Dog Breeds With the Shortest Lifespan

Bulldog varieties have short life expectancies of approximately six years.
Bulldog varieties have short life expectancies of approximately six years. (Image: Chris Amaral/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Large dog breeds usually have shorter lifespans than small breeds, due to health conditions that may occur in large breeds. While small breeds like Jack Russell terriers may live for over 13 years, large breeds such as the bullmastiff have an average lifespan of only eight to nine years. If you have a habit of falling head over hills for your dog, you may want to avoid dog breeds with short life expectancies to protect yourself from the heartbreak of losing your canine best friend.

Great Dane

Great Danes reach minimum heights of approximately 30 inches from the ground to the tops of their shoulders and may appear in shades of grey and brown or present with gray, black and white spots. Unfortunately, these monstrous dogs only live an average of eight to 10 years. Health conditions such as bone cancers, enlarged hearts and other heart defects, hip dysplasia, cataracts and hypothyroidism are common. The leading cause of Great Dane death is gastric dilatation and volvulus, known commonly as “bloat”. Bloat occurs when the Great Dane’s stomach distends and cuts off the blood supply to other organs and parts of the body, causing the dog extreme pain and digestive difficulties.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Resembling sheep dogs with their black coats, white chests and faces and touches of brown around their chins and ankles, Bernese mountain dogs have average lifespans just over seven years. The short life expectancy of this dog breed is attributed to such health conditions as neoplasia, kidney disease, heart disease, infections, skeletal problems, behavioral problems and malignant histiocytosis. Many Bernese mountain dogs die by their 7th birthday without any explanation other than “old age.”

Irish Wolfhound

Found in shaggy shades of gray, brown and cream, Irish wolfhounds have the shortest life expectancy, averaging only six to eight years. Several serious health problems contribute to this short lifespan, including heart failure, bloat, bone cancer, hypothyroidism and liver shunt. Von Willebrand’s disease, an inherited bleeding disorder that causes these dogs to bleed excessively when injured, is another leading cause of death among Irish Wolfhounds.


The aforementioned figures represent the average lifespan of the mentioned dog breeds and do not mean your dog will only live to this age. Proper exercise, health and nutrition, in addition to a stress-free life and caring owners can prolong the life of your dog, regardless of her breed. Take your dog for regular vet checkups, and control fleas and other pet parasites to keep your dog healthy to prevent severe health conditions from shortening your dog’s life expectancy. Additionally, just because you chose a dog with a longer life expectancy does not mean a dog will survive close encounters with vehicles or avoid cancer, which now kills approximately one in three dogs.

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