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.
German Shepherds are wonderful family companions and loyal as they come. Because of their wonderful friendship and joy that they bring, we want to see them stick around for as long as possible. Here are 5 healthy tips to increase German Shepherd life expectancy.
1. Keep Them Lean:
Keeping your German Shepherd lean and not overweight is a simple and proven way of increasing your dog’s life expectancy by about 18-24 months. This means feeding your dog the appropriate amount of food daily and not overfeeding them.
There have been two major studies regarding this increased lifespan based on lean diets. The first study tracked the lives of 48 Labrador retrievers over a ten year period and was published in 2002.
The data showed that the dogs who were fed 25% less food had an 18-24 month increase in their life expectancy compared to the dogs who were fed the normal amount. They also received several health benefits including lower glucose, insulin, triglycerides and triiodothyronine.
A more recent second study compared the life expectancy of 50 different common adult dog breeds including the German Shepherd. It found that dogs that were normal weight had a lower risk of death than the overweight dogs and an increased life expectancy from 6 months all the way up to 2 years and 6 months.
This is great evidence that keeping your dog lean and healthy can definitely add some months or years onto your German Shepherd’s life.
To keep your German Shepherd lean, feed them a high quality low carb dog food with a protein range of 18%-22%. The appropriate amount of food will depend on their age and size. Here is a chart for caloric intake based on information from PetCareRX.com.
Active Adult German Shepherd: Feed them 1,740 and 2,100 calories per day
Inactive Senior German Shepherd: Feed them 1,272 and 1,540 calories per day.
These caloric intakes are based on a 60-90 lb German Shepherd. Calories will vary for the different stages of a German Shepherd puppy.
2. Make Sure They Get Annual Check-ups
Another great way to increase German Shepherd life expectancy is to make sure that you take them for check-ups with the veterinarian at least once a year. For young puppies you will want to take them twice a year.
Large dog breeds are more prone to hip and joint problems. German Shepherd hip dysplasia is one of the more common ones. Taking them for annual check-ups increases your chances of finding certain conditions or diseases early on in some cases.
This allows the vet to take certain preventative measures when catching the problem early on. Often times a dog may cover up the fact that they are in pain. The vet may be able to notice specific symptoms during the early stages.
3. Brush Their Teeth Daily
Brushing your German Shepherd’s teeth daily can help prevent periodontal disease and increase their life expectancy by a maximum of 3-5 years. According to studies, up to 90% of dogs over the age of three have periodontal disease.
In fact, it is the most common infectious disease affecting adult dogs. It is a an inflammatory disease caused by bacteria in the mouth that targets the supporting structures around a dogs teeth. It is progressive and gets worse over time.
Periodontal disease that is left unchecked in dogs can cause tooth loss and eventually make its way to your German Shepherd’s bloodstream causing damage to some of the major organs such as the heart, kidneys and lungs. This disease can be fatal if left untreated.
How to prevent periodontal disease?
- Brush your dog’s teeth every day using a dog friendly toothpaste (DO NOT USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE)
- Feed your dog healthy dry foods to help reduce the amount of tarter and plaque
- Give your dog healthy dental treats
- Give you dog bones and toys that are safe for their teeth
- Don’t let your dog get bored (This can lead to them chewing on hazardous items)
Make sure you take your German Shepherd for routine dental cleanings once a year with your veterinarian. This will help to prevent the build up of tarter and plaque.
4. Give Them Plenty of Exercise
Exercise is a great way to give your dog a long healthy life while at the same time keeping their mind active and on point.
Your German Shepherd should get at least two hours of exercise daily to maintain optimum health and longevity. This is according to the American Kennel Club. German Shepherds are very active dogs with plenty of energy that needs to be expelled. As your shepherd ages they are at an increased risk for hind leg weakness, regular exercise helps to keep their legs strong and prevent muscle atrophy.
Walking your dog every day will help to increase the life expectancy of your dog as well as yourself. According to the American Heart Association, health benefits rise the more people walk. This is a great way to benefit you and your German Shepherd.
Some fun ways to exercise your dog:
- Take them for a walk outside at least once a day and twice if you can
- Play fetch with your dog using their favorite ball or toy
- Set-up a makeshift obstacle course for them to run
- Play frisbee with them in the backyard or at the park
- Take them on a hike at your local dog friendly trail
The more your dog exercises the less bored they will be. This translates into a healthier dog overall and should keep their mind sharp.
5. Neuter or Spay at the Appropriate Age
According to the HumaneSociety.org, neutering or spaying your dog will increase their life expectancy by a considerate amount. A University of Georgia study of 70,000 animals made some significant findings.
Male dogs that were neutered had a 13.8% increase in their life expectancy and female dogs had a 26.3% increase in their life expectancy.
One interesting reason that unaltered dogs have a reduced life expectancy is because they are more likely to seek out other mates. This results in more fights with other dogs leading to infections or injuries. They are also more likely to get hit by a car.
It’s vital that you work with your veterinarian to determine the best time to neuter your German Shepherd. A study by UC Davis found that neutering a dog before age 1triples the risk of joint disorders. Early neutering may also contribute to a dog’s likelihood for CCL tears. Females spayed within their first years have an increased risk of becoming incontinent.
Reduced health risks from getting neutered or spayed:
- Less risk of developing certain types of reproductive system cancers
- Eliminates the risk of testicular cancer
- Lower rates of prostate cancer
Make sure to neuter or spay your German Shepherd at the appropriate time in their development. Neutering or spaying your dog too early can lead to problems.
Male German Shepherd house pets should be neutered after they are done growing, but your vet will help determine the best time. Any earlier could have a negative impact on their skeletal growth.
Putting these 5 healthy tips into action will hopefully help your dog live a long and happy life. The more time on this earth you get to spend with your furry friend the better!
P.S. Give your German Shepherd lots of love and attention!
About the Author:
Written by Todd Yeakle, owner of Shepherds’ Bone, a blog created by father and daughter that is focused on German Shepherds and other Shepherd dog breeds!