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German shepherds, with a weight of around 50 to 75 pounds for females and males that can reach around 90 pounds, are considered among the biggest dog breeds. Even though they are pretty large, they are known as real gentle giants. They are loving, affectionate and among the best dogs for families.
These animals are also very easily trainable, highly adaptable, and amazingly smart. These are just some of the reasons why German Shepherds become heroes in teams with military members, police officers, and first responders, and are used as working dogs and even service animals.
Although the German Shepherd you’ll raise might never win any awards or medals for bravery, he will surely become an important part of your life. This is why after some time, you won’t be able to imagine a life in which you don’t have your dog by your side. The ugly aspect of this breed is that its actual lifespan isn’t as long as in the case of other dogs. This is just the simple truth. But having a good approximation of how long your dog will live will make you understand the current stage of his life and the best care he will need based on this.
But enough with the lengthy introduction and let’s get right into the German Shepherd’s lifespan and how to keep him as healthy as possible throughout his life.
So what is the average German Shepherd’s lifespan?
A German Shepherd will usually live somewhere between 7 and 10 years, says the American Kennel Club. This is considerably below the average lifespan of dogs in general, which can easily reach 13 years. Among the breeds that live the longest are the Pyrenean Shepherds, who can easily live to about 20 years old, and Chihuahuas, who can easily reach the age of 17 years of age. The Biewer Terriers also have an impressive lifespan, that can reach 16 years.
Usual German Shepherd health issues
I`m sure you’re asking yourself why the shorter lifespan when it comes to German Shepherds and what I can tell you is that there are actually a few reasons behind it. One reason is that most of the time, smaller breeds will outlive bigger ones like the German Shepherd. Bigger dogs are known to live less than their smaller cousins, being more likely to develop cancer as well. One great example is the really small Pyrenean Shepherd, which won’t weigh more than 15 – 30 pounds, which is basically the weight of a German Shepherd pup while having the longest average lifespan among dogs.
Among the illnesses, health issues, and conditions impacting the lifespan of a German Shepherd and the dog’s general well-being are:
- Inability to stand
- Blood clotting
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Heart disease
- Dental disease
- Otitis externa (the infection around the outer ear canal)
One study in the UK states that the inability to stand and any musculoskeletal disorders are among the most common reasons why German Shepherds will usually pass away.
Keeping a German Shepherd pet healthy
Regardless of how much effort you put into your pet’s health, you will never be able to protect the German Shepherd from any imaginable disease. The dog’s aging is a normal part of life and some conditions are unstoppable, like hereditary ones. Even so, there are a few things that you can do to make sure your German Shepherd will live as much as possible, with as few medical conditions as possible.
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Physical Activity and Exercise
The German Shepherd is a breed prone to obesity issues and physical activity in any form is very important for weight management. This will also reduce the risk of the dog developing heart disease. This is a breed that will need a few hours of activity, which is not a negligible amount, but the real amount of exercise will vary based on your available time and the individual dog you have. Your pet will be able to get the needed physical activity in a lot of different ways, like:
- Swimming in lakes or pools
- Games of fetch
- Puzzle toys
- Agility courses
- Long walks
The dog’s diet
You should always strive to give your German Shepherd only the best possible food to keep it healthy. This includes AAFCO-approved, well-balanced dog food. Don’t be afraid to ask your vet how often and how much food you should give to your dog. If you have a German Shepherd pup, then you should know that experts will advise giving it a growth food for larger breeds. Although one of the effects of this food will be to slightly slow their growth rate when reaching adulthood they’d still get to the standard size of the breed. This is a measure designed to reduce the risk of developing hip dysplasia at some point in their life.
Vet visits and periodic vaccinations
Regular visits are a must because most diseases will see better outcomes when early intervention is done. Some conditions like heartworm and rabies are also preventable and easily treatable when found in their early stages. Up-to-date vaccinations and monthly consultations can really mitigate most of the known diseases.
Your dog’s eating habits might really suffer if it suffers from dental disease. These diseases will usually become painful, making the dog unwilling to eat, which in time, will turn into eating disorders. You should consider brushing your dog’s teeth at least once per day for one minute or more. This is the best way of preventing disease and eliminating bacteria from the dog’s mouth.
German Shepherds can easily develop ear infections. You will need to go for weekly cleanings to make sure you eliminate bacteria and any other type of build-up that might lead to infections and inflammation in the future.
Final thoughts on German Shepherds
German shepherds are very trainable, lovable, but also loyal. This is why some specimens are used with big success as guide dogs or as support in the military. Most of them will only get to be someone’s companions, which isn’t a bad thing. The bad news is that this particular breed won’t live as much as other breeds. The lifespan of the German Shepherd will usually be of only 7 to 10 years. This is considerably less than the age smaller breeds will reach.
Among the health issues German Shepherds are prone to developing, musculoskeletal disorders hold a high place. They can also have problems with weight control and obesity. Most of the time, a larger breed can develop cancer easier than a smaller one. You can reduce the risk of the dog developing health issues by giving it a balanced and healthy diet and enough physical activity. These dogs will be great at swimming and running. Don’t forget to take your dog to regular vet check-ups and give it proper brushing of the teeth and weekly ear cleanings.