Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.
Wondering how long your German Shepherd will live is the least of your worries when you buy a puppy. It's also not something people like to think about before the inevitable happens. Having an idea of the average life span for this breed and how to make sure your dog stays healthy in old age can be helpful for owners.
How Long Do German Shepherds Live For?
The average life span of a German Shepherd is between 9 and 13 years. Some may live shorter lives if they encounter unusual health problems, while some might live beyond 13 years if they’re in good health.
Some factors that affect a dog’s life span are outside of your control, such as genetics or injury. However, there are many steps you can take as an owner to improve both the quality and length of your German Shepherd’s life.
Purchase From a Responsible Breeder
The very first step you can make to ensure that your German Shepherd lives as long as possible is to purchase from a responsible breeder. Make sure you do your homework before committing to buying from any particular breeder. Reputable breeders should have documentation from the American Kennel Club.
They should also be able to give you paperwork showing the health history of the puppy and its ancestors. Great breeders will also look clean and healthy, seem caring for all their dogs, and won’t let you take home a puppy until it’s at least 8 weeks old.
Maintain a Schedule of Regular Exercise
German Shepherds are bred to be active dogs, so they need plenty of exercise. As an owner, you should plan on including at least one hour of exercise for your dog every day. That could include walking, jogging, hiking, or playing with toys. Shepherds can be great dogs for accompanying runners or for use as working dogs. They need this regular activity to stay healthy.
Monitor Joint Health
One of the health problems that German Shepherds run into is joint issues. While they can thrive while performing work, it’s important to avoid harsh impacts and heavy work until they’re between one and two years old.
German Shepherds mature slowly, so you need to avoid straining their joints while they’re still growing. You can check with your vet about when your dog is done developing so you know it’s safe to incorporate all kinds of exercise.
Keep a Healthy Weight
Extra weight increases your dog’s risk of injury and genetic health problems. Make sure you regularly have conversations with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is still at a healthy weight. You may need to adjust the amount and kind of food you use as your German Shepherd ages.
Prevent Bloat by Feeding Strategically
One of the health risks German Shepherds face is bloat, an often fatal condition caused by air in the stomach, which usually occurs after eating. Bloat is one of the main causes of early death in German Shepherd dogs. To minimize the chances of bloat occurring, try splitting your dog’s food into multiple smaller meals instead of one or two larger ones.
You can also use a slow feeder bowl or toy to help your dog eat more slowly. While exercise is important, try to avoid encouraging your dog to exercise right after eating. That way, they’ll have time to digest.
Feed High-Quality Food
The best food for your dog will depend on their age, activity level, possible allergies, and personal taste. Just like humans, dogs simply prefer some food over others! But no matter your dog’s taste, you can make a positive impact on their health by choosing food carefully.
High-quality food may cost more, but it will be worth it in saving money on long-term health issues, not to mention your dog’s improved quality of life.
When browsing food brands, avoid those that list oils or fats within the first four ingredients. Proteins, grains, and vegetables are what your dog needs most. You can also look for the phrase “complete and balanced” – this means the food should provide a full range of vitamins and minerals.
Some German Shepherds even choose to feed a raw or home-cooked diet. If you choose this route, make sure you consult with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is getting all the nutrients it needs.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Sam Shepards
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on June 16, 2019:
Your welcome. I think it is important that people know how long a commitment to a German Shepherd can be.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 15, 2019: