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Great Dane Lifespan: Why The Short Life?

Large and lively, Great Danes are among the most recognizable dog breeds. But despite their larger-than-life appearance, the colossal breed has a shorter lifespan than most dogs. Great Dane owners demand an explanation. What is the average lifespan of a Great Dane? And why is the Great Dane lifespan so short?

Why is the Great Dane lifespan so short?

For such large dogs, Great Danes get the short end of the stick with regards to life expectancy. Great Danes live 8-10 years, with some living 6 or 7 years. A lucky few reach the ripe old age of 12, but these dogs require proper senior dog care. Compared to smaller breeds, which can live twice as long, this doesn’t seem fair.

This poses an interesting paradox. If you think about it, some of the longest-living animals on the planet, such as whales and elephants, are also the largest. In comparison, smaller animals like rodents only live for a handful of years. Why do dogs differ from the rest of the animal kingdom?

To the modern date, scientists don’t fully understand the reasons behind the paradox. However, they do know that large dogs age faster than small dogs. It’s almost like large dogs seem to live their adult years in fast-forward. Scientists also know that the larger the dog, the less time we have them for.

What is the oldest Great Dane?

Most Great Danes live an average of 8 to 10 years. In 2006, the Great Dane Club of America conducted a health survey that found the oldest living Great Dane to be 15 years old at the time of the survey. However, there are many unverified reports of Great Danes who lived as long as 17 years. Unfortunately, as of 2014, the survey has not been updated.

Black Great Dane with average lifespan.

Big health problems for big dogs

Along with a shorter lifespan, the Great Dane is also prone to various health problems that can shorten that lifespan.

The breed is susceptible to bloat, which is a dangerous condition that affects the stomach. Bloat results in the stomach twisting and cutting off blood supply. Dogs that suffer from bloat a first time often encounter it a second time. Veterinarians often recommend a tacking procedure in an attempt to minimize future risk. If you’re the owner of a Great Dane, consult your veterinarian about the symptoms of bloat and how to avoid the condition.

Great Danes are known for having big hearts, but this light-hearted notion has a more literal meaning. Great Danes notoriously suffer from cardiomyopathy, which is a disease of the heart muscle that can enlarge the heart itself.

With their colossal frames, Great Danes often experience joint and bone diseases, such as osteoarthritis and dysplasia. These unfortunate conditions tend to be gradual and result in deterioration that often requires Great Dane owners to make a tough decision about their dog’s quality of life.

Thyroid problems are also in the line-up of usual suspects for decreasing the lifespan of a Great Dane. Autoimmune thyroiditis generally causes hypothyroidism. However, this disease can be regulated with medication and your veterinarian can monitor your Great Dane’s thyroid levels with simple blood work.

Handsome Dane with an average Great Dane lifespan.

Tips for Improving the Great Dane Lifespan

As dog owners, we control much of what our dogs’ eat and how often they exercise. But do we have any control over how long our dogs live?

The answer is a bit bittersweet. There are many things we have no control over, such as cancer, but you can do a few things to give your Great Dane a chance to reach the upper years of their development. Here are a few tips to help your Great Dane live a long and healthy life:

Responsible Breeding

High-caliber Great Dane breeders will provide the health history of their breeding lines. When choosing a puppy, look for breeders who have had their dogs tested for hip dysplasia. Also be aware of additional genetic problems, such as autoimmune thyroiditis, heart disease, and eye problems.

If you’re planning to adopt a Great Dane from a rescue shelter, you may not have access to your dog’s health history. However, your veterinarian can evaluate him or her for any potential risks. This will allow you to develop a wellness plan created specifically for your dog.

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is essential for a long-lasting Great Dane lifespan. This is especially true for Great Dane puppies. Like all large dogs breeds, Great Dane puppies require a specialized diet in order to prevent them from growing too rapidly. Extreme growth often leads to musculoskeletal diseases, such as osteochondrosis, dysplasia, and hypertrophic osteodystrophy.

As Great Danes mature, diet and exercise remain vital to achieving a healthy Great Dane lifespan. Large dogs like Great Danes are at a serious risk for obesity, which can take years off their lives. Obesity often leads to health problems such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, and orthopedic diseases like hip dysplasia. Make sure your dog has an appropriate diet and gets regular exercise. Do these two things and you’ll help increase the odds of your Great Dane living longer.

Preventative Care

Bloat is especially hard to avoid. Researchers still don’t know the exact cause, or how to prevent it. Most veterinarians recommend giving multiple small meals a day, instead of one or two larger meals. They also recommend avoiding exercise around feeding times. For additional information on avoiding bloat in dogs, consult your veterinarian.

In many, if not most cases, catching a health condition or disease early improves the chances of a healthy recovery. Great Danes are large dogs, which means larger veterinary bills, but this doesn’t mean you can skip out on regular checkups. Keep your Great Dane up-to-date on vaccines, and also tell your veterinarian if you’ve observed any recent changes in his or her appetite, mood, or activity levels. Your veterinarian can also help you monitor and manage joint conditions that develop with age.


The Great Dane lifespan may be shorter than most, but they are not alone. Several other large breeds, such as Irish Wolfhounds and Bernese Mountain Dogs have short lives as well. In summary, how long do Great Danes live? Not long enough, that’s for sure. But we’re grateful for every day we have with them.

Are you a Great Dane owner? If so, please share any tips you may have on giving the best life possible for Great Danes.

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