For Pups With Short Attention Spans…
On average, you can expect your German Shepherd to live between 7-10 years, with female dogs living slightly longer. Often, traits bred into GSDs, such as sloped backs, can be further detrimental to the health of the dog.
German shepherds’ loyal and intelligent demeanor and athletic abilities have earned them top positions in the police force and military, and as trusty guide dogs and beloved family members in households across the country.
Because of their popularity, breeders selectively favor cosmetic traits like sloped backs and low hindquarters, since they’re believed to improve GSD’s agility and speed. Unfortunately, these traits can also make a German shepherd dog more prone to certain health disorders that can decrease their lifespan.
So, how long do German shepherds live? According to the American Kennel Club, German shepherds live 7–10 years on average, which is lower than other dog breeds.1 Female German Shepherds tend to live a median lifespan of 11.1 years, while male German Shepherds have a median lifespan of 9.7 years. For mixed breed German Shepherds like a German Shepherd Husky mix, if mixed with a dog breed with a longer lifespan, they can live longer than the average lifespan of a non mixed breed GSD.2
Common Health Conditions that May Impact Your German Shepherd’s Life Expectancy
According to a study published in the journal of Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, German shepherds have the second highest number of health conditions among dog breeds that are selectively bred.3
German shepherds are predisposed to certain musculoskeletal disorders that can severely impact their quality of life and lifespan, and they may also experience more common life-threatening ailments like cancers or illnesses caused by lifestyle factors.
To protect your steadfast companion, it’s critical to stay up to date on the health conditions that may impact your German shepherd’s life expectancy:
- Canine Degenerative Myelopathy – This chronic degenerative condition affects the nerves in the lower spine and can lead to paralysis in your German shepherd’s hind legs. The average life expectancy for a German shepherd diagnosed with this disorder is 1 to 2 years.4
- Hip Dysplasia – This condition is characterized by abnormal development of the hip during growth, which wears down the cartilage and bone of the hip joint. It can be caused by genetic factors or lifestyle factors like obesity or strenuous physical activity. And it may cause arthritis, pain, muscle atrophy, and limping in your German shepherd. With age, symptoms may worsen.
- Elbow Dysplasia – Poor breeding practices can increase your German shepherd’s risk of developing elbow dysplasia, a disorder that causes abnormal bone growth, joint pain, and lameness. Once your dog has been diagnosed, it can’t be reversed, but weight control, physical therapy, and joint supplements can help support bone and joint health.
- Bloat – German shepherds are vulnerable to gastric dilatation-volvulus, or bloat. This can happen when your dog devours their meal too quickly, resulting in a shock to their digestive system. It can be fatal if left untreated, so make sure you keep an eye out for an enlarged tummy.
- Epilepsy – High stress or genetic factors can trigger epilepsy in German shepherds. Symptoms include twitching, collapsing, loss of consciousness, and excessive drooling. This condition can shorten a dog’s lifespan if not treated.
- Pancreatitis – We know, we know, it’s hard to resist giving your German Shepherd dog human food when they’re drooling at your feet. But, diets high in fat can make your German shepherd prepositioned to pancreatitis, a condition that inflames the pancreas and may cause severe vomiting and pain. If not treated quickly, it may be fatal.
- Cancers – Many German shepherds are prepositioned to bone, skin, reproductive, and spleen cancer, which can seriously impact their longevity of life. Thankfully, treatment options like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are available to assist your beloved pup.
- Obesity – High caloric intake combined with limited activity can be the perfect recipe for a plump pup. While they may look cute, overweight German shepherds may have a shorter lifespan compared to dogs with healthy body weights.
- Dental Disease – Periodontal disease, or dental disease, is a progressive disease that damages your dog’s teeth and can result in tooth loss. If left untreated, it may lead to gum infection and serious health problems and reduce your German shepherd’s life expectancy by up to 2 years or more.5
Here’s a list of Common German Shepherd Health Issues.
How to Keep Your German Shepherd Healthy
While these conditions are prevalent among German shepherds, they shouldn’t shorten your dog’s life if they are properly identified and treated. Certain lifestyle changes can also help your German shepherd live a longer and healthier life.
#1 Feed Them a Healthy Diet
Health conditions of German shepherds can be exacerbated by unhealthy diets. A study from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that feeding your dog less food can increase their life expectancy by 18 and 24 months.6
Avoiding overfeeding can also help reduce the pressure on your German shepherd’s joints.
Active German shepherds should consume between 1,740 and 2,100 calories, while inactive dogs should consume only 1,272 and 1,540 calories a day.7 It’s recommended that German shepherd puppies should only eat around 500 calories a day. As your German shepherd puppy grows, you should increase their intake by 40 and 60 calories per pound of body weight.8
It’s best to feed your German shepherd foods low in fat and carbs and high in other nutrients like:
(It’s recommended that German shepherds eat foods with 18–22% protein content.)
Choosing a nutritionist-crafted dog food, like BARK food for German shepherds, can help your German shepherd build lean muscles and support their joints. Get 25% off with code 25FOOD, plus free shipping!
#2 Maintain a Healthy Weight
German shepherds should weigh between 60 and 90 pounds. Keeping your German shepherd at a healthy weight lowers their risk for certain diseases and disorders like:
- High blood pressure
Excess weight can also put unnecessary pressure on the joints of your German shepherd and exacerbate symptoms caused by dysplasia. Fortunately, regular exercise and a balanced diet can ensure your German shepherd maintains a healthy weight.
#3 Schedule Regular Vet Visits
Because German shepherds are more prone to hip and joint conditions that can impact their life expectancy, it’s important to take them in for regular yearly check-ups. These vet appointments can increase your chances of identifying certain conditions and disorders and beginning treatment options.
Vaccinations are also important to ensure that your pup is protected against other diseases and viruses that may negatively impact their health.
#4 Brush Their Teeth
Periodontal disease is common for most dogs over the age of 3. If left untreated, it can have serious impacts on your German shepherd’s organ health. Taking regular care of your German shepherd’s dental health can prolong their life expectancy by 3 to 5 years.9
To prevent plaque and tartar buildup that may eat away at your German shepherd’s gumline and lead to serious infection, it’s important to regularly brush their teeth with triple-enzymatic toothpaste to safely remove harmful bacteria and plaque from your pet’s teeth.
If your German shepherd is resistant to having a toothbrush shoved in their mouth, another treatment option includes a snack to fight the plaque! Flavored dental chews can scrub off debris and bacteria from their teeth and provide your pet with enrichment as they gnaw.
#5 Exercise Them Frequently
German shepherds are born athletes and they require regular exercise to stay healthy. It’s recommended that these working dogs get a minimum of two hours of exercise a day.10
You should also diversify your pup’s exercise routine to keep them stimulated and happy. A few activity options include:
- Fetching a ball or frisbee
- Playing tug-o-war with a rope
- Hiking through mountain trails
- Swimming in lakes or ponds
- Walking around an off-leash dog park
- Obedience training
German shepherds with hip and elbow dysplasia may need less strenuous exercise to prevent flare-ups: Short walks or swims are recommended for dogs experiencing joint pain.
#6 Enrich Their Mind
Mental health is just as important as physical health. As a working dog breed that has been bred to solve problems, herd rogue sheep, and act as devoted watchers, sitting at home staring at the wall might not do it for your intelligent GSD.
That said, German shepherds need social, cognitive, sensory, and feeding enrichment for a healthy mind.
German shepherds require mental stimulation to keep themselves entertained and to exercise their minds. Enrichment activities allow your clever pet to challenge themselves and engage in the world around them through their senses. Try out these activities to activate your German shepherd’s innate instincts:
- Create a scavenger hunt by hiding their favorite treats around the house
- Design an indoor agility course to practice obedience training
- Bring them to the dog park to socialize with other furry friends
- Purchase enrichment toys designed to provide cognitive stimulation
- Open your window to allow your dog to watch squirrels, birds, and other pets in the outside world
- Take your German shepherd to your local park and allow them to smell everything without pulling them away
Support Your German Shepherd’s Health With BARK Post
As dog owners, we want our beloved family members around for as long as possible. Although 7 to 10 years is plenty of time in the minds of our furry friends to sniff all the smells, eat all the treats, and receive all the cuddles, it can feel short to us.
To ensure that your German shepherd is living a full, happy, and healthy life, it’s important to support your pup’s lifestyle with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and yearly vet visits.
BARK Post provides a collection of nutritionist-crafted food specifically designed to support the health of your German shepherd. Our farm-raised chicken and rice blend, Cock-a-Doodle-Chew, gives your German shepherd the energy and nutrients they need to live the life they deserve.
With L-carnitine, omegas, and protein, this meal is surely one for champions.
For more German Shepherd resources like 10 German Shepherd Fun Facts and Do German Shepherds Shed?, visit our blog for more helpful tips and information.
- American Kennel Club. German Shepherd Dog. https://www,akc.org/dog-breeds/german-shepherd-dog
- A – Z Animals. German Shepherd Lifespan: How Long Do German Shepherds Live? https://a-z-animals.com/blog/german-shepherd-lifespan-how-long-do-german-shepherds-live/
- Canine Medicine and Genetics. Demography and disorders of German Shepherd under primary veterinary care in the UK. https://cgejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186
- PDSA. Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/pet-health-hub/conditions/degenerative-myelopathy-dm-in-dogs
- Shallowford Animal Hospital. What if My Pet Has a Gum Disease – What Happens Next? https://shallowfordvet.com/pet-gum-disease-happens-next/
- Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11991408/
- National Research Council of the National Academies. Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs. https://nap.nationalacademies.org/resource/10668/dog_nutrition_final_fix.pdf
- Shepherd Sense. How Much to Feed a German Shepherd Puppy. https://www.shepherdsense.com/how-much-to-feed-a-german-shepherd-puppy/
- Schuler Veterinary Clinic. Dental Care. https://shulervetclinic.com/dental-care/
- PDSA. German Shepherd Breed Information. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/pet-help-and-advice/looking-after-your-pet/puppies-dogs/large-dogs/german-shepherd