Why Do Dogs Live Such Short Lives?

Find out how you can work to solve the problem

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“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself”

Have you Ever Wondered...

  • Why dogs live such short lives?
  • Who invited dog years, and is it accurate?

Dogs are one of the greatest additions to this world. They are great examples of unconditional love and unwavering devotion. Most dogs truly live for their human owners. We are their entire world, yet they are typically only a fraction of ours. It seems so crazy to me that something so full of life, that eats the same diet everyday, generally sticks to the same schedule, and is so full of life and energy can be gone so quickly.

If you have ever experienced the death of a dog (or any pet for that matter), you know there are few things worse than watching something so amazing lose their life so soon. It is so hard to grasp this harsh reality, even from a young age. A little boy named Shane provided the perfect explanation for his parents when they were distraught over why their dog was diagnosed with cancer so soon and did not have much longer to live:

“People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life— like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right? Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.”

I would love to believe the answer is as simple and beautiful as this one, but there is some actual science involved. Artificial selection and inbreeding have ignored the basic physiological needs of dogs, making it more difficult for them to live. For example, English Bulldogs whose snouts make it difficult for them to breathe without snorting. In addition, loss of diversity has shortened dogs’ lives. The desire to breed “champion dogs” has caused the genetic problems in these dogs to spread faster. When there is such limited diversity, the problems in dog breeds are less easily managed.

In addition (and thank goodness there is another reason that is not our fault), dogs live shorter lives because their bodies are structured different from ours. In fact, even different dogs have different life spans depending on their body and face build. There is no one-size-fits-all rule for the life span of a dog. Even more interesting? The “seven-year rule” is nothing more than mythology, something made up for simplicity that really does not apply to most dogs. As a result, the proper way to translate human years to dog years largely depends on the breed and size of the dog in question. Seven years in one breed is not equivalent to seven years in another breed.

So what features give a dog a longer life? Dogs are categorized into four categories:

  • Small dogs (20lbs or less)
  • Medium dogs (21-50lbs)
  • Large dogs (51-90lbs)
  • Giant breeds (over 90lbs)

Small breeds typically age slower than larger breeds. This can be attributed to the growth hormone IGF-1 because smaller dogs have a much less concentration of this hormone than bigger ones. Animals with lower levels of this hormone have had aged slower and reported reduced age-related diseases.

Overall, there are many things contributing to the shortened lifespans of these amazing creatures. While some of things limiting factors are our fault and some are not, it is important that we make the most of our dogs’ limited time on earth. Be the person your dog thinks you are, and strive to show them even a fraction of the love they show you over their lifetime.

Try it Out

Keep your dog healthy

Most of our dogs spend their entire day laying around and waiting for us to come home. Once we get home, we are so tired we just feed them and let them out. In order for dogs to stay healthy, they must have a balanced diet and get an adequate amount of exercise. This is also good for their mental health. Make sure you are walking your dog at least twice and week and devoting time to giving them attention. Behavior problems in dogs are typically a result of boredom and lack of exercise, so make sure to overcome these problems by actively working to keep your dog healthy. This can greatly help expand their lifespans, so everyone benefits!!


Rescue, don't buy

Every dog I have had in my life has been bought. However, after recently taking a great interest in rescue shelters, I now have a passion for saving these dogs. When you rescue a dog you are saving a life. Most of these shelters do not have room for all the dogs that fill them. This requires harsh standards on how long dogs can stay there. These dogs have already had troubled lives, and now some of them are not even being given a chance. While it is perfectly normal to buy dogs, I encourage you to consider rescuing one before you buy one. It makes you feel good inside, and you can be confident that you are giving your dog a second chance.


Feed them RIGHT

Be cautious of what you are feeding your dog. Recognize that certain human foods can seriously harm or even kill dogs. Dogs do not metabolize food in the same way that humans do. Make sure to feed your dog a balanced, healthy diet. Look at the first five ingredients on the label, as these ingredients typically make up the majority of the food.

  • Avoid common filler ingredients in dog food that may actually harm your dog's health. Some of these include: Ethoxyquin, Propylene Glycol, BHT/BHA, Corn Syrup and corn, and animal by-products

  • Some dogs may show signs of a food intolerance or sensitivity. Watch for things such as diarrhea, vomiting, or skin conditions.