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German Shepherd Lifespan: Ways to Increase Life Expectancy in Your GSD

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German Shepherds, also known as GSDs or Alsatians, are the second-most-popular breed in the United States. With their intelligence and ability to join you on all of your most active adventures, they can make the perfect addition to many families.

Sadly, our dogs never live as long as we wish they would. How long do German Shepherds live? The German Shepherd lifespan is shorter than you might expect and may vary depending on where the dog comes from.

How Long do German Shepherds Live?

How Long do German Shepherds Live

While some websites claim that German Shepherds have an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years, the American Kennel Club (AKC), which registers the breed in the United States, lists their lifespan as only 7 to 10 years.

Why the difference? It’s possible that American German Shepherds have shorter lifespans than German Shepherds in other parts of the world. How can that be?

In America, many German Shepherds are bred toward a dog show breed standard that calls for a sloped back. Unfortunately, this sloped back increases a dog’s risk of hip dysplasia, arthritis, and other back and joint problems that can affect a dog’s mobility.

Meanwhile, in Germany, GSDs must pass several tests to prove that they are physically and mentally sound before they can be bred. With more of an emphasis on working ability than looks, GSDs in Germany are more sound than American German Shepherds and likely have fewer mobility problems that could lead to a dog being euthanized at a younger age.

Common German Shepherd health issues

Common German Shepherd health issues

The German Shepherd is a very healthy and energetic dog breed. However, they have some general health issues like other dogs. So let us quickly look at some critical health issues a German Shepherd can suffer.

Dysplasia of Hip

Hip Dysplasia A hereditary disorder called hip dysplasia can make the hip joint a little lax, which restricts mobility. As a result, the dog remains in pain as it has trouble running, walking, leaping up on furniture, climbing stairs, or moving about.

Degenerative Myelopathy

This is another condition that impairs movement. It is one of the most typical back issues among German Shepherds. This long-term illness weakens the spinal cord nerves.

This results in diminished limb function and, in the worst cases, can cause paralysis in the legs.

Inflammation and Sores in Footpads

Lesions in the footpad and other foot issues can occur from various causes. In addition, the German Shepherd’s dense fur can cause friction and irritability between their toes.

All these ailments might irritate or even result in severing their feet. This can lead to severe conditions, such as metatarsal fistulation.

Skin Disorders

These include possible autoimmune conditions like dermatitis, which are made worse by allergies. Your German Shepherd’s skin may develop itchy lumps, flaky skin, or blisters.

This can be caused due to atopic dermatitis, environmental allergies, or flea bites.

Back, Hip, and Other Joint Problems in German Shepherds

All large dog breeds are prone to hip and joint problems, but with the traditional sloped back of the German Shepherd, back, hip, and other joint problems are more common in German Shepherds than many other breeds.

While there is no way to prevent these problems, there are things you can do to help delay or lessen symptoms to help extend your German Shepherd’s quality of life.

What Do German Shepherds Usually Die From?

The most prevalent disease that can cause death in German Shepherd Breeds is hemangiosarcoma (spleen cancer) and osteosarcoma (bone cancer). 

However, some general health issues can affect the life of a German Shepherd. Some of these frequent and yet common health conditions are bloating, hip, elbow, spine dysplasia, and epilepsy.

They may also suffer from mild ear, eye, stomach, and skin conditions.EPI, also known as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, also frequently affects German Shepherds. This is one of the main arguments in favor of feeding them a moderate amount of kibble.

  • Heart conditions and autoimmune thyroiditis
  • Bone cancer and hemangiosarcoma
  • Losing weight and having a very light undercoat
  • spinal cord or joint conditions may have weak rear legs

What Can You Do to Help Your German Shepherd Live Longer?

What Can You Do to Help Your German Shepherd Live Longer

There is no way to guarantee that your German Shepherd will live a long, healthy life, but there are many ways to help increase the likelihood that you will have many good years with your fur child.

#1 – Get Regular Vet Care

You should take your German Shepherd to the vet at least once a year when they are young and twice a year as they age for wellness checks. Why?

Many health conditions are much easier to treat if they are caught early on, before your dog is showing symptoms. Additionally, dogs tend to hide their pain, so your vet may catch something like hip dysplasia before you see your German Shepherd limping.

#2 – Maintain Your German Shepherd’s Weight

More than half of all pet dogs are overweight or obese, and dogs face many of the same obesity-related diseases as people. Additionally, any unnecessary weight can add more strain to already aching joints in dogs prone to hip dysplasia or arthritis.

How can you tell if your German Shepherd is overweight? When viewed from the side or above while standing, they should have a tucked in waistline. You should also be able to feel (but not see) your German Shepherd’s ribs.

Making sure your dog has a complete and balanced diet can be trickier than you expect when reducing their food intake, so if your GSD is overweight, talk to your vet about the best way to help them lose weight safely.

#3 – Find a Reputable Breeder

Find a Reputable Breeder

Since German Shepherds are such a popular breed, many breeders are only looking to make money from breeding the dogs and aren’t interested in improving the breed.

A dog bred simply for looks or money is more likely to suffer from genetic problems like hip dysplasia or degenerative myelopathy than German Shepherds bred to work and be as healthy as possible.

Because GSDs from American lines may have shorter lifespans than those from German lines, it may be worth your while to search for reputable breeders who have added German dogs to their breeding programs to help strengthen the breed and reduce the likelihood of genetic problems.

How can you make sure you avoid a backyard breeder or puppy mill dog? Here are some tips for finding a reputable German Shepherd breeder:

  • You should be able to visit the puppies on site
  • In addition to answering your questions, the breeder should ask you questions to make sure you’ll provide a good home for a German Shepherd
  • You won’t find their puppies in a pet store
  • The breeder does health testing on the parent dogs
  • They will take the dog back if you can’t keep it

#4 – Feed Your GSD High-Quality Food

While most commercial dog foods are labeled “nutritionally complete,” that doesn’t make them healthy. Many dog foods include filler ingredients like corn or meat by-product that have little to no nutritional value. That makes cheap dog food the equivalent of human junk food.

Just as eating healthy helps humans live longer, high-quality dog food can help your German Shepherd live a longer, healthier life.

How do you know if your dog’s food is of high quality? Here are some tips:

  • It shouldn’t contain any corn, animal by-product, or artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
  • Meat should be the first ingredient. Real meat is better than meat meal for the first ingredient, but meal can be further down the list.
  • Vitamins and minerals should come from real fruits and vegetables rather than artificial sources.

For more information on dog food for German Shepherds, check out the 8 Best Dog Foods for German Shepherds.

#5 – Consider Supplements

Since German Shepherds are so prone to painful joint problems, you should start them on a joint supplement that contains glucosamine and chondroitin when they are young to help prevent and lessen joint pain.

If you’d like to learn more about joint supplements, we cover them more in depth and offer our recommendations here.

Another good supplement to consider for your German Shepherd is fish oil. Some conditions that fish oil can help improve include:

  • Intestinal inflammation
  • Spinal problems
  • Hip or elbow dysplasia
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Arthritis
  • Itchy skin or dry coat

#6 – Give Your German Shepherd Plenty of Exercise

Give Your German Shepherd Plenty of Exercise

All dogs need exercise to prevent obesity and keep them in shape, but German Shepherds have high energy levels and can turn to destructive behaviors if they don’t get enough exercise.

A bored German Shepherd could easily turn to eating things they shouldn’t when left alone, and if they swallow something that doesn’t pass through their digestive tract, it could kill them, so exercise really can directly impact their lifespan.

German Shepherds need at least an hour of exercise every day, and the more, the better. They were bred to work all day, so a tame 30-minute walk twice a day may not be enough to expend all their energy.

Some exercise options to consider with your German Shepherd include:

  • Running around a dog park
  • Playing fetch in the back yard
  • Jogging with you on leash
  • Running next to you as you bike
  • Hiking
  • Doggy daycare

#7 – Take Care of Their Teeth

You may not realize it, but poor dental health can impact a dog’s overall health. If you don’t care for your German Shepherd’s teeth, bacteria from under their gumline can enter your dog’s bloodstream and affect their organs, including their heart.

Brushing your German Shepherd’s teeth every day with a toothpaste made for dogs is best, but if they won’t allow you to do that, regular access to chew toys or bones can help remove plaque and tartar from their teeth.

You should also get a professional dental cleaning from your vet any time they recommend it, and it must be the kind where your dog is anesthetized. Anesthesia-free dental cleanings are becoming increasingly popular, but they don’t clean under the gumline, where bacteria lurk.

#8 – Keep Their Mind Active

Keep Their Mind Active

German Shepherds are extremely intelligent and get bored easily. A bored German Shepherd can develop undesirable behaviors, which may not lead directly to a shortened lifespan, but it may lead to you choosing to rehome your dog.

A few ways to keep your German Shepherd’s mind active include:

  • Dog sports like agility, flyball, freestyle, and more
  • Constantly training new tricks
  • Obedience competitions
  • Puzzle toys

#9 – Give Your GSD a Job

Bred to work all day, German Shepherds love nothing more than to have a job. If you have the time to train them, your GSD might love to be a therapy dog, search and rescue dog or sheepdog.

Don’t have the time to give them a job outside the house? Teach them something to do at home, like putting away their toys or checking on the kids.

How Does German Shepherds’ Lifespan Compare to Other Breeds?

Generally, the number of years a German shepherd life is around 10 to 13 years. However, German Shepherd females often live for about 1.5 more years than males. They live 11.1 years on average for females and 9.7 years on average for males. 

German Shepherds lead rather happy lives compared to many other large breeds. This is especially true if we can keep them comfortable and active and receive frequent vet visits.

German Shepherds don’t have the shortest life expectancy, although dogs in their size group can live as little as nine years. However, this dog breed lives longer than some other breeds. If one takes good care of German Shepherds, they can live as long as the Golden Retriever.

Factors like diet, exercise, breeding, and training affect their lifespan. Proper care and regular exercise help them live longer. 

But‌ they will age more and won’t be as happy or healthy as they become older if they are permitted to lounge around the house.


Can a German Shepherd live 20 years?

Like any other dog breed, even a German Shepherd can live longer than its average life expectancy. According to reports, German Shepherds can live into their late teens (possibly 18 to 20 years old).

Yet, these statements have not been documented.

Why do German Shepherds have short lives?

Distinct large dog breeds have different illness susceptibilities. Moreover, larger dogs like German Shepherds have a much higher risk of suffering from issues like musculoskeletal disorders.

German Shepherds are also susceptible to major illnesses such as degenerative myelopathy and hip dysplasia. Myelopathy is a locomotor disorder since its average lifespan is shorter than many other dog breeds.

What is the average age a German Shepherd lives?

The average lifespan of any German Shepherd is between 10 and 13 years. However, German Shepherd females often live 1.4 more years than males do.

German Shepherd dogs typically live 11.1 years on average for females, while on average, it is 9.7 years for males.

Like other popular dog breeds, this dog breed also has the potential to live longer than its average age. German Shepherds have reportedly lived well into their late teens (maybe 18 to 20 years old).

What is the most common cause of death in German Shepherds?

The most frequent health conditions they suffer from include bloat, hip, elbow, spine dysplasia, and epilepsy.

They are also vulnerable to the eye, ear, stomach, and skin conditions, but these are not life-threatening in most cases. Besides, German Shepherds are prone to exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).

What is the longest-living German Shepherd?

The oldest German shepherd ever documented, a female dog who is yet unidentified, survived for 29 years and 5 months. This dog lived from about 1899 until it died in 1939.

However, we do have some information about her. Her name was probably based on a line of legendary police K-called nine’s Max.

This is also assumed that she served in the Munich Police force. This is because when she died, the Guinness World Records indexed as “Max” in her name.

Is a German Shepherd a good family dog?

Yes. German Shepherds are extremely intelligent, so your kids will enjoy training them in a variety of amusing tricks. 
If trained from an early age, a German shepherd is a loyal dog who gets along well with the small children in the family. 
A German Shepherd makes an excellent playmate for active children. This is because of its endurance and vitality. 
It will watch out for and defend your kids. Nevertheless, it is advised to proceed with caution when around other children.
All these attributes make them very likable in family surroundings. These dogs can make great companions and protectors for any family.

Are German Shepherds smart dogs?

German Shepherds are considered being among the world’s most intelligent dogs. Canine psychologist Stanley Coren, a well-known dog psychologist, ranks this dog breed as the third best. 
These dogs need a few repetitions to learn a new habit. However, they are also praised and favored owing to their legendary willingness to collaborate and work with us. 
Many of us consider that this is how they show their desire to win the heart of their human masters.
However, they are more intelligent than almost all dogs due to their instincts and capacity for adaptive learning. German Shepherds can easily carry out the command that they have recently learned.

Final Words: Summing Up the German Shepherd Life Expectancy

As you can see, there are many things you can do to help improve your German Shepherd’s lifespan and quality of life. They still won’t live forever, but with a little luck, you’ll have at least a dozen good years with them.

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1 thought on “German Shepherd Lifespan: Ways to Increase Life Expectancy in Your GSD”

  1. Our German Shepherd will be 8 in a little over a month. We throw a Frisbee for him twice a day, he runs, leaps (all four paws leave the ground), essentially we play until he tells us it’s time to take a break. He (knock on wood) has no grey thus far and still acts very puppy like. He’s a beautiful creature but we do not take care of his teeth nearly enough.


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