Everything You Should Know About the German Shepherd Lifespan. How Long Do German Shepherds Live?

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Perhaps one of the most easily recognizable dog breeds, the German Shepherd Dog (GSD) has it all: Striking looks, intelligence, strong work ethic, trainability, courage, excellent guarding skills, unfaltering loyalty, lots of love to give, athleticism……the list goes on. But how long is the German Shepherd lifespan?

This powerful breed — considered the workaholic of the dog world — dates its existence back to the 18th century when a popular German cavalry officer with a keen interest in dog breeding focused on developing a breed that had the physical strength, intelligence, and temperament to make an exceptional working dog. Clearly, they achieved exactly that!

A German Shepherd standing outdoors in the snow
(Photo Credit: Julissa Helmuth | Pexels)

Today, the German Shepherd’s deep working roots have seen this breed excel as military and police dogs, search & rescue dogs, scent detection dogs, and so much more. Besides shining in these fundamental sectors, German Shepherds also make amazing family pets; their devotion, love, and loyalty to their loved ones know no limits. 

It’s no surprise that this highly energetic, protective breed enjoys the fourth spot as America’s most popular breed out of the 150+ registered with the American Kennel Club. GSDs are no-nonsense bravados to strangers but the sweetest, ever-down-for-a-cuddle-party fur balls to their families — the perfect balance, if you ask us!

If the mere existence of the German Shepherd breed fascinates you, or you’re contemplating getting one, you probably have this big question mark on your mind: What is the average lifespan of a German Shepherd? Keep reading as we explore facts about the German Shepherd’s expected lifespan, leading health problems that shorten a GSD’s longevity, and what you can do to prolong their lifespan.

Here’s How Long German Shepherds Live on Average 

According to the American Kennel Club, the average lifespan of a German Shepherd ranges between 12 and 14 years. 

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Like other larger breeds, the German Shepherd isn’t particularly lucky in the life expectancy category…….well, at least compared to small breeds, who tend to enjoy longer lifespans. Being a large dog, the German Shepherd is prone to experiencing “wear and tear” and aging faster, which is largely to blame for its not-so-long life expectancy. 

A dog age chart compiled by WebMD reveals that 12 years for a large dog is equivalent to 77 human years. So, if you’ve ever asked yourself, “How long do German Shepherds live in human years?” We guess you now have a rough idea. With a consistently high quality of life, though, it’s possible for a German Shepherd to stick around way past its average lifespan. 

While there’s no official record for the oldest purebred German Shepherd to ever live, a German Shepherd mix from Turkey named Zeynep made history when she clocked 23 years in 2022.  

Common Health Conditions that Affect the German Shepherd’s Lifespan

A German Shepherd sniffing the ground
(Photo Credit: Skitterphoto | Pexels)

German Shepherds are highly susceptible to various health problems that shorten their life expectancy. Without timely diagnosis and proper medical care, these conditions may be the reason your GSD crosses the rainbow bridge sooner than expected.

Here are five common German Shepherd health issues that normally affect this powerful breed’s longevity:

  1. Hip Dysplasia

As with many large and giant dog breeds, German Shepherds are genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia, a condition characterized by the malformation of the ball and joint sockets in the hips. If not medically managed, hip dysplasia can lead to osteoarthritis, which shortens an adult dog’s lifespan even further.

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Hip dysplasia is associated with symptoms such as walking difficulties, joint pain, and, in extreme cases, complete immobility. 

2. Elbow Dysplasia 

German Shepherds are prone to Elbow Dysplasia (ED), a painful hereditary condition characterized by developmental abnormalities in the elbow joints. Symptoms of this disease — which progresses (if not medically managed) as your German Shepherd grows older — include hesitance to run or play, limping, and stiff elbow joints. 

3. Degenerative Myelopathy

German Shepherds are genetically predisposed to Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), a potentially fatal, progressive neurological condition that affects a dog’s spinal cord and causes mobility issues.  

4. Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV)

Also known as bloat, Gastric Dilation and Volvulus is a life-threatening condition that mostly affects deep-chested breeds like the German Shepherd. In the simplest terms, GDV causes a dog’s stomach to dilate (due to built-up gas) and twist rapidly. This condition interferes with the normal flow of oxygen to organs in the abdomen and dangerously compresses surrounding blood vessels. 

5. Hereditary Eye Diseases

Last but not least, German Shepherds are prone to hereditary eye conditions, among them Corneal Pannus, Distichiasis, Corneal Dystrophy, and Cataracts. Without timely treatment, these eye diseases can significantly affect the German Shepherd’s overall health, quality of life, and, ultimately, lifespan.    

Top 5 Secrets to Prolonging Your German Shepherd’s Lifespan

Close up of a German Shepherd walking on grass with a frisbee in its mouth
(Photo Credit: Aliaksei Semirski | Pexels)

While it’s heartbreaking that the average German Shepherd’s lifespan isn’t impressively long, the good news is that you have control over how long your GSD stays by your side. The second-best news? There’s nothing extraordinary you need to do to improve the lifespan of a female and male German Shepherd and ensure they enjoy a healthy, happy life. The secret tips are as simple as they sound, yet super effective. 

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With that in mind, here are five tips to help extend your GSD’s longevity and keep that bushy tail wagging happily for a long time:

  • Take your German Shepherd to the vet regularly for check-ups
  • Prioritize feeding your dog a healthy, high-quality, and vet-approved diet
  • Keep them mentally and physically active (they thrive best with long hours of exercise and mental stimulation)
  • Besides regular exercise, prioritize the highest level of dental care and hygiene
  • Speak to your vet about supplements that will boost your German Shepherd’s joint health and overall wellbeing  

     

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