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The Bernese Mountain Dog is becoming an increasingly popular choice for a family dog thanks to their fun-loving personalities and gentle nature. Anybody researching this breed will probably want to know how many years they can expect to spend with their potential fur child.
Unfortunately, Bernese Mountain Dogs have one of the shortest lifespans of any dog breed, if not the shortest. That shouldn’t stop you from bringing one home to join your family, but it’s important to know that your time may be short with your fur child. Also, if you know the types of things that shorten their lifespan, there may be some things you can do to help increase your Berner’s lifespan – or at least improve the quality of the years you have with them.
While the American Kennel Club says that the lifespan of the Bernese Mountain Dog is 7-10 years, most sources put their lifespan at more like 6-8 years. A Swiss study put the median life expectancy of Bernese Mountain Dogs in Switzerland at 8.4 years. A Danish study found the average life expectancy of Bernese Mountain Dogs to be only 7.1 years.
No matter how you slice it, the lifespan of the Bernese Mountain Dog is significantly shorter than the average lifespan of all dog breeds combined, around 10-12 years. While large and giant breed dogs tend to have shorter lifespans than small dogs, Berners have potentially the shortest lifespan of any dog breed.
Why is that?
The biggest factor in the short lifespan of the Bernese Mountain Dog is their high rate of cancer. Around half of all Berners die from cancer, which is a significantly higher rate than most other dog breeds. On average, fewer than one out of every four dogs die from cancer.
Another reason for the short Bernese Mountain Dog lifespan is that they are very prone to hip dysplasia, arthritis, cruciate ligament rupture, and other mobility problems that can cause pain and difficulty walking. As a Bernese Mountain Dog’s pain levels increase and ease of walking decreases, owners are forced to euthanize their Berner due to their low quality of life.
Bernese Mountain Dogs may also die from kidney problems, heart disease, bloat, or other health problems.
While there is no way to guarantee that your Bernese Mountain Dog will have a longer-than-average life, there are some things you can do to increase the odds of your Berner having a long, healthy life.
The best way to have a Berner live a long life is to find the best breeder to get your puppy from. The more health testing they do on their breeding dogs, the better. Find a breeder who has a history of Bernese Mountain dogs that live longer than the average of 8 years.
At a minimum, the breeder should do these health tests of any dogs they intend to breed:
Thanks to their stocky shape and thick, furry coat, it’s easy for a Berner to become overweight without an owner realizing it. Dogs are prone to many of the same obesity-related health problems as humans, so make sure you keep your Berner at a healthy weight by avoiding overfeeding them and giving them plenty of exercise.
How can you tell if your Bernese Mountain Dog is overweight? You should be able to feel (but not see) your Berner’s ribs without too much effort. If your Berner has enough “cushion” that you can’t easily feel their ribs, you should talk to your vet about how to safely reduce your Berner’s weight to something healthier.
Talk to your vet about supplements that may help improve or extend your Berner’s lifespan. For example, fish oil may reduce inflammation and help prevent certain health conditions like cancer. Hip and joint supplements may help reduce joint pain.
Spayed female dogs of any breed have the longest lifespan compared to neutered males or intact male or female dogs. Talk to your vet about the appropriate age to spay your female Bernese Mountain Dog, as spaying a dog too young may cause other problems.
You should take your Bernese Mountain Dog to the vet at least once a year for health screening and vaccinations when they are young. Many health conditions are more manageable if caught early on. You may consider taking your Berner to the vet twice a year once they reach the age of 5 or so.
Depending on what parasites are common in your area, you should keep your Berner on regular heartworm, flea and tick, or other preventative treatments to help keep your Berner healthy and free from parasites.
Cheap dog food contains a lot of fillers and artificial ingredients. It’s essentially junk food for dogs. Sure, it will keep your dog alive, but only up to a point. Feed your Bernese Mountain Dog the best large breed dog food you can to help prevent ailments related to poor nutrition.
While Bernese Mountain Dogs, in general, have short lifespans, all hope is not lost. There are reports of Bernese Mountain Dogs living long, healthy lives, with one Bernese reported to have lived to be at least 25 years old.
The sad fact is that no dog breed lives anywhere near as long as a human lifespan. Whether we get 5, 15, or 25 years with our fur children, it never seems like enough. All we can do as pet parents are to enjoy the years we do get with our beloved pups.