Saint Bernard or St. Bernard is a large-size dog breed that was specifically bred for the guarding of Hospice in the Great St Bernard Pass as well as to help find injured or lost travelers.
They are an enormous size working breed originated from the Western Alps of Switzerland and Italy. St. Bernard is named after an Italian monk Bernard of Menthon.
It is popular because of their enormous size and tales of alpine rescues. Their giant size makes them an excellent choice as guarding dogs. But, the question is how long do they usually live?
Here we’ll discuss the average life expectancy of St. Bernards, common health problems they are susceptible to, and how we can improve their lifespan.
How Long Do St. Bernards Usually Live?
The average life expectancy of Saint Bernards is around 8 to 10 years. Their lifespan is noticeably shorter than many other dog breeds due to their huge size. Their size makes them age faster and more prone to certain health problems such as hip dysplasia and arthritis, which lead to a shorter lifespan.
St. Bernard is a giant breed; therefore, the average lifespan of St. Bernard is shorter than the average lifespan of dogs (around 10 to 13 years). It is a fact that large or giant breeds of dogs usually don’t live long as compared to medium and small size breeds.
The main reason behind the shorter lifespan of the larger or giant breeds is their massive bodies. A large body means they are susceptible to more health concerns, which shortens their lifespan.
Another reason is that they tend to develop age-related health problems such as heart diseases earlier than smaller breeds.
According to the research conducted by the University of Göttingen in Germany, gaining weight also contributes to a shorter lifespan of larger breeds. It is much like a fat man or woman put themselves on risk by decreasing their lives because of gaining unusual weight.
Every increase of 4.4 pounds in the dog’s weight, its lifespan decreases by one month. Furthermore, larger breeds aged faster, which means they grow rapidly.
However, despite their average lifespan of 8 to 10 years, there are also cases where St. Bernards lived longer than ten years, according to some dog owners. This showed that this breed has the potential to live much longer with proper healthcare and regular physical activities.
Common Health Problems of St. Bernards
We know that every breed including St. Bernard is prone to some health issues. Giant breeds like St. Bernards are at risk for a variety of health issues that can decrease their life expectancy.
As their dog parents, it is important to have the ability to spot and recognize the signs and symptoms of the common health problems they are prone to. Early diagnosis of these diseases does increase treatment success rates.
The potential health risks or concerns which can affect the St. Bernard’s lifespan are as follows:
- Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
- Elbow Dysplasia
- Hip Dysplasia
A cataract is an opacity in the lens of a dog’s eye, causing him to have difficulties in the vision or seeing things correctly. If the cataract is small, it won’t have much effect on the dog’s vision, but it can lead to blindness if it gets too big.
The main symptom of cataracts is the cloudy appearance of eyes, giving a sense of layer in front of their eyes.
It usually happens in senior dogs which means the chance of developing this disorder increases with age. Fortunately, cataract is a minor issue, and it can be easily solved by removing it by surgery.
Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a heart disorder in the muscles of the heart that becomes very thin and weak, making them unable to contract normally. Due to this, a heart must work harder than before to pump blood throughout the body, and it becomes enlarged.
Dogs with this disorder have an abnormal heartbeat rhythm and show signs of heart failure, weight loss, depression, loss of appetite, difficulty in breathing, soft cough, and an enlarged abdomen.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes unprovoked, recurrent seizures and affects both males and females of all breeds. There are basically two types of epilepsy: primary epilepsy and secondary epilepsy.
Primary Epilepsy: Primary epilepsy is considered is to be an inherited or genetic disorder in which a dog experiences seizures. In seizure, an uncontrollable, repeated, and sudden electrical disturbance happens in a brain, which results in different types of brain abnormalities.
Secondary Epilepsy: In secondary epilepsy, seizures are caused by something else like a toxin or infection rather than considered to be inherited or genetic.
Entropion is another disorder of eyes. It is the condition in which the eyelids roll inward due to the rubbing of hair with the cornea, causing irritation, pain, corneal ulcers, perforation, and development of pigments.
It is considered a genetic disorder that can be inherited from parents and is quite common in the St. Bernard breed.
Elbow dysplasia is a joint disorder involving multiple abnormalities in the development of the elbow joint. In this disorder, the joint of an elbow developed abnormally especially the cartilages and the structures around the joint. These abnormalities of joints are called “Primary Lesion.”
It is believed that elbow dysplasia is caused by genetics, trauma, diet, and imperfection in cartilage growth. Elbow dysplasia is a genetic disorder that can be inherited but is much more commonly seen in large to giant breed dogs such as St. Bernard.
Hip dysplasia is found in nearly all the breeds, it is considered as the most common disorder in the dogs. It is the condition in which the socket and balls of the hind legs don’t fit with one another.
Hip dysplasia can occur as early as five months, or it can happen at any age of your dog. The main symptom of hip dysplasia is the discomfort associated with the hind leg.
Same as elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia is also commonly seen in large breed dogs and is inheritable. Therefore, St. Bernard has a high chance of getting this disorder due to its giant size.
Fortunately, this disorder can be treated with anti-inflammatories or corticosteroids. It can be given to your St. Barnard in the diet as a nutritional supplement.
Factors Affecting the Lifespan of a St. Bernard
Now the question is what factors determine the lifespan of your St. Bernard. Many factors including genetic and environmental factors can increase or decrease how long your St. Bernard will stay with you.
As a dog lover, we always want our lovely companion to stay with us as long as possible. But before we do that, we should know what actually affecting their lifespan.
Some of the primary factors that can affect the life expectancy of a St. Bernard are stated below:
- Breed and genetic factors
- Family medical history
Breed and Genetic Factors
It is essential to know that the lifespan of your dog hugely depends on the breed and its genetic history. Because of the genetic factors, there are certain dog breeds live longer than others.
Generally, large size breeds live longer than smaller size breeds because large size dogs grow faster and prone to more health problems. For example, St. Bernard has a significantly shorter lifespan than small breeds like Chihuahua. Chihuahuas with an average weight of 3 to 6 pounds usually live for 12 to 20 years.
It is also believed that mixed or crossbreed dogs have longer lifespans than pure breed dogs. This is because pure breed dogs have a risk of carrying genes for disorders that are common to that specific breed.
It’s not only the breed size that matters the most. But also the size within a breed. The American Kennel Club (AKC) reported that for every increase of 4.4 pounds in body mass, the life expectancy of the dog decreased by a month.
This means if your dog is overweight or obese, its life expectancy might be dramatically shortened.
Family Medical History
The family health history of dogs plays a vital role in determining their overall lifespan. The faulty genes from the parents can be easily passed down to their puppies.
That’s mean an unhealthy dog suffering from several diseases may produce puppies that have a high chance of suffering the same diseases as those their parents are suffering.
Therefore, dogs suffering from severe genetic disorders such as degenerative myelopathy and heart diseases are not allowed to breed.
The lifestyle of your pup says a lot. Lifestyle is an environmental factor that determines the life expectancy of your St. Bernard. It includes its diet, exercise, training as well as the environment in which it is living.
The happiness of them depends on these subfactors. If you are taking good care of it, your dog will live happier, healthier, and live longer than its usual lifespan.
Ways to Improve the Lifespan of St. Bernard
We know the fact that one human year is equivalent to seven dog years. This means that if a man lives for one year, then the dog has lived for an equivalent of seven years.
As a dog lover, we can always do something to help our little companions to live longer. Here are the proven ways that help to improve their quality of life and to increase their lifespan:
- Feed them a healthy and balanced diet
- Regular exercise
- Regular veterinary visits and vaccinations
- Provide a safe and healthy living environment
Feed Them a Healthy and Balanced Diet
You must feed your St. Bernard with a high-quality diet that contains the right amount of nutrients to fulfill his nutritional needs. The nutritional requirements depend on their body weight, gender, activity level, and health condition.
Therefore, we recommend consulting a veterinary nutritionist to develop a diet plan specifically for your St. Bernard in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle. This typically costs you around $500 per recipe and you’ll need to prepare the food by yourself.
Healthy and proactive exercise also helps in prolonging the lifespan of your St. Bernard. Regular exercise makes him happy and active, which gives them inner motivation and a sense of love with their life.
Exercises also strengthen the muscles of your dog. It is better to have strong muscles at the early stages of a dog to enable it to cope up with aging.
As discussed earlier in the factors affecting a dog’s lifespan, an overweight dog tend to have a shorter life expectancy than those having a healthy weight. And one of the best ways to prevent them from getting overweight is through regular exercise.
Regular Veterinary Visits and Vaccinations
Early diagnose of the disorder can be a savior for your dog’s lifespan. It is only possible if you are taking good care of your pup’s health and regularly visiting the veterinary. You should also learn about their common health problems so that you can recognize the signs and symptoms.
It is recommended to visit veterinary once a year. It will significantly help in maintaining the good health of your pup, ultimately increasing its overall lifespan.
Keeping up with updated vaccines helps to protect your dog from getting some fatal diseases such as canine hepatitis, canine distemper, canine parainfluenza, coronavirus, adenovirus, and parvo. Going to the vet regularly for vaccinations is compulsory as some of those diseases have no cure until now. This may cost you around $75 to $100.
Provide a Safe and Healthy Environment
A safe, clean, and healthy living environment determines the quality of your St. Bernard’s life. Your house or flat wherever you are living should have a hygienic environment and should be cleaned from any hazardous chemicals such as detergents and glass cleaners. These life-threatening threads can put your dog at risk.
If you are living in a landed house, it is also necessary that your backyard should be clean from anything that could hurt or makes your pup in danger. It should have roamed and space to spend time with your dog.
St. Bernard is a large size breed which was specially bred for the rescue purposes by the Hospice. St. Bernards are famous for their huge size and domination, but due to their size, their lifespan is shorter than many other breeds.
As we have discussed above, the average lifespan of St. Bernard is around 8 to 10 years, which is far shorter than small size breeds. If you love to have a giant size yet lovely pet, then St. Bernard is ideal for you.
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.