For the last 10 years, the German shepherd has been the second most popular dog in the United States and has also been in the top ten 10 for decades.
Having a German shepherd in your family can be exciting intellect, courage and loyalty. Nonetheless, one of the issues that new owners usually care about is how long they’re going to have their dog in the family and what to do to help it live a bit longer and healthier.
Let’s get into it.
How Long Does A German Shepherd Live?
The German Shepherd is an amazing dog with tons of excellent qualities. They have a lifespan of 9-13 years which is average for most dogs. There are several factors that can affect how long they live. It is important to recognize these factors and hopefully extend their lives as much as possible.
Depending on each dog’s overall health and the care they receive, they can live a bit longer than this. It is important to know what can affect your German shepherd’s life and what you can do to increase it.
Another important point to note is that female shepherds can live an additional 1.4 years than male shepherds. Generally, female shepherds average 11.1 years while male shepherds average 9.7 years.
Factors That Can Affect Your German Shepherd’s Lifespan
The manner in which your German shepherd was bred can adversely increase its lifespan as some breeding methods generally produce healthier puppies than others. Line breeding, as was originally used by Max Von Stephanitz, the originator of the German shepherd breed, is the ideal method of breeding German shepherd dogs.
While this method assures you of healthy puppies who are certain to live long, certain desirable features of the GSD are also maintained. Some breeders though, especially in low-quality breeding homes, do not pay attention to the health of the mother dog as they only care about making money.
Thus, they do not properly check the health status of the dog to ascertain whether or not they carry some health risks that are likely to be passed down to the puppies. Buying your GS puppy from such breeders will likely cost you several amounts of money on the health of your dog and you are even likely to lose your dog.
Exercising your dog is as important to its health as feeding it. At a tender age of 3 months, you can take your dog out for a 15-minute walk and increase this to an hour of walk and other exercises once it is one year old.
Note that excessive exercise at a young age will put a strain on your dog’s hips and joints and may cause dysplasia.
Once your German shepherd is two years and over, you can engage it in some tough exercises to strengthen the muscles and keep them in shape. This can benefit your dog’s overall health and lifespan.
One of the most important factors that contribute to how long your dog will live is what food you give it. Always ensure that you are feeding it a well nutritious and balanced diet, especially for their joints’ development.
Calories are very important for both puppies and adult dogs but you should avoid overfeeding your dog to prevent overweight. Obesity in your dog is a great health risk.
In trying to prevent overfeeding, make sure it does not result in underfeeding as that too, poses some health risks for your dog. Find the right balance and contact your vet if you’re unsure about what and how to feed your German shepherd dog.
Incorrect training or neglect can produce behavioural issues and can also affect your dog’s lifespan. You may be dismayed by an untrained dog, and, like puppies, they gnaw on everything. Ingesting the wrong thing might prove fatal. Trained dogs know how to behave and won’t eat stuff they shouldn’t.
Most people who have an aggressive dog, especially one as large and powerful as a German Shepherd, put them down. So, even when training security dogs, sociability is critical.
Life Stages Of A German Shepherd
Months after bringing home your German shepherd puppy, you will notice the growth, both in body and character. Here are the stages of your dog’s life.
This stage is between 3 to 7 months and this is when most people buy or adopt their German shepherd puppies. At this stage, your puppy is keen to learn everything there is to learn. This is the stage where you should train and socialize your dog. Also, you should let it know what the ground rules and structure of your house are. Expect your puppy to play a lot at this stage because of the high level of energy they possess.
The Adolescent Stage
This stage is between 7 months and 3 years and can be compared to a human’s adolescent stage. There are a lot of behavioural changes at this stage mainly because of their sexual maturity.
However, these behaviours, which can be quite disturbing, can be avoided by spaying or neutering your dog. This medical procedure for dogs takes off the hormones that propel these behaviours.
It is also at this stage that you should engage your shepherd in rigorous training and exercises, especially if you intend to go on runs with it. They need exercises to develop their stamina.
The Adult Stage
At 3 years, your German shepherd dog is now mature. There isn’t much to do here as your dog is now well trained and well behaved. You are set to enjoy a calmer version of your shepherd friend.
The Senior Stage
Once your German shepherd is 7 years, it can be considered a senior dog. At this stage, your dog is bound to experience some of the common health issues common to German Shepherds such as hip and bone joint pains, easily getting tired etc.
You must dedicate a bit more time to their needs at this point and frequently visit your vet to ensure early detection of any health risk.
What Are Some Of The Common Health Issues In German Shepherd Dogs?
Just like any other breed of dog, German shepherds do encounter some medical conditions throughout their lives. Once you know these conditions, you can help reduce the risk of their occurrence.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
This is very common in German Shepherd dogs. This is when there’s been a displacement of a joint or the formation of a joint is abnormal, causing your dog so much pain as it ages. This is especially common in low-quality bred dogs as this can be passed on from parent to puppy.
Once dysplasia affects your dog’s hip or elbow joints, it becomes painful for them to walk properly. This results in limping, lameness or even complete debilitation in some cases.
This is another common health risk in German shepherds. It refers to an autoimmune disease of the eye that causes irregular granulation tissue to form on the eye. This can result in blur visions, and extreme discomfort and when left unchecked can result in vision loss.
Some of the signs of pannus include the cloudy appearance of the eye, eye irritation and swelling, pawing at the eye etc. The sad thing though, is that there is no cure but it can be managed effectively.
While arthritis can happen to any dog, it usually occurs in large breed dogs like the German shepherd. This affects the joints and bones of dogs and involves the wearing down of the cartilage between the joints.
The joints then rub and grinds against each other, causing extreme discomfort for your dog as the condition increases.
Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that often affects dogs from 1 year of age and older.
This condition is characterized by the sudden onset of seizures and other neurological behaviour.
Degenerative Disc Disease
This is also very common in large dog breeds, including the German shepherd.
It has to do with the decline in the disc of the spine, which often leads to lameness in the dog and causes it pain. This condition can be diagnosed by X-ray.
You should take your dog to your vet as early as you detect such signs as slowing down, limping, crying out, having difficulties getting up or refusing to get up.
Bloat happens when a dog’s stomach folds over on itself, trapping food and air inside.
Circulation to other sections of the digestive tract is also cut off since the stomach is turned on its side. This is a dangerous ailment that can be fatal if it is not treated right away.
This condition is regarded as the mother of all emergencies in veterinary care because of how dangerous it is.
Bloated dogs frequently wretch without vomiting, show signs of weakness in their back legs, have an enlarged abdomen, and collapse.
Limiting exercise after a dog eats and using slow feeder bowls to stop your dog from eating too soon can also assist to prevent this disease.
This can occur in many forms, including foods, the air, or even contact. Skin redness, skin irritation, head shaking, constant itching, hair loss, sores on the skin and gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas and irregular stool are some of the ways in which allergies can be detected. You should contact your vet if you notice any of these.
The thyroid is what aids important hormone production in dogs and once it becomes dysfunctional, your German shepherd is likely to experience weight loss, weight gain, change in appetite, change in behaviour, hair loss etc.
Thyroid problems can be diagnosed with routine blood work and can be managed with daily medication.
What Are The Signs That My German Shepherd’s Life Is Ending?
The thought of losing your beloved dog can be sad and worrying. Yet, every dog owner should be ready for this phase. Here are some signs that will tell you that your German shepherd is nearing its grave;
- They easily become tired and are mostly quiet. Your dog loses interest in walks or toys and tends to disassociate itself from other dogs and people. They would not want to move as much as they used to as this causes them much pain with each movement.
- Your dog’s mobility and balance decrease. Once your dog reaches this stage, they tend to lose their balance when walking and so it is visible when they walk, how unsteady they are. They tend to lie down more often than not.
- There is a loss of appetite and incontinence. At old age, your dog’s digestive system begins to shut down and as such it will move from eating and drinking less to not eating and drinking at all. There is visible weight loss and your dog loses control over its bladder. This results in indiscriminate urinating and defecation. It is an uncomfortable and sad period for you and your dog
- Then there is this odd breathing of your dog. Your dog breathes more even and slowly now, indicating that it is having difficulties in breathing or it is simply running out of breath.
Know that these can as well be signs that your dog is just sick, especially if it is experiencing this at a young age. It is important to be there for your dog when it is nearing its end. Your dog will very much appreciate your comfort.
Some Tips To Help Your German Shepherd Live Healthier.
Although there isn’t much one can do about the health risks of dogs, there are certainly some measures you can employ to help your dog live healthier.
- Do not underfeed or overfeed your dog. Overweight dogs suffer severe health conditions which can take their lives.
- Take your dog to the vet once every month for regular checkups. This results in early detection of any health condition and subsequent treatment
- Brush your shepherd’s teeth daily as this can help prevent periodontal disease and increase their life expectancy by a maximum of 3-5 years. Studies have shown that 90% of dogs over the age of 3 years have periodontal disease which can also be said to be the most common infectious disease among adult dogs.
- Exercising your dog is a great way of ensuring it lives a long healthy life. German shepherds are especially active dogs that need plenty of exercises to maintain their great shape. Some ways you can exercise your dog includes taking it for a walk. Playing fetch, setting up make-shift obstacles for it to run, playing frisbee with it at home or at the park and taking it for a hike at your local dog-friendly trail.
- You should also neuter or spay your German shepherd at the appropriate age as studies have found that neutered and spayed dogs do live much longer. It was found that male neutered dogs have an increased life expectancy of 13.8% while spayed female dogs register a 26.3% increment in life expectancy.
Taking care of your German Shepherd is not an easy task as you may have noticed by now. Yet, it becomes relatively easy if you know what you’re about. We hope that this article will help you a great deal.
Having your dog live just an extra year can be comforting and as such, you should commit to making sure it lives a comfortable, healthy and memorable life.
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