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Great Dane Life Span and Health Issues

Aug 18, 2022

Your friendly, patient, and dependable Great Dane is like a member of your family and probably one of your closest friends. You likely find their energy level endearing and enjoy training them to do tricks and follow basic commands. Great Danes are large dogs that weigh over one hundred pounds for both males and females. Known to be people pleasers and quite friendly, your Great Dane has won your heart and the hearts of your family and friends. Since your Great Dane is so important to you, you may be wondering what the Great Dane life span is and what health problems your precious pup might develop during their life. In this article, we’ll discuss both of those issues and explore ways to prevent Great Dane health problems and support your dog’s health overall

How Long do Great Danes Live?

The Great Dane life expectancy is between 8-10 years, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). Some Great Danes only make it to 6 or 7 years, while 12 is considered ancient for a Great Dane. The AKC goes on to say that, with their giant frames, Great Danes are more likely to develop joint and bone diseases, like hip dysplasia and arthritis. While these diseases are technically not life-threatening, they can be extremely painful and debilitating, which then means the owner must make a decision about their dog’s quality of life. Scientists do not yet know why larger dog breeds tend to live shorter lives compared to their smaller counterparts. 

Common Great Dane Health Problems

1. Bloat

Bloat, or gastric dilation-volvulus complex (GDV), is a medical emergency that requires surgery. Bloat happens when the stomach fills with air, causing pressure to build. Blood flow is blocked from the back end of the body, which sends the dog into shock. Dogs must receive medical treatment for this condition. Signs and symptoms of bloat include:

  1. An enlarged abdomen or belly
  2. Retching, particularly if it’s dry or becomes dry
  3. Excess salivation
  4. Restlessness
  5. Whining or other signs of pain when you press on the belly

If your dog is showing these symptoms, take them to an emergency vet clinic right away. 

2. Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a joint condition that affects the ball and socket hip joint. It’s caused by these joints developing improperly, and this is often simply rooted in genetics. With hip dysplasia, the ball and socket of the hip joint don’t fit together correctly, which leads to painful grinding of the joint. This wears out the protective cartilage and can eventually lead to lameness. 

3. Cardiomyopathy

This is a condition that leads to an enlargement of a dog’s heart. This is one of the most common heart diseases in dogs. It’s more common as dogs age and will eventually lead to congestive heart failure. Take your dog to the vet if you notice him slowing down and disliking exercise, has cold feet, coughing, appears pot-bellied, has less appetite, has a blue tongue, and labored breathing. 

4. Cataracts

Cataracts are an eye condition that can develop as a dog ages. The lens of the eye starts to become cloudy due to a build-up of proteins. These proteins create a film over the eye, blocking light and may eventually lead to blindness. Depending on your dog’s health, surgery might be able to reverse cataracts. 

brindle great dane puppy

How to Improve Your Great Dane’s Health and Lifespan

Here are some tips for improving the health and lifespan of your Great Dane. If you haven’t adopted your Great Dane yet, pay special attention to section one where we’ll discuss responsible breeding and how to choose an ethical Great Dane breeder. If you already have your Great Dane, then the rest of the sections are for you. They offer lifestyle tips that will help your Great Dane stay healthy and happy. 

1. Responsible breeding

Choosing a responsible dog breeder is important, not only for the health of your dog but also for the health of the breed as a whole. Here are a few ways to tell if you’ve found a responsible breeder or not. 

  1. The breeder is familiar with Great Dane breed standards.
  2. Their parent dogs are healthy with the medical records to prove it.
  3. They only breed registered Great Danes.
  4. They don’t sell their puppies to pet shops.
  5. They keep all the puppies together until at least 7 or 8 weeks of age.
  6. They follow any applicable state and local laws concerning the sale of puppies.
  7. Their puppies have medical records of immunization and parasite control along with written instructions regarding the dog’s care.
  8. They interview you to make sure you’re able to provide a good home for their dog. 

2. Nutrition

Great Danes can benefit from being fed several small meals throughout the day. This helps to prevent the deadly bloat this breed is prone to. If you are gone most of the day for work, then consider an automatic dog feeder with a timer. 

Feeding your Great Dane a high-quality diet is one of the best ways to keep your dog healthy and prevent health issues in the future. One way to find good dog food is to look for “meat” as the first ingredient. Here are a few things to avoid when choosing dog food. 

  1. Grain is the first ingredient. While grains can be nourishing to dogs, they can also be used as filler, so avoiding dog foods with grains as the first ingredient might be a good choice. Or look for dog food with grains as one of the middle or later ingredients. 
  2. Meat By-Product. This might mean anything from bones, blood, intestines, organs like lungs, ligaments, heads, feet, and feathers. No doubt your pup would enjoy all of these things if left to her own devices, but you’re looking for quality protein for your dog. 
  3. Beef tallow. Beef tallow is often used as a fat source for dog foods. While fat is an important component of dog food, your pup is better off with a more nutritional fat, like turkey, duck, or chicken fat. These higher quality fats are often preserved with Vitamins C or E. 
  4. Animal fat. This is a term for fat that’s been made from different animal sources. A good rule of thumb when it comes to dog food ingredients is that the more specific the better. 
  5. Food fragments. This ingredient is typically made up of low-quality, leftover food sources, such as grains leftover from making alcohol. You may want to avoid dog foods with ingredients like potato product, middlings/mids, mill run, cereal food fines, corn bran, oat hulls, rice hulls, peanut hulls, distillers grain fermentation solubles, brewers rice, and cellulose, which is ground up bits of wood. 
  6. Sugars and artificial sweeteners. Other words for sugar in dog food include cane molasses, corn syrup, sorbitol, sucrose, fructose, glucose, ammoniated glycyrrhizin, propylene glycol, and xylitol. You’re looking for dog food that tastes good on its own, and your pup doesn’t need the non-nutritious calories that sugar brings.
  7. Animal digest. If that sounds gross, it’s because it is! “Unspecified animal parts” are cooked together into a broth and added to dog food. Please don’t choose a dog food with this ingredient. 
  8. Artificial coloring. These are unnecessary ingredients in dog food and are put there to make the food more palatable to the human eye.
  9. Hydrochloric acid. This ingredient is naturally found in your dog’s stomach, and yours too, and helps to digest the dog food. This means that the dog food by itself is not very digestible and is a good indication that this is low-quality dog food. 

3. Exercise

Making sure your Great Dane gets plenty of exercise, is a great way to keep her happy and healthy. Try to exercise her on softer surfaces like dirt or grass to prevent strain on her joints and bones. Great Danes do well with 30-60 minutes of exercise a day. Because of their issues with bloat, do not exercise after they’ve eaten a meal. Here are four fun exercises you can do with your Great Dane!

4. Grooming

Great Danes are easy dogs to keep groomed. Most of the year, a weekly brush with a medium-bristle brush or a rubber grooming mitt will help cut down on the shedding. However, Great Danes do have a shedding season once or twice a year and will benefit from daily brushing during this time. 

5. Veterinary care

Take your Great Dane in for his yearly checkups with the vet. This allows your vet to keep an eye on your Great Dane’s health and catch any health issues before they become problems. Of course, if your dog is sick, make an appointment right away. 

6. Supplements

Larger dogs may benefit from joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin. Other good dog supplements include fish oils, hemp seed oils, and antioxidants. Talk to your vet about good supplements for your Great Dane.  

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