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Small Dog Life Expectancy – Do Small Dogs Live Longer?

Posted: 11/20/2023 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Dog , Health problems , Pet care

For most of us, our dogs aren’t pets so much as furry members of our family. Because we love them so much, we want to share as many years with them as possible. Unfortunately, the lifespan of a dog is far shorter than it is for a human. That being said, there are some dogs that live longer than others. Small dogs typically have longer lifespans than larger dogs. But just what is the small dog life expectancy and what can you do to ensure your fur baby lives as long and healthy a life as possible?

small dog life expectancy

Life Expectancy of Small Dog Breeds

When it comes to the life expectancy of small dogs, it’s hard – and a bit inaccurate – to speak in generalities. Every dog is an individual. Some dogs live an average age, some live less and some live far longer than expected. Life expectancy is based somewhat on genetics but mostly on lifestyle. Just as human health is impacted by nutrition, exercise, and other factors, so is the health of your dog.

All that being said, small dogs do tend to live quite a bit longer than larger breeds. Small dogs typically love into their teen years while many large breeds may not live past 10 years of age. 

The following are the average life expectancies of specific small dog breeds:

  • Bichon Frise – 12 years
  • Boston Terrier – 11 years
  • Cairn Terrier – 14 years
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi – 13 years
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – 11 years
  • Chihuahua – 15 years
  • Dachshund – 13 years
  • French Bulldog – 9 years
  • Jack Russell Terrier – 14 years
  • Lhasa Apso – 14 years
  • Maltese – 12 years
  • Miniature Dachshund – 14 years
  • Miniature Poodle – 14 years
  • Miniature Schnauzer – 12 years
  • Pekingese – 12 years
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi – 12 years
  • Pomeranian – 10 years
  • Pug – 11 years
  • Shetland Sheepdog – 13 years
  • Shih Tzu – 13 years
  • Toy Poodle – 13 years
  • West Highland White Terrier – 13 years

Why Do Small Dogs Live Longer Than Big Dogs?

Small dogs typically live longer than larger breeds because large dogs age more quickly. And with age comes disease and degenerative conditions. 

One study of 5663 dogs found that 13.8% of the dogs simply died from old age. A different study of 74,000 dogs found that cancer was the primary cause of death in older dogs in general. However, endocrine disease was found to be the main cause of death in small dog breeds. 

So the bottom line is, larger dogs age more quickly and therefore, develop diseases sooner. Their large bodies are also put under additional stress and deterioration compared to a smaller dog. 

Factors That Influence Life Expectancy in Small Dogs

As we mentioned earlier, all dogs are individuals. In addition, lifestyle plays a big role in life expectancy of small dog breeds. As much if not more so than genetics. Yes, each dog breed has their own set of diseases they are more prone to developing.

As an example, if a dog is born with a congenital defect that may impact a vital organ, that dog may have a shorter life expectancy. Chihuahuas, Spaniels and Terriers are prone to congenital heart issues. This does not mean that every single dog of these breeds will have a shorter lifespan. It simply means that if the fur baby is in fact born with the issue, it could impact their life expectancy.

There are some other health conditions that small dogs are prone to that could impact their life expectancy. Luxating patellas, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), tracheal collapse and pancreatitis are other common health issues often suffered by smaller dogs and could shorten a fur baby’s lifespan. 

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How to Extend Small Dog Life Expectancy

While genetics play a role in how long our fur babies live, there is a lot we pup parents can do to ensure our small dogs live as long and healthy a life as possible.

Optimal Nutrition

Humans are told we are what we eat. Well, the same is true for our dogs. Sadly, many commercial dog foods are loaded with chemicals and fillers (corn and soy) that are not there to optimize health. 

We always recommend people speak with their vets about which dog foods offer balanced nutrition. Also, your vet can tell you exactly how much food (calories) your dog should be getting each day. Too many small breed dogs are obese in this country (we’re talking to you chubby Pugs) and all of those extra pounds can definitely impact life expectancy.

Exercise

And speaking of chubby puppies, exercise is critical to dog health. People tend to think of small dog breeds as lap dogs and those that are meant to snooze on the couch all day (we’re still talking to you Pugs!). But the truth is, small dogs need exercise just as much as larger breeds. While their little legs may not be able to take them as far or as fast, be sure to help your pup get exercise each day. Short walks around the neighborhoods and/or tossing a ball in the backyard will help your dog stay fit and healthy.

Spay and Neuter

We tend to think of spaying and neutering as a way to solve the pet overpopulation problem. But actually, spaying and neutering has been proven to extend a dog’s lifespan. For instance, one study of more than 70,000 dogs out of the university of Georgia found that neutered male dogs lived 13.8% longer while spayed female dogs lived 26.3% longer. The average age of death of an intact dog was 7.9 years versus the 9.4 years of altered dogs. That is quite a significant difference.

How does spaying and neutering help extend your dog’s life expectancy? To start, it reduces the chance of your dog developing cancer of the reproductive organs. And remember, cancer is a big cause of death in dogs.

Second, intact dogs are far more likely to be the ones that escape the fenced-in backyard in search of a mate. Sadly, these pups are the ones that tend to become lost and possibly even seriously injured.

Regular Wellness Checks

It’s important that you take your dog to their regular vet checkups at least once a year. Most vets recommend senior dogs be seen twice a year. As our dogs age, they can quickly develop health issues that may not be noticed right away. But your vet will run a blood test and complete a full physical exam and can catch anything early. And the earlier a disease is caught, diagnosed and treated, the better the health outcomes, and the longer your fur baby can live.

Pet Insurance

According to a MetLife survey, 1 in 3 pets require emergency medical treatment each year. Are you financially prepared should your pup become seriously ill or injured? Can you comfortably afford a vet bill in the thousands of dollars?

Sadly, most pup parents can’t, which is why more and more are turning to pet insurance for help. Monthly premiums are probably more affordable than you may think, and some plans will reimburse you for up to 90% of the bill. Talk about peace of mind!

If you have been thinking about enrolling your fur baby into pet insurance but weren’t sure which provider to go with, here are the top providers based on reviews from pet parents just like you:

 

Top Pet Insurance Providers of 2024

RatingProviderTotal Review
4.9Embrace14,440
4.9Healthy Paws7,497
4.9Trupanion60,400
4.9Fetch2,372
4.9Lemonade795
4.8Nationwide21,394
4.8Prudent Pet125
4.7ASPCA11,500
4.7Hartville164
4.7PetPartners111
4.7Spot5,753
4.6MetLife526
4.5Pets Best7,216
4.4AKC889
4.4Figo2,617
4.3Pet Assure12
4.3Pumpkin1,256
3.2ManyPets2,266

 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to small dog life expectancy, genetics does play a role. But lifestyle is also a major determinant. This means you as a pup parent can help extend your dog’s lifespan by feeding a proper diet, helping your dog get plenty of exercise, spaying and neutering, bringing your dog in for regular checkups, and signing your pup up for pet insurance!

 

References:

  1. Kraus, C., Pavard, S., Promislow, D., Associate Editor: Franz J. Weissing, & Editor: Mark A. McPeek. (2013). The Size–Life Span Trade-Off Decomposed: Why Large Dogs Die Young. The American Naturalist, 181(4), 492-505. doi:10.1086/669665
  2. Lewis, T.W., Wiles, B.M., Llewellyn-Zaidi, A.M. et al. Longevity and mortality in Kennel Club registered dog breeds in the UK in 2014. Canine Genet Epidemiol 5, 10 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40575-018-0066-8
  3. Fleming JM, Creevy KE, Promislow DE. Mortality in north american dogs from 1984 to 2004: an investigation into age-, size-, and breed-related causes of death. J Vet Intern Med. 2011;25(2):187-198. doi:10.1111/j.1939-1676.2011.0695.x
  4. Fleming JM, Creevy KE, Promislow DE. Mortality in north american dogs from 1984 to 2004: an investigation into age-, size-, and breed-related causes of death. J Vet Intern Med. 2011;25(2):187-198. doi:10.1111/j.1939-1676.2011.0695.x
  5. https://www.humanesociety.org/sites/default/files/docs/Banfield-State-of-Pet-Health-Report_2013.pdf
  6. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0061082

 

Disclaimer

The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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