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3 KEY Reasons Why Great Danes Don’t Live Very Long

Why is it that Great Danes have short lives? It’s a sad question to ask, but an important one for Great Dane owners and prospective owners to enquire about. So let’s cover everything you might want to know about Great Danes and their life expectancy.


How Long Do Great Danes Live?

Great Danes typically don’t live very long compared to other breeds.

The average life expectancy of a Great Dane is 6-8 years old. With less than 20% of the breed population making it to 8-10 years of age. These friendly giants have a much short life expectancy than most other dog breeds.

This is an interesting contradiction to how the rest of the animal kingdom works. As some of the longest living animals are the largest, how come doesn’t it work the same for dogs? In fact, when it comes to canines, the smaller breeds nearly always outlive the larger breeds.

Why Do Great Danes Have a Short Lifespan? 3 Main Reasons

Although this is a sad reality to face, it’s an important area that should be discussed and be made aware of to all GD owners. So let’s look at why these friendly giants pass on early.

1. Large Dogs Age Faster

Science has found out that large dogs appear to age faster than small dogs. And we’re not talking about wrinkles here, but more so the internal organs and functioning of the entire body.

It’s as if they are living their life stuck on fast-forward, compared to the smaller breeds. AKC Article.

2. Their Size

Aside from the fact that large dogs age faster, simply being so big in the first place has its biological pitfalls. The main one being that the vital organs, most importantly, the heart, has to work much harder for their entire life just to keep them going.

Aside from heart issues, being so large consumes a monstrous amount of energy, and all living animals eventually reach a natural endpoint.

3. Health Issues

Partly to do with their large size, Great Danes are prone to many health issues including inherited heart diseases, gastric dilation (bloat), thyroid issues, as well as different bone and joint diseases.

Most of these health issues are pretty significant and certainly contribute to a shorter life. More on this will be explained later.

Recommended Read: When do great danes get their first heat?

What Do Great Danes Usually Die From? (Health Issues)

We’re going to focus more on the common health issues that prevent many Great Danes from living a longer life. Let’s go through each of them with a brief explanation.

1. Heart Disease: Cardiomyopathy

Usually, Great Danes have larger hearts due to their size, but unfortunately, there’s an additional reason for this that’s far more sinister.

Great Danes suffer from a heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy, which is when the heart becomes enlarged, weak, and unable to pump blood sufficiently throughout the body.

This isn’t necessarily a fatal condition in itself, but it significantly increases the chances of heart failure, which is fatal.

2. Gastric Dilation Volvulus

Gastric dilation volvulus can be a fatal condition whereby the stomach twists and effectively cuts the blood supply to certain parts of the body.

This is surprisingly common and is something that all Great Dane owners should be aware of. Sometimes, excess gas will cause the stomach to bloat slightly, and it won’t go any further than that, in worse cases, it will cause twisting.

Preventative measures to reduce the chances of excess gas build-up with lifestyle changes and dietary adjustments are the best ways to tackle this issue.

3. Thyroid Issues: Hypothyroidism

Fortunately, this is one of the least problematic health issues in Great Danes, as long as it’s discovered and treated. Hypothyroidism is a common health issue whereby the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone.

This affects the metabolism and can produce further issues like weight gain, hair loss, skin issues, and more.

In very rare situations, extreme hypothyroidism could lead to an issue called Myxedema, which if progresses into a Myxedema coma, can be fatal.

Thankfully though, hypothyroidism, in most cases, can be managed with simple medication.

4. Bone & Joint Diseases

This is a very common issue that the vast majority of Great Danes will suffer from eventually. The slow deterioration of the bones and joints results in issues like hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis, both of which can get gradually worse until they become completely debilitating for your GD.

In most cases, it’s not the bone or joint issue itself that’s fatal, but often the result of them and the life-changing damage that they cause. Many owners end up facing a tough decision for those that have suffered from bone or joint issues for a good portion of their life.

Recommended Read: Why is my great dane so skinny? How to help an underweight dane.

Tips To Help Your Great Dane Live Longer

From certain preventative measures to lifestyle changes, and healthy habits, here are some valuable tips that might help your Great Dane live a longer, healthier life.

1. Feed a High-Quality Diet (That Digests Well)

The nutrition that your Great Dane receives will play a key role in his overall health for his entire life. A big dog like a Great Dane needs a lot of high-quality food to keep them going.

Whether he’s on kibble or a raw food diet, be sure to have checkups with your veterinarian to discuss the quality, quantity, and most appropriate nutritional breakdown for your GD depending on his existing health.

Aside from feeding a high-quality diet on paper, it’s imperative that your GD gets on well with it and digests it properly. Even the highest quality food won’t be any good if your Great Dane isn’t digesting or absorbing the nutrients. Again, this is where your veterinarian will be able to help you best.

2. Learn About Bloat

Bloat is still somewhat unpreventable but there are some things you can do to at least reduce the chances of it happening.

You can make changes like:
Avoid feeding around exercise times
Use appropriately elevated food and drink bowls
Feed-in small portions throughout the day instead of one big one
Use slow-feeding bowls

Additionally, it’s good to be fully versed on the potential symptoms of bloat, in case you find yourself in an emergency situation whereby your Great Dane life depends on how quickly he is seen too.

3. Regular Veterinarian Checkups

Catching health problems early on can be the difference between solving an issue, or letting it develop into something more serious and life-altering.

So, this means that regular trips to the vets are advised. If you can have routine appointments 3-4 times per year, that would be great. If you can only manage every six months, that’s still a lot better than not having routine check-ups at all.

Prevention is always better than cure.

4. Joint Supplements + Controlled Exercise

There are no guarantees that you will be able to prevent a bone and joint issue from happening, but it’s CERTAINLY worth trying.

From adding daily joint supplements to getting your Great Dane’s exercise routine just right, remaining conscious of the fact that your GD’s bones and joints are vulnerable could be all the difference.

If your Great Dane manages to get to his senior years without any existing bone or joint issues then his life expectancy is automatically going to be much higher than most others.

Thank you for reading!


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.