8 Dog Breeds with the Shortest Lifespans

Dogs have variable life expectancies; however, some breeds have much shorter lifespans than others. Before you decide on a specific breed, always consider the health issues that affect their longevity.

Feb 28, 2024By Lisa Szymanski
dog breeds with shortest lifespans

We all want our fur companions to stay with us for a very long time. And while most dogs have an average lifespan of 12-15 years, others barely make it past 6 or 7 years old. Let’s take the Dog de Bordeaux as an example. Sadly, these large and powerful canines only reach around 5-8 years of age because of heart and joint problems. To better understand the 8 dog breeds with the shortest lifespans, I explore the health reasons such dogs struggle to reach over 10 years of age.

1. Dog de Bordeaux

two dog de bordeaux lying on fallen leaves
The Dog de Bordeaux has the shortest lifespan of all breeds.

In all its magnificence, the Dog de Bordeaux tops the list as having one of the shortest lifespans of all large dogs. While some can live up to 10 years, their average life expectancy is 8 years. Many of these mighty dogs don't even make it past 5 and that’s because of the health complications associated with this breed. Sadly, the Bordeaux mastiff is at high risk of joint problems such as hip dysplasia due to their hefty weight of 100 lbs. Many dogs suffer from arthritis and joint collapse, limiting their mobility and quality of life. They’re also affected by cardiovascular problems and suffer from heart failure as they age, in addition to hypothyroidism and bloat.

2. Irish Wolfhound

irish wolfhound standing next to small white dog
Irish Wolfhounds are tall and unique in appearance.

The Irish Wolfhound is easily recognized by its shaggy coat and tremendous height, but this breed averages 7 years of age. They are described as brave yet gentle, but again, the size of these dogs affects their health and overall lifespan. The leading causes of their short lives are bone cancer and heart failure. They are affected by dilated cardiomyopathy, in which the heart enlarges and weakens, stopping it from pumping blood through the body. Bred in the 19th century, these loyal dogs were keen hunters meant to intimidate wolves from making their way onto farms. They make excellent family pets, but they do require a spacious home, being one of the world’s largest dog breeds.

3. Neopolitan Mastiff

neopolitan mastiff dog breed standing on grass
The Neopolitan Mastiff is a massive dog.

The male Neopolitan Mastiff can reach an astounding 150 lbs! These dignified giants are impressive in appearance, but they only reach 7-9 years of age. It’s heart-wrenching to lose such a big and beautiful dog before the age of 10; however, the sheer size of the Neapolitan Mastiff places these dogs at a serious disadvantage. Their weight and skeletal structure cause stress on their joints, and much like the Bullmastiff, they experience arthritis and hip dysplasia. According to the Mastiff Club of America, these dogs are diagnosed with cancer in their old age, specifically osteosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is a cancer of the bone that spreads rapidly, whereas hemangiosarcoma is a cancer of the spleen. They are prone to heart problems that are detected between 5 and 7 years old.

4.Great Dane

great dane black and white standing
The noble Great Dane is one of the biggest dog breeds.

Tall, regal, and friendly best describe the Great Dane. These deep-chested dogs have an intimidating appearance, but they’re generally calm-natured and get along well with other animals when properly socialized. Great Danes struggle with joint disease because of their large frame, but the leading cause of death in this breed is heart failure. These gentle giants are also susceptible to stomach torsion and osteosarcoma. Their average age is 7-8 years, with less than 20% of dogs reaching 10 years old. Most pet owners incorporate supplements into their dog’s diet, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and salmon oil, to protect their joints. Great Danes should always be kept at a healthy weight to prevent additional stress and pressure on their joints.

5. Boerboel

boerboel wearing black collar
Boerboels are alert and loving dogs.

The Boerboel is a sturdy dog that was bred to help African farmers guard their livestock. Today, they are known as protectors of their homes and families and grow to a size of 200 lbs. A Boerboel’s lifespan is 8-10 years because they’re commonly affected by heart conditions, cancer, and joint problems. Boerboels struggle with elbow and hip dysplasia, but they also develop severe arthritis making it hard to rise or walk without pain. Despite being such a muscular and active breed, the Boerboel is at high risk of obesity and heart failure. They love to eat, which isn’t a problem in their eyes; however, the extra weight can lead to joint injuries and severe arthritis.

6. St. Bernard

large st bernard
St. Bernards look mean, but they’re gentle when socially raised.

Most of us are familiar with the adorable and droopy-jowled Beethoven, but St. Bernards only reach 8-10 years of age. Despite being strong dogs that were bred to rescue people in the Alps, their huge size is a disadvantage when it comes to their longevity. This big breed can weigh more than 250 lbs. Ailments such as hip dysplasia limit their mobility and are accompanied by painful osteoarthritis. The St. Bernard is further affected by Wobbler syndrome, which is a joint disease of the neck and spine that eventually causes mobility loss. Much like mastiffs, St. Bernards are diagnosed with cancer as adults, including osteosarcoma and a type of cancer that affects the lymph nodes called lymphoma.

7. Bernese Mountain Dog

bernese mountain dog standing on hill top
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a beautiful breed.

Noble and graceful, the Bernese Mountain Dog has a short life expectancy of 7 years of age. This breed first came about in Switzerland when farmers needed a strong and large dog to pull heavy carts. Due to the extreme cold in rural areas, these dogs were bred with dense coats to keep warm. Today, many of the original features of this breed remain; however, they are prone to severe joint conditions. Hip dysplasia, arthritis, and cruciate ligament injuries negatively impact their mobility. These tremendous mountain dogs often die of cancer, with less than 30% of adults making it to 10 years old.

8. Bulldog

english bulldog running and panting
An English bulldog running and having fun.

The bulldog was purposefully bred for its strength and resilience, but the modern breed structure is much shorter and broader than its original cousins. A bulldog’s stocky size and flat muzzle are the reasons they only live to 8 years of age. Very few make it to 10 years old because they struggle with health conditions, including respiratory problems. One thing’s for sure: Bulldogs are known to snore like tractors! Most bulldogs are affected by joint degradation, resulting in spinal and knee problems that limit their movement, and eventually they cannot get up anymore.

I know how incredibly sad it is to say goodbye to your fur companion before their time. But if you are interested in the above breeds, be mindful of their health problems by providing them with supplements, support, and excellent vet care. While hereditary factors play a huge part in determining a dog’s lifespan, the best you can do is keep them healthy and comfortable.

Lisa Szymanski
By Lisa Szymanski

Lisa is a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys hiking and gardening and has four years of experience volunteering at pet shelters. She is the proud mom of two dogs, a Pitbull named Ragnar, a Boerboel named Blueberry, and four feisty chickens, or as she calls them, the "queens of the yard," Goldie, Gray, Peaches, and Brownie.