Dogs die so fast because:
They have a higher metabolic rate, which means they absorb and use energy more quickly. So their faster heart rate, internal temperate, and so on, means they wear out their body parts more quickly.
They age more quickly; for example, from 6 six months to one year old they can already breed.
I love having a dog. Freya, a Bichon Frise, is part of the family. She’s adorable and she’s been with me since she came home at the age of nine weeks.
I know, however, that one day she’ll go. Dogs don’t live anywhere near as long as humans. Many dog lovers have several dogs over the space of many years.
But why is this? Have you ever wondered why dogs die a lot sooner than humans do?
I was curious and wanted to see if there were any answers out there. Fortunately, there are, and I researched the topic to bring together all the important information together for you in this article. If you want to know why dogs die so fast, read on. I’ve got everything you need here.
Faster metabolic rate
The metabolic rate is the speed an organism creates and breaks down energy. Such as how quickly it breaks down food into energy and uses that energy.
Smaller mammals tend to have a faster metabolic rate, for example mice have a very fast metabolic rate which is why they only live for 12-18 months.
Mammals with a higher metabolic rate tend to live for less long, however this is just one factor when looking at all species and why some live longer than others.
Dogs have a higher metabolic rate than humans, so they have a higher internal temperature, faster heart rate and so on. This means they are using their body more and it the parts of it wear out more quickly.
Dogs age faster than humans
The aging process is far speedier in dogs than in humans. For example, you probably know that dogs can start breeding from around six months to one year of age. It takes several more years for humans to reach that stage.
Similarly, some breeds might begin to experience signs of reaching their older years before they even get into double figures. Other breeds live a lot longer, but the age of 20 would be considered a grand old age for most dogs, regardless of breed or health.
It’s a case of the whole aging process from start to finish being much faster for a dog than it is for you and me. Hence why dog owners say goodbye to their pets far sooner than they would like.
Some vets start examining different breeds for health issues at different times, too. For example, your chihuahua might be viewed as a senior dog several years down the line from your Great Dane, even if both were born on the same day.
Big dogs age more quickly than small ones
I looked at search results exploring the average life span of various dog breeds to see what the figures were like. Here’s what I found:
- Great Dane – eight to 10 years
- Poodle – 12 to 15 years
- Chihuahua – 12 to 20 years
- Labrador – 10 to 15 years
You can see that the outer limits reach no further than 10 years for a Great Dane – and that would be a good age. One source suggested a Great Dane may only live for around seven years.
Yet the tiny chihuahua could well reach a ripe age of 20 years. The poodle is in the middle size wise and might reach 15 years – right in the middle of the other two.
One surprising factor is that this pattern does not bear out for other animals. In most cases, the bigger an animal is, the older it will be before it dies. Dogs just buck that trend.
It could be connected to survival
This makes sense for other animals, but not so much for dogs. For example, an elephant is huge and can live for up to 70 years.
Wild elephants are at risk of attack, but thanks to being much bigger, they are usually safe from such attacks. However, elephants kept in zoos are arguably safer as there are no natural predators there… yet they do not live anywhere near as long.
Could this reveal something about the lifespan of dogs, too?
The ancestor of the family dog is the wolf. This has a lifespan of approximately 15 to 20 years. It is also capable of protecting itself against predators, so perhaps that evolutionary and survivalist theme does help us figure out why size – and environmental risks – matters.
Purebreds may die earlier than mixed breeds
This can potentially occur with a small gene pool. Imagine a group of 100 dogs all the same breed. Only six of those dogs are ever allowed to mate. This means you’d have a restricted gene pool to work from.
If defective genes are present in those dogs, the resulting puppies would be affected too.
However, if you allowed all 100 dogs in that group to mate, many more healthier dogs would be born. With 100 sets of genes to work from, any defective genes wouldn’t affect anywhere near as many puppies. Eventually, they might even disappear altogether.
Purebred puppies with genetic defects are more likely to share them with offspring
With mixed breeds and mutts, the dog might have genes from all kinds of sources. It is more likely that a defective gene would eventually disappear in this situation, or at least become less harmful. A wider range of breeding with more dogs involved would widen the gene pool.
However, some breeders of purebred pups would want only to breed the finest specimens. In some cases, that might mean breeding dogs that look good but have defects that cause them to have that appearance. This would cause the defect to become more prominent.
Certain breeds are known to be predisposed to have a greater chance of developing certain health issues. Some of these might lead to a shortened life span.
However, this does not mean that mixed breed dogs are not at risk of such conditions. As with you and I, there are all kinds of things that might go wrong. You hope to enjoy good health for yourself just as you would for a pet. All kinds of factors feed into the overall lifespan of every dog you might own.
If you are thinking of buying a purebred pup, you may want to ask the breeder if genetic testing has been done on the dog. This would highlight any potential problems that could occur later in the puppy’s life. You should have information from both the dog and the bitch involved in the breeding process.
Of course, many breeders do not go this far. However, it might be something to think about if you want to buy a purebred and know that it has the best chance of a long and happy life.
Good health increases the chances of a longer life
This applies just as readily to dogs as it does to you and me. It doesn’t matter whether you own a Great Dane or a chihuahua, you can increase the odds of enjoying more time with your pooch if you make sure you:
- Give them a healthy diet
- Spay or neuter them at an early age
- Get their vaccinations done on time
- Take them for regular veterinary appointments
This is all common sense, of course. It’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about how to keep your pooch healthy throughout its life. A puppy is going to have different needs to an adult dog and then again to a dog in its senior years.
Be alert to how your dog behaves too. If you sense anything that isn’t normal, ask your veterinarian for advice.
Knowing how best to take care of your pet at every stage of its life will help give you more time to enjoy with your dog. This extends to traveling safely with your pooch, for example, using a proper car harness or carrier that is properly secured in place in your vehicle.
Good training also helps keep them safer for longer. Every dog enjoys running off the leash, but it could also mean they get into trouble. Having proper control over your dog minimizes the chances of them experiencing an injury that could put their health in jeopardy.
Nobody knows why bigger dogs age more quickly than smaller ones
An evolutionary biologist, Cornelia Kraus, explored data to try and find out why this happens. She looked at:
- 74 different breeds
- Over 50,000 individual dogs
She tried to work out whether there were commonalities between how and why different dogs died, and at what age this occurred.
It seems the idea that bigger dogs age faster does make sense and was confirmed by the data used. However, it is still not known why this happens. It is only known that it does – something pet owners of large dogs would likely agree with.
Ms Kraus suggested that the aging process starts more quickly among bigger dogs than it does among smaller ones. The data used seemed to bear this out, yet there are no firm answers beyond that. The why might just have to wait.
Living the best life is most important
You could say that a life of 15 years may not be as good as one lived for just seven years if you were to compare one dog with another. The quality of life is most important of all – and that applies to everyone, from dogs to humans.
If you can say your dog has had a wonderful life, that is the most important factor of all. You’ll have lots of wonderful memories to hang onto.