We hear all the time that mixed breeds outlive purebreds, and while this can be the case sometimes, it's not a hard and fast rule. It's misleading to make a blanket statement that mixed breeds always live longer than their purebred counterparts.
The truth is, many factors influence a dog's lifespan. Breed is only one of these. Genetics does play a crucial role, but so does the quality of their diet, their overall health, and the care they receive. However, if there's one factor that really stands out in determining a dog's life expectancy, it's their size.
Purebred Dogs Have a Limited Gene Pool
Purebred dogs are more likely to pass down genetic abnormalities than mixed breed dogs. Purebreds have a limited gene pool because their line is inbred to preserve favored traits, whereas mutts have more diverse gene pools. This reduces the risk of their parents passing down genetic health problems. So in that sense, the deeper the gene pool, the better your dog's health is likely to be.
In practice, how diverse your dog's genetics are can vary widely. Designer dogs, where two purebred dogs are mated to produce a specific result — such as with labradoodles and chiweenies — can still inherit bad genetic traits if both parents carry them. A true "mutt," where the dog's genetic lineage is extremely diverse and any mix of breeds could be in their blood, might be at reduced risk for genetic diseases.
Lifespan Is Based on Size
In most cases, how large your dog is has way more impact on their longevity. A chihuahua is more likely to live longer than a great dane. As a general guideline, the larger the dog, the shorter their life expectancy.
Large dogs have been shown to age faster than smaller dogs, regardless of breed. Check out the average life expectancy for each size:
- Small breeds: Smaller mixed breeds under 25 pounds tend to live longer, sometimes up to 15 years or more.
- Medium to large breeds: Dogs between 25 and 50 pounds generally have a lifespan ranging from 10 to 14 years.
- Giant Breeds: Very large dogs weighing more than 50 pounds typically have shorter lifespans, averaging around 8 to 12 years, with some giant breeds on the low end of the range.
The larger the dog breed, the higher the risk of cancer, which could contribute to their life expectancy.
These Are the Factors You Can Control
Whether you have a purebred or mixed-breed dog, there are steps you can take to extend your dog's lifespan. Proper healthcare, nutrition, and lifestyle choices can help your dog live a long life. While we can't control genetics or unforeseeable accidents, these things enhance both the lifespan and quality of life for our canine companions.
- Regular vet visits: An annual checkup and visiting the vet when you think there's a problem can significantly increase your dog's lifespan. The sooner you catch illness or disease, the better.
- Vaccinate your dog: Vaccinations help prevent serious health issues and can contribute to a longer life for your dog.
- Dental health: Just like with us, poor dental health can cause serious health problems for your dog. Regular cleanings can help keep your dog in good health.
- Exercise: Our dogs are healthier when they exercise regularly. Aim for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour a day, at minimum (depending on your dog's breed or mix).
- Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial to your dog's well-being. Feed them an appropriate amount each day and avoid overfeeding.
- Love and attention: The bond between a dog and their owner can positively impact their mental and physical well-being.
- Preventative measures: Regular flea, tick, and heartworm prevention medications and treatments protect dogs from various diseases.
Consider how your body feels when you're bored or depressed. Mental health is just as important as physical health for your dog, so make sure they're getting the enrichment they deserve.
Genetics Matter, But All Dogs Can Be Healthy
It's not possible to figure out exactly how long your dog will live. While most factors contributing to life expectancy are out of your control, like genetics and size, there are steps you can take to keep your pooch as happy and healthy as possible. Keeping your dog in good shape by focusing on diet, exercise, and regular vet visits you can contribute to their overall wellness.