As a German Shepherd owner, you may have already wondered about how long you’ll have your dog for. After all, while it’d be great to have them forever, it’s just not possible. And so, we need to know what to expect so we can better prepare ourselves for the inevitable.
In this article, I’ll talk about the German Shepherd lifespan, what affects it, and what you can do to increase or maximize it.
How Long Do German Shepherds Live?
German Shepherds typically live for 9 to 13 years depending on the health issues they may encounter. For instance, a fatal condition such as bloat may cause a German Shepherd to have a shorter life. While healthy ones may even live beyond 13 years.
Health Issues Affecting German Shepherd Lifespan
German Shepherds are prone to a variety of health issues that may either severely affect its quality of life or abruptly end it. Either way, it’s important that you educate yourself about these issues even if just for awareness. They are as follows:
Arthritis. A condition characterized by the inflammation of joints due to damaged cartilage. It causes pain, discomfort, stiffness, and lameness.
Bloat. A fatal condition characterized by the gas buildup in a German Shepherd’s stomach which causes the stomach to twist on itself and cut off blood supply.
Degenerative Myelopathy. A disease affecting the spinal cord which eventually leads to hind limb weakness and paralysis.
Diabetes. German Shepherds have an above-average incidence of diabetes mellitus, a disease characterized by the inability to regulate the metabolism of sugar in the body. When uncontrolled it may lead to cataracts, seizures, and kidney failure.
Epilepsy. A disorder characterized by uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in a German Shepherd’s brain. It leads to seizures that may sometimes end up fatal.
Hemangiosarcoma. An aggressive type of cancer common among large breeds such as the German Shepherd. It has a high mortality rate with affected dogs typically dying within six to eight months.
Hip or Elbow Dysplasia. Painful conditions wherein a German Shepherd’s joints don’t develop as intended. They often lead to mobility issues and arthritis.
How To Increase Your German Shepherd’s Longevity
With all the health issues a German Shepherd may encounter, it’s hard to guarantee that your dog will live a long life. Fortunately though, there are a few things you can do to try and increase your German Shepherd’s lifespan.
Proper Veterinary Care
The first method of course, is to provide your German Shepherd with proper veterinary care. This means going on regular check-ups at least once a year and keeping up with vaccinations and parasite or deworming treatments.
Doing so will allow your vet to quickly identify potential risks and prevent the development of disease.
Feed Your German Shepherd Properly
Nutrition is an important factor to your German Shepherd’s health. And so it’s crucial that you feed it with the right amount and type of food.
Daily Caloric Requirement
German Shepherds have a daily requirement of 1,272 to 2,100 calories or 3 to 5 cups of commercial dog food depending on activity level. Energetic ones typically need an average of 1,700 while older and less active GSDs need just around 1,300.
Following these amounts will help keep your German Shepherd maintain a healthy weight and will prevent the development of issues such as lethargy, skin conditions, joint problems, heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues caused by malnutrition or obesity.
When choosing dog food for your German Shepherd you must keep an eye on two important ingredients, protein and fat.
Protein allows your German Shepherd’s body to function. The amino acids that it provides contributes to muscle development and repair, as well as the formation of new skin, hair, and nail cells. It supports your dog’s immune system and keeps its musculoskeletal system strong.
Like protein, fats also provide a number of benefits. For one, it provides your German Shepherd with the energy it needs to function. It also plays a role with the proper absorption of fat soluble nutrients such vitamins A, D, E, and K. Finally, fat under the skin provides insulation and helps protect organs by serving as a cushion.
With all that said, the food you provide must contain at least 22% protein and 8% fat for puppies or at least 18% protein and 5% fat for adult German Shepherds. Keep in mind however, that not all protein and fats are created equal.
Ideally, your German Shepherd’s protein should come from whole meats like beef, fish, and poultry. While the fat must also come from healthy sources such as fish oil and vegetables.
Avoid Toxic Food
What’s safe for us humans may be toxic to your German Shepherd. Food such as garlic, onions, grapes, and chocolates can make your dog sick and even kill it when consumed in large amounts. So keep what you feed your dog in mind.
In general, it’s best to avoid feeding your dog human food and just simply stick to high-quality dog food. Should you choose to do so however, you may want to do some research beforehand or consult with a vet.
Provide Enough Exercise
Like with us humans, your German Shepherd needs exercise to be healthy. It helps maintain a healthy weight, strengthens their joints and muscles, and reduces the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular problems.
Aside from that, exercising your German Shepherd also keeps it entertained and prevents the development of behavioral issues such as excessive barking, chewing, and digging.
Two birds, one stone.
So try your best to provide your German Shepherd with at least 1 hour of exercise daily, be it from walks or play.
Monitor Joint Health
As large breeds, German Shepherds are especially prone to mobility issues like hip and elbow dysplasia. Such is why you’ll have to pay extra attention to your dog’s joints, especially when it’s younger than 18 months old.
At that point your German Shepherd is still developing and heavy work may cause damage to its joints and bones. So try to keep things light for your young German Shepherd. Don’t go running or taking it on long hikes during this period and simply stick to walks or light jogs for exercise.
Don’t neglect your German Shepherd’s grooming needs. While it may not seem direct or obvious, lack of grooming may lead to lower quality of life and even cause your German Shepherd to be sick.
Neglecting your German Shepherd’s oral care will lead to a number of problems like loss in appetite, weight loss, and of course, the loss of teeth. But what’s more worrying is the fact that bacterial buildup in your dog’s mouth may eventually enter your dog’s bloodstream and infect its liver and kidneys. Studies have also shown that dogs with dental disease have increased risk of congestive heart failure, a potentially fatal disease.
So brush your German Shepherd’s teeth or at least provide dental chews to help prevent bacterial build-up.
Believe it or not, matting can actually affect your German Shepherd’s health. It can lead to pain, skin infections, and even joint damage when severe. It may also hide underlying skin problems like ticks and fleas which may infect your dog with a variety of illnesses.
And so, try your best to implement a regular brushing schedule of at least three times a week. In doing so, you’ll be able to keep your German Shepherd’s coat clean and healthy and you’ll also be able to check for skin conditions like bumps or wounds that may possibly indicate underlying medical conditions.
While there isn’t much you can do about the different medical conditions that may affect your German Shepherd, it’s lifespan barring disease, ultimately depends on how you treat it. So if you want your German Shepherd to live a long and good life, provide it with your best care and address its needs. And should you ever need help, never hesitate to consult with a veterinarian.