Our dogs never live long enough — it’s the trade-off we make for the love and companionship they give us when they’re here with us. Unfortunately, as big as they are, Great Danes have one of the shortest lifespans of any dog breed.
These gentle giants may only be with us for a relatively short time, but there’s a reason they are one of the most popular breeds.
Let’s talk about how long you can expect to have them around and how you can make their lives as amazing as possible while they’re here.
Why Don’t Great Danes Live As Long?
Although every dog is different, Great Danes live about an average of eight years. The difference is evident when you compare that with the average canine lifespan of 11.
For much of the animal kingdom, bigger means better (at least, in terms of lifespan). In fact, certain types of whales can live as much as 200 years! So why doesn’t that same logic translate to the canine world?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a scientific explanation yet. However, there are some theories. It may have something to do with how they age.
Although research has debunked the idea of “dog years,” dogs age differently than humans do. And more importantly, different breeds and sizes of dogs age differently from each other.
Large breed dogs, like Great Danes, tend to age biologically quicker than smaller dogs. This may make them more susceptible to developing cancer and mean that they succumb to other age-related diseases quicker.
Because of their size, their body also has to work harder to keep them going — which can lead to their organs simply wearing out more quickly than other, smaller dogs.
How Can I Extend My Great Dane’s Lifespan?
You may not be able to get extra years out of your Great Dane, but you can help make the years they have on Earth as wonderful as possible. Focusing on the following factors can help your dog stay happy and healthy for as long as possible. It’s just how long your dog lives; quality of life is ultimately the most important — these tips focus on both.
Know Their Common Health Concerns
Like most dog breeds, Great Danes are more susceptible to a few specific health concerns. Recognizing those ailments (and potentially taking steps to prevent them) may be to extend their lifespan or at least reduce the likelihood of an early, untimely death.
- Stomach bloat — Also known as GDV (gastric dilatation and volvulus), stomach bloat is an emergency condition where the stomach suddenly fills with air and twists, painfully cutting off blood supply to the vital organs. Big-chested dogs are more likely to develop a GDV. However, there are ways to prevent them — like having their stomach “tacked” during their spay or neuter surgery or recognizing the early signs (non-productive retching, pacing, drooling, etc.)
- Hip dysplasia — Another condition that Great Danes are more likely to develop than other breeds is hip dysplasia, a painful issue that impacts how their hip joints develop. If caught early, some surgeries may be able to be performed. Some medications and therapies can keep them comfortable. Ask them about their parents’ genetic history if you are adopting a Great Dane from a breeder.
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) — Great Danes are gentle giants, but that big personality also has a downside — a tendency to develop a condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy (or an enlargement of the heart). DCM can significantly lower your Great Dane’s lifespan, leading to dangerous arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). DCM is often genetic, so knowing more about your pet’s family history before adopting can help you have a higher chance of avoiding the diagnosis.
Keep Them Active
Activity is one of the most important things you can do for your dog to increase your Great Dane’s lifespan and keep them happy, healthy, and slim. Exercise can also help keep your dog’s stress level down, leading to a stronger immune system (and less potential for separation anxiety).
However, to avoid bloat, ensure you’re not letting them be too active immediately after eating or drinking. Spending time walking or running with your Great Dane has a few other upsides — it helps improve the bond between you and your dog and is also great for your health! It’s just one more perk of being a pet parent.
Feed Them Right
Obviously, your Great Dane will need a significantly different diet plan than a Yorkie or Chihuahua. However, providing them with proper nutrition can do a wealth of good when it comes to keeping them alive and healthy for much longer. It’s the difference between eating a diet of primarily fast food versus one filled with whole fruits and vegetables.
All dogs are prone to many of the same problems that a poor diet can trigger – obesity, heart disease, etc. Consulting with your veterinarian about your dog’s nutritional needs is crucial. Most will need a relatively high percentage of protein and a moderate amount of fat to keep them in optimal health and wellness.
The proper diet is perhaps the most important when your Great Dane is a puppy. Without the correct nutritional balance, Great Dane puppies will start to grow too fast. This quicker growth rate can lead to significant musculoskeletal concerns, including dysplasia and osteochondritis.
Pick the Right Breeder
If you’re considering getting a Great Dane, don’t let their relatively short lifespan scare you off. Great Danes are loving companions and make excellent members of nearly every family (even if you live in an apartment, as they are often at their happiest when they’re couch potatoes).
However, choosing the right breeder can significantly affect how long and healthy your Great Dane’s lifespan can be. Don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions about their bloodline, including whether they have any significant medical history.
Don’t Skip Annual Check-ups
Your dog’s annual wellness exam is about more than just updating their vaccines. These appointments allow your veterinarian to look your dog over from nose to tail, potentially catching health issues before they are allowed to become serious.
They can also answer any questions and recommend keeping your pet’s health at its highest level. Plus, establishing care with a veterinarian when your dog is healthy can help if your dog does develop any health conditions — they’ll know your dog’s “normal,” so they can more accurately tell when something is wrong.
A Great Dane’s lifespan may not be as long as we’d like it to be (is it ever?), but there are actions you can take to make those years as healthy and happy as possible.
Knowing the health conditions your Great Dane may be more susceptible to, keeping them active, feeding them the right food, and ensuring they get regular check-ups can make the most of the eight or so years we’re lucky enough to have them around.