commonly associated disease with large dog breeds. In addition to hip dysplasia, other joints are also affected, taking a toll on a German Shepherd Dog’s posture and mobility. Giant GSDs are more prone to develop this condition.
- Diabetes: Usually, this results from poor diet, but can also manifest in healthy but older German Shepherds. Diabetes is characterized by the body’s inability to store blood sugar. Excessive blood sugar can destroy the kidneys and impair wound healing.
- Bone Cancer: Among the different types of bone cancers, osteosarcoma and chondrosarcoma are the most common to affect GSDs. Other than affecting a dog’s mobility, a more grave consequence of this disease is the possibility of the cancerous cells spreading around the body through the blood supply.
- Degenerative Myelopathy: This slowly progressing disease of the spinal cord is one of the most frightening conditions present in older GSDs. Aside from not being able to walk, reflexes are also exaggerated in affected dogs. Unfortunately, there is still no treatment for degenerative myelopathy, and affected dogs are usually euthanized.
Most of the mentioned diseases have an affinity towards specific dog breeds, such as the GSD. Aside from giving immediate medical attention, the best approach to these problems is anticipating their occurrence.
5 Easy Tips to Help Your German Shepherd Live Longer
Now that you are informed about the potential health problems of German Shepherds, you might be intimidated by these working dogs.
Like any responsible dog owner, you’ll want to give your German Shepherd a long and happy life. Most people have their methods and tricks, but here are some helpful tips for you and your German Shepherd.
1. Visit the vet regularly
It is always best to bring your car to a mechanic, and for the same reason, you want to have your pet regularly checked by licensed animal healthcare professional.
Undoubtedly, dog owners are already expected to have their pets complete their annual shots. It is best to have your GSD regularly checked as an extra step, even if there is nothing wrong with them.
Routine tests such as complete blood counts and fecalysis can quickly determine if there are underlying problems with your German Shepherd.
Additionally, regular vet visits allow your veterinarian to be more familiar with your German Shepherd’s medical history, which may prove helpful when medical issues arise.
2. Feed your German Shepherd a healthy diet
I can’t emphasize this enough: a healthy diet is crucial for a healthy dog. Feeding your German Shepherd the best diet significantly reduces the risk of significant health issues occurring.
Since it is known that German Shepherds live an active lifestyle, you must feed them with a high-energy diet. Most high-energy dog food will have higher protein content than other dog food.
Be aware that you should also avoid feeding your GSD carbohydrates as much as possible. Dogs are carnivorous and derive most of their energy from protein.
In addition, excessive carbohydrates such as corn and soy in commercial dog food have been proven to be a primary cause of obesity and other diseases.
3. Provide regular exercise
Although all dogs require regular exercise, the German Shepherd requires more than just a stroll in the park. As extremely active dogs, adult GSDs require a minimum of two hours of exercise per day.
An extra tip is to involve your German Shepherd in dog sports. Besides exercise, it would be easier to handle your GSD compared to an untrained dog.
Aside from maintaining the weight of your German Shepherd, other benefits of sufficient exercise are improved cardiovascular health, better muscle tone, and improved joint and bone health, all leading to improved longevity.
However, too much exercise may yield undesirable effects. Among these are hip and joint problems, exhaustion, and excessive stress.
For best results, you may consult with a dog trainer to know what type of exercises are appropriate for each age group of a German Shepherd; through this, you can avoid underexercising and overexercising entirely.
4. Groom your German Shepherd regularly
It may seem that regular grooming isn’t that much of a need to keep your German Shepherd healthy at first. However, a properly groomed dog has a better life expectancy than unclean dogs.
Whether you have a long-haired or short-haired GSD, your dog’s fur and skin are teeming with bacteria. While not all of these organisms are harmful, it is vital to control their growth.
To add, be careful because too frequent grooming might strip off your German Shepherd’s natural barrier. If this happens, your GSD will likely be more susceptible to infectious diseases.
5. Observe for irregularities
Taking care of your dog is one thing, but knowing your dog is another. Any experienced dog owner should know their dogs like the back of their hands.
In addition to knowing the quirks and habits of your GSD, observing irregularities in its routine might be a sign that something’s off.
For instance, a German Shepherd that suddenly limps and is lethargic is probably an indication of a leg injury. GSDs that are provided with immediate medical attention have better life expectancy than those that aren’t.
Senior German Shepherd Dog Care
There will come a time when your German Shepherd will be too weak and gray for running and playing; this is most likely when your German Shepherd is already considered a senior dog.
Despite their more delicate state, there are still measures you can take to prolong their lives. Here are a few examples:
- Visit the vet more often. As your German Shepherd reaches its senior years, it will become more likely for them to develop various diseases even with preventive measures. To combat this, it’s best to visit the vet more frequently for the early detection of diseases. Earlier detection of symptoms is much easier to treat than already-complicated diseases.
- Have them insured. Getting an appropriate insurance plan for your senior dog is important since older German Shepherds are more prone to diseases. While pet insurance is quite expensive, a great way to cut down insurance fees is to have them covered only for conditions and situations that are more likely to happen.
- Invest in a more comfortable dog bed. Older German Shepherds will have more fragile bones and lighter muscling to cushion their bodies; Hence, a dog bed with more padding is an effective way to make their senior years more comfortable.
- Shift to senior-friendly dog food. Dog food for older German Shepherds is specifically formulated to contain less protein since their activity is reduced. In addition, less protein in their diet means less work for their kidneys. Some dog food brands will offer additional vitamins and minerals which are needed in higher amounts by senior dogs.
In addition to the points mentioned above, perhaps the most important thing you must have is patience. You’ll need to adjust to the changes and struggles that come with old age in German Shepherds.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a German Shepherd Live for 20 Years?
A German Shepherd may live for 20 years despite this dog’s life expectancy, albeit rare. A more common age beyond the average German Shepherd life expectancy is 12 to 15 years old.
What Age Is Considered Old for a German Shepherd?
A German Shepherd is already considered an adult at the age of 2 years. At the age of 6, a GSD may already be regarded as old since it would be about 40 years old in dog years.
What Age Do Most German Shepherds Die?
Most German Shepherds live up to around the age of 10 years old. However, this number may still change depending on the health and lifestyle, which greatly affects the lifespan of these dogs.
How Do I Know If My German Shepherd Is Dying?
Typically, a dying German Shepherd will refuse to eat, drink, and stand up. Other signs also include labored breathing and erratic heartbeats.
It is difficult to accept the fact that all dogs will have to go eventually. The best thing we can do as dog owners is to cherish every moment we have with our canine companions.
Now that you know about the German Shepherd’s lifespan and potential health issues, you must be prepared for potential roadblocks you might encounter with this dog breed if you wish to get one.
In addition to giving the best quality of life to your German Shepherd, you must also prepare yourself for when it’s time for your dog to go.
The German Shepherd’s lifespan may be relatively short compared to healthier dog breeds, but there are ways to exceed the average age if you’re willing to take the necessary measures.
Did you find this article helpful? Let us know in the comments below!
My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I’ve got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.