How Long Do German Shepherds Live?

If you and your family decide to welcome a German Shepherd into your home, you may wonder how long you will have with your new companion and how you can best care for your new friend to get the most out of his or her years with your family.

How long do German Shepherds live? The typical lifespan of a German Shepherd is from 9-13 years. This can differ from dog to dog and is the standard you can expect when factoring in the size and medical conditions they may face.

how long do German Shepherds live

Help Your GSD to Live a Long, Healthy Life

As with humans, the lifespan of your four-legged friend will depend on its overall health and the care it receives. Ten to twelve years is the standard, but there are ways to keep your GSD in the best possible shape to increase its lifespan.

Feed your puppy a quality diet, keep up to date with routine veterinary visits, and alleviate any pain as they age. These are the tools to provide your German Shepherd with a long, happy and healthy life.

While raising your German Shepherd, you will notice significant personality changes as it matures. Let’s discuss the life stages of your GSD’s life.

Juvenile Stage

This is the time when most people choose to adopt a GSD. The age between three and seven months is when they are most open to training, socialization, and the structure you create for them. They are filled with rambunctious puppy energy during this time, so prepare for lots of playtime and equal amounts of puppy naps.

Adolescent Stage

The adolescent stage for a German Shepherd is the same as human time as a teenager. The age between seven months and three years is when your GSD will really begin to test the waters. As they reach sexual maturity, behavioral problems can arise.

If you have decided to neuter or spay your GSD, now is the time for it, as some behavioral issues can be alleviated with the procedure. In addition to the hormonal changes, expect energy level changes during this time. This will be your GSD’s most rambunctious period, so be prepared each day for exercise and play.

Adult GSD

A German Shepherd is regarded as an adult at three years of age. Now your dog should be well-behaved and conscientious. You can now enjoy a calmer version of your best friend.

Senior Stage

A German Shepherd is considered a senior at seven years of age. As a result, they will begin to slow down and may experience some of the medical conditions that GSDs are prone to. When your dog reaches their senior years, you should consider their daily comfort and how to assist them with health issues they may be experiencing.

Health Complications a German Shepherd Can Face

As with any breed of dog, German Shepherds have some medical conditions they are prone to throughout their lives. Educate yourself regarding these conditions, and you reduce the risk of them happening to your dog.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

  • This condition is extremely common in German Shepherds.
  • As this condition can be passed on, it is especially common in less than ideal breeding conditions.
  • Dysplasia is the abnormal formation or displacement of a joint causing the dog pain as they continue to age.
  • When present in the elbow or hip joints, it can lead to painful walking, slowing down in time, limping, lameness, and in some cases, debilitation.
  • A dog used for breeding purposes should be cleared of this condition as it is serious and causes much pain.

Arthritis

  • This condition wears down the cartilage between the joints.
  • It leads to rubbing and grinding of the joints, which causes extreme discomfort as the condition worsens.
  • Arthritis can occur in any breed of dog but is more prevalent in the larger breeds such as the German Shepherd.

Bloat

  • Bloat happens when a dog’s stomach flips, causing air and food to get trapped in the stomach.
  • When the stomach flips, it cuts off circulation to other parts of the intestinal tract. This is extremely serious and, if not resolved quickly, can be fatal.
  • This condition is regarded as the “mother” of all veterinary emergencies.
  • Dogs experiencing bloat will wretch with no vomit production, have weakness in the rear legs, distended abdomen, and collapse.
  • This condition can be prevented by limiting physical activity after a meal and preventing your dog from eating too quickly. A slow feeder bowl can help this.

Epilepsy

  • This seizure disorder can often affect dogs from a year old and older.
  • Sudden seizures and other neurological behavior characterize this condition.
  • Epilepsy can be managed with daily medication and reduced stress in their environment.

Allergies

  • Allergies in a German Shepherd can come in various forms.
  • Dogs can experience allergies from the food they eat, allergens in the air, and contact allergies.
  • Allergies will present as skin irritation and redness, constant itching, hair loss, head shaking, skin sores, and GI symptoms such as irregular stools and gas.

Cataracts

  • Cataracts are the thickening of the lens of the dog’s eyes, making it difficult for them to see.
  • This is typical in dogs of all breeds as they get older but particularly common in German Shepherds.
  • As a German Shepherd age, the owner may observe them having difficulty navigating around the home. They will walk into furniture or things around the house and may become fearful of their surroundings.
  • This condition progresses with age but can be remedied with surgery if it becomes too debilitating.

Pannus

  • An autoimmune disease of the eye, Pannus, is quite common in GSDs.
  • GSDs are the “poster child” for this condition, as it is seen so often in them.
  • Pannus is an irregular granulation of tissue that forms on the eye, causing vision discomfort and vision loss if left untreated.
  • Dogs having this condition will exhibit a cloudy appearance in the eye, eye irritation, and swelling. They will paw at the eye and exhibit other signs of eye discomfort.
  • There is no cure for pannus, but it can be effectively managed.

Degenerative Disc Disease

  • Disc disease is common in all large dog breeds.
  • Disc disease causes deterioration or changes in the discs of the spine, causing pain and lameness in dogs.
  • This condition cannot be prevented. However, you can make your GSD more comfortable by acting quickly when it occurs.
  • An x-ray diagnoses the condition. If you notice your GSD limping, slowing down, crying out, or having difficulties getting up, it is time for an x-ray.

Thyroid Problems

  • The thyroid is essential for hormone production in dogs.
  • If the thyroid is not functioning correctly, a dog can experience weight loss or gain, change in appetite, hair loss, behavior change, and other concerning symptoms.
  • Thyroid problems are diagnosed with routine blood work and can be managed with daily medication.

How You Can Prolong Your German Shepherd’s Life

When you love a dog of any breed, you will want to prolong the time you have with your companion. There are several ways you can extend your German Shepherd’s life.

Veterinary Tips

  • Set up a vaccination schedule for your dog.
  • Arrange for three series of vaccines when they are puppies and yearly as they age. These vaccinations will protect them from infectious diseases they can be exposed to.
  • Make sure your German Shepherd has heartworm prevention monthly. One mosquito is all that is needed to infect your dog with heartworm, so it isn’t worth the risk.
  • If you are concerned about any symptom, no matter how small, it is best to receive information and treatment from your veterinarian.
  • The longer you wait to treat, the more difficult and expensive the condition will be to resolve.

Feeding Tips

  • As German Shepherds are at risk of gastric bloat, make sure they do not eat too quickly.
  • If your dog tends to scarf down their meals, it is recommended to feed them with a slow feeder bowl.
  • Make sure your German Shepherd is fed a well-rounded and nutritious diet for the benefit of its overall health.
  • By feeding them quality food, their body is receiving healthy fuel for them to continue to thrive from day to day.
  • If you are unsure if your dog’s current diet is ideal, bring the food to your veterinarian for him to assess.
  • If your dog experiences hair loss, skin redness or irritation, excessive itching, etc., he may be allergic to his food. Discuss options with your vet.
  • Most people choose a diet without grains or poultry as these are common food allergies.

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Exercise Tips

  • GSDs need to be at a healthy weight because of the risk of arthritis and hip dysplasia.
  • Daily exercise is vital for their overall health, their physical and mental stimulation.
  • As in humans, if a dog is overweight several organ systems are negatively impacted.
  • A bored German Shepherd is not a happy dog and can lead to destructive habits.
  • You can bond with your German Shepherd through daily exercise.
  • It helps them to release pent-up energy, which results in a well-behaved and excellent companion.