As the proud or prospective owner of a German Shepherd, it’s good to know the average German Shepherd lifespan. I did some research I want to share with you! Keep reading.
In addition to that, it is also important to know how to give your precious companion the longest and best quality of life possible.
↠ Fun Quiz Question! “Who is the most famous German Shepherd dog?”
(Scroll to the bottom to see the answer and a special short video!)
On average, German Shepherd Dogs (GSD) live between 10 – 12 years. The lifespan of an individual German Shepherd depends upon their overall health as well as the quality of the nutrition and care they receive. While excellent health and care can prolong a German Shepherd’s life, poor health and ailments common to the breed can shorten their life.
NOTE: We are not providing medical advice in any manner or form. Always consult professional medical experts before taking any actions with your pet.
Female German Shepherds live on average 1.4 years longer than male German Shepherds according to a recent VetCompass™ study performed by the Royal Veterinary College in London, England.
So you may be asking yourself right now, “how” do I go about improving my German Shepherd’s general health? Well, with a little thought and study, that goal is definitely achievable for you!
There are many proven ways to provide the best care for your Shepherd that minimizes ailments while ensuring their best and longest life. Always start by asking your veterinarian.
Best Nutrition for German Shepherds
Just as with humans, what your German Shepherd eats has a big impact on their overall health.
Being a larger breed, your carnivorous German Shepherd needs plenty of protein, modest amounts of fat, and limited carbohydrates.
Since ingredients are listed by quantity, choose a dog food that lists whole animal protein (meat, fish, poultry) as the first ingredient. Animal protein also provides animal fat for your pet.
Carbohydrates are where you really need to be careful what you feed your pet since many German Shepherds have allergies to grains.
Avoid foods that contain wheat, soy, or corn products.
German Shepherds generally tolerate whole grain brown rice or oatmeal. Or you can avoid grains altogether and choose foods made with starchy vegetables, legumes, or tapioca as the carbohydrates.
Limit treats or eliminate them altogether as there is little to no nutritional value and can harm your pet’s health.
Be sure to maintain regular veterinary check-ups to ensure your dog’s overall health and catch any potential problems early.
Stay current with your pet’s vaccination schedule, and be sure to provide monthly heartworm prevention. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Issues discovered through regular veterinary visits usually require far less treatment and have far better outcomes than problems discovered later.
Time does not cure all that ails our pets. Always see your veterinarian right away for new health concerns you have for your German Shepherd rather than waiting for the next check-up.
Common Ailments that Afflict German Shepherds
Possible Preventions and Treatments (in alphabetical order)
Allergies often bother German Shepherds causing them to bite and scratch to get relief from the many itches they feel.
The most common allergy causes are:
- Food (especially grains)
- Dust (dust mites)
Allergies can lead to secondary infections such as bacterial and yeast infections, which will increase your dog’s itching and discomfort, and can lead to general misery for you both.
Allergies cannot be cured, but they can be mitigated through discovery and removal of the allergen from the environment or the diet.
There are also many anti-allergy medicines that, while not curing the cause, at least reduce the symptoms.
Common German Shepherd Allergy Symptoms
|Watery & Runny Eyes|
|Dry, Irritated & Flaky Skin|
|Excessive Hair Loss|
|Licking Their Paws|
|Rubbing Their Face & Ears|
Because German Shepherds are a larger breed, they are more prone to arthritis.
Arthritis is a progressive condition in the joints in which the cartilage wears away, the bones wear on each other, and connective tissue becomes damaged.
While incurable, there are ways to ease your pet’s discomfort and reduce further damage to his joints. Maintaining proper weight eases stress on the joints.
Daily low impact exercise, such as walking and swimming, help keep joints mobile. Joint supplements promote healthy cartilage and reduce inflammation.
Keeping a warm and dry place for your GSD to sleep helps.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.
If your German Shepherd develops arthritis, ask your veterinarian about the latest research on the best diet that promotes joint health and general well being.
In addition, you may want to check into the proper supplements and pain reducers so your Shepherd can have the best quality of life possible.
Bloat is also called GDV – gastric dilatation volvulus, and is thought to be caused in German Shepherds by eating too much all at once. Then engaging in too much physical activity soon after eating. Gas buildup can twist the stomach and/or restrict breathing.
To prevent bloat, two to three smaller meals throughout the day, rather than one large meal, can be helpful. Avoid elevated feeding as it may contribute to bloat.
Also, trying to keep your German Shepherd from engaging in activity for about an hour after meals can help to promote digestion and reduce gas buildup.
Signs of bloat include drooling; retching and attempting to vomit with little output; anxiety, restlessness, and pacing; lethargy or agitation; depression; and shock. This can be a life-threatening condition!
If bloat is suspected, it is suggested (as with anything medical) to take your pet to a veterinarian right away!
If you ever asked yourself the question, “What do German Shepherds usually die from?” the answer, unfortunately, is probably some form of cancer.
There are many types of cancer a GSD is at risk to get over a long lifetime. Some feel German Shepherds actually are genetically susceptible to cancer more so than some other dog breeds.
According to VetInfo the most common dog cancers are:
- Hemangiosarcoma – Begins in the dog’s blood cells. Most common in GSD’s.
- Lymphosarcoma – Affects the immune system
- Osteosarcoma – A type of bone cancer especially in larger breeds
- Mammary Carcinoma – High rate of occurrence in non-spayed females
- Melanoma – Usually appears as lumps or even wrinkles in the skin
Cataracts are common in German Shepherds. The onset of cataracts may be noticeable by a cloudy look in your dog’s eyes.
Sometimes clumsiness or difficulty navigating their surroundings are the first signs of cataract development.
While some dogs can learn to navigate their surroundings without eyesight, surgery may be able to restore your older German Shepherd’s eyesight.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) causes nerves in the spinal cord to lose their functionality over time leading to rising and walking being severely impaired and, eventually, to the inability to walk.
In some dogs, the impairment will wax and wane, while in others is seen a steady decline in the control of the hind quarters.
While sometimes mistaken for hip dysplasia, eventually DM will cause the dog to drag his hind feet and significantly scuff his hind toenails.
There is no cure for DM, but it can be managed. Walking and swimming is beneficial for dogs with DM. Physical therapy can prolong health and quality of life.
Some studies show that the only way to prevent degenerative myelopathy is through responsible breeding.
Dental Health Problems can harm your pet’s overall health.
Without regular brushing, bacteria formed on teeth and in between teeth and gums can cause teeth problems as well as travel to other parts of your dog’s body and make him very sick.
To maintain your German Shepherd’s dental health, brush his teeth with a toothbrush and toothpaste designed for dogs. The toothpaste you use probably contains a substance called Xylitol. Xylitol has been shown to possibly be toxic to dogs.
Signs of German Shepherd Dental Issues
|Tooth & Gum Pain (Bleeding)|
|Gingivitis (Inflammation of Gums)|
|Infection of Gums &Teeth (Periodontitis)|
|Sudden Changes in Gum Color|
|Plaque & Tartar Buildup on Teeth|
Human toothpaste can make a canine sick, so most say not to use it on your dog! Brushing teeth can be a fun part of the daily routine and with the right flavor, such as meat, your German Shepherd may view it as a treat to be enjoyed.
While German Shepherds are often trained as epilepsy seizure detectors in humans, many GSDs also suffer from the condition.
Unfortunately, epilepsy is genetic and incurable, however, there are many medications that help German Shepherd Dogs with epilepsy minimize its effects.
Keeping your dog from high-stress situations will reduce the likelihood of symptoms appearing. Being trained for and shown in competitions are high-stress activities.
A companion dog who is trained in detecting seizures in other dogs can alert an owner to the onset of a seizure.
While not the most common ailment in GSD, hemophilia is more present in German Shepherds Dogs than in many other breeds.
Inbreeding is said to cause hemophilia. Again, find a responsible breeder before you acquire your beloved pet.
Hemophilia causes blood to be unable to clot properly. This means a German Shepherd with this condition who gets cut could possibly bleed out and die without medical intervention.
As well, minor bruising may become a serious problem. If your dog has hemophilia, do your best to keep him from situations at risk for cuts and bruising.
Check over your pet regularly for any unusual pockets of liquid that may be blood that is pooling rather than forming a normal bruise.
As always, seek professional veterinary care if you are unsure and see unchecked bleeding, or suspect internal bleeding.
Hip Dysplasia is one of the most common problems in GSD. Again, it’s caused by improper breeding practices.
Hip dysplasia is caused by a joint malformation in the hip. In a similar manner, Elbow dysplasia is caused by problems in the elbow joint.
Cases of both often begin with minor symptoms which slowly increase in severity. Proper nutrition, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight can stave off the onset of dysplasia.
Nutritional supplements designed to repair cartilage, pain relievers, as well as physical therapy and massage can also be beneficial in prolonging the health and happiness of your German Shepherd.
Surgical remedies also exist. Seek the advice of your veterinarian and consider getting a second or third opinion as that is always a good idea.
Pannus is an eye disease most common in German Shepherds.
The onset most often occurs between four to seven years of age. The younger the dog is at the onset, the more like that case will be more severe and more difficult to treat.
Pannus results in blindness if not properly treated. Living at higher altitudes appears to worsen the effects of the disease, while lower altitudes have a positive effect.
Treatment of pannus is through prescription eye drops and ointments. There are a variety, the uses of which depend upon the mildness, severity, and progression of the case.
Remission is a term that you will want to hear! The word is used to describe the elimination (or partial elimination) of symptoms so that is a good thing! Ongoing monitoring and veterinary visits are required to watch for flare-ups, which are common.
Several breeds have a predisposition to panosteitis or growing pains, and German Shepherds are among them. What causes growing pains is still something of a mystery.
What is known is that it is not permanent. The treatment is for your dog to simply outgrow the condition and to give your pet pain relief in the meantime.
Thyroid problems are a common issue for German Shepherds to encounter. The thyroid regulates hormones. Regular veterinary checkups and lab work is the best way to discover and deal with thyroid problems early.
Choose a Reputable Breeder
One of the best ways to enjoy sharing a home with a healthy German Shepherd is to purchase your pet through a reputable breeder who employs “best” breeding practices. While this may be a touchy subject for some, if you are wanting a purebred German Shepherd this route is the only way for most people.
Poor breeding practices during early standardization of the breed led to many of the genetic problems associated with German Shepherds.
Breeders who still employ poor breeding practices perpetuate the problem of poor genetics in German Shepherds. Do your homework to find a reputable breeder who sells healthy puppies to happy owners.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, a reputable breeder:
- Has a spacious clean facility
- Is welcoming of visits and encourages multiple visits
- Keeps the number of dogs on their site to a small level
- Wants to know you and be sure you’ll provide a good home for your new puppy
- A reputable breeder does not sell their puppies to just anyone. They check the person out.
While the average lifespan of German Shepherds is 10 – 12 years, with proper breeding, nutrition, and proactive veterinary care, your German Shepherd can enjoy a long, healthy life.
German Shepherd Related Questions
German Shepherd Stages of Life
Appropriate training and socialization during puppyhood and adolescence is vital for an enjoyable life together (as well as getting along with your neighbors!).
- Puppy: up to 7 months old
- Adolescent: 7 months to 3 years, similar to human teenager years
- Adult: 3+ years old
- Senior: at approximately 7 years old, a GSD enters senior adulthood
Variants of German Shepherds
- White Shepherds are a variety bred in the United States. As the name suggests, their coats are white. At one time, white-coated Shepherds were banned from registration in Germany.
- White Swiss Shepherd Dogs are bred in Switzerland and descended from the United States White Shepherd variety.
- Shiloh Shepherds are also bred in the United States as an antidote to bad breeding practices. Shiloh Shepherds are bred for large size, good temperament as well as healthy, sound hips.
- King Shepherds are another variety bred in the United States with the aim of correcting deformities that had been originally bred into German Shepherds.
- Eastern-European Shepherds are bred in the former Soviet Union with the aim of larger, more cold-resistant dogs. This breed has avoided the physical defects bred into Western show Shepherds.
Oldest German Shepherd
Great question! Well, just as with anything like this you may hear several different answers. And who is really to say if one is correct or not. Having said that there have been reports of German Shepherds living to 18 years old or even longer. Please don’t quote me on this one! ☺
German Shepherd Weight
According to the American Kennel Club and average male German Shephard weighs between 65 and 90 pounds while and the average female weighs between 50 and 70 pounds. So there you have it! Pretty big dogs!
Fun Quiz Question Answer! Rin Tin Tin is the most famous German Shepherd ever!
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