Why Don’t Great Danes Live Very Long? [4 Reasons]

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Great Danes are one of those lifechanging breeds that will steal your heart.

In fact, there is a saying in the Great Dane community that goes, “Once they love, they love until their last breath.”

Sadly, Great Danes are often called a heartbreak breed. That’s because these gentle giants are exceptionally short-lived.

Of all dog breeds, they hold the #5 spot for shortest lifespan, according to Alpha Paw. There are many reasons why Great Danes don’t live long.

Written by Jen, proud owner of a 3-year-old Great Dane/Poodle mix named Luna, who is her once in a lifetime “heart dog.”

Jen specializes in the care and training of large dog breeds. She particularly enjoys working with Great Danes (for their big, goofy natures) and Poodles (for their intelligence).

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Today, let’s look at what’s behind their short lives. I also offer helpful tips to increase the amount time owners can be blessed by these magnificent fur babies.  

What is the life expectancy of a Great Dane?

Are you looking for a dog who will be with your family for many, many years? 

Do you want your baby to grow up and become a teenager alongside their puppy best friend?

If yes, don’t get a Great Dane.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) points out that on average, a Great Dane will live between 8 – 10 years. Of that, many will die before hitting even 5 years of age.

Like I said… this are a tearjerker breed, for sure.

Why? Well, it all comes down to size.

Large and giant breeds age faster than smaller breeds.

Those big bodies grow at supersonic speed.

So, a wiggly little pup that goes from weighing 20 lbs to 100+ lbs in under 10 months is (quite literally) growing while they sleep.

Common Great Dane health issues that can drastically shorten lifespan 

In addition to aging quickly, Great Danes have loads of health issues that decrease their lifespan.

Now, that’s not to say every single Great Dane will fall prey to these illnesses.

However, the following are important to be ready for.

Great Danes can quickly die from bloat

This is the #1 killer of Great Danes, as shared by Vet Street.

Bloat occurs when a Great Dane’s stomach expands with too much air. Blood supply is cut off as a dog’s stomach flips and twists, resulting in a life-threatening medical condition known as gastric torsion.

In these cases, surgical intervention is required. Even so, 2 out of 3 Great Danes who get bloat will pass away.

But the good news is, there are easy ways to prevent bloat from happening! See below for more info. 

A Great Dane owner’s worst nightmare: bone cancer

Next is osteosarcoma. AKA bone cancer. Great Danes are especially high risk of receiving a cancer diagnosis because of their genetics.

Interestingly, some studies have found that certain colors (for example, fawn and brindle) are most likely to get bone cancer.

While canine chemotherapy and amputation are always options, prospective Great Dane owners should know this is a serious condition they may face.

Uncomfortable joint diseases that limit mobility

Third on this list of reasons why Great Danes don’t live long is joint disease.

Specifically, hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis.

Over time, wear and tear slowly deteriorates the bones and joints.

Some Great Danes enter their golden senior years with relatively low joint discomfort.

But if the pain becomes too much, quality of life can be impacted.

Heads up! Great Danes have heart problems

Great Dane lovers – like me – are obviously biased. But who can deny it? These dogs have the BIGGEST hearts on the planet! They are so full of love and affection.

However, those jumbo hearts are susceptible to cardiomyopathy. This happens when the heart becomes enlarged and can’t properly pump blood anymore.

Again, it’s a deadly condition. Medication can help. Still, 20% of Great Danes between the ages 7 – 8 will have some form of heart issues.

Helpful tips to make a Great Dane live longer

All these health concerns can sound scary. And yes, Great Danes do come in big packages with an equally large list of potential problems.

That being said, there are ways to help your Great Dane live a happy, fuller, and longer life.

For instance:

  • Only purchase a Great Dane puppy from a responsible breeder
  • Know the warning signs of bloat
  • Don’t feed 1 hour before or after exercise
  • Feed 3 meals per day (not one or two)
  • Buy high-quality food
  • Discourage rolling over
  • Book regular veterinarian checkups

Even though Great Danes don’t live very long, they remain a magnificent breed.

People who share their lives with Great Danes often swear they will never own another type of dog… that’s how special these gentle giants are!

The key is knowing what you’re signing up for.

Armed with knowledge, anybody can learn how to care for a Great Dane so they live as long as possible. 

Photo by Martin.