With its great size and muscular body, a Great Dane is often seen as an intimidating breed. But there are actually many things to love about this dog. It’s even regarded as a “gentle giant,” because it’s friendly with people and pets given it had early socialization and training. Read on to learn more about them and their lifespan.
About the Great Danes
History says that the Great Danes were first bred in Germany in the mid-16th century. It’s believed that they are descendants of the English Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds which are both known for their substantial sizes. The purpose of breeding them was to have a dog that is slender and agile.
Back in the day, people took advantage of their massive size and used them for bull baiting. It was during the late 1500s when this breed was used for hunting large animals. They were effective at hunting preys like deer and bears. They also used their power and strong built to hunt wild boars.
Nowadays, they are better known as companion animals. Because of their even temperament, they make good family pets although some people use them as guard dogs. This is not a surprise since Danes are classified as a working breed. In fact, Danes have a high suitability as a guard dog.
They are among the tallest breeds of dogs, standing at over 40 inches at the withers and weighing around 150-200 lbs. when fully grown. These dogs continue to grow even after reaching the first year of their life.
Freddy, a dog from the UK, is the tallest Great Dane with a height of 40.7 inches at 6 years of age. He continues to live a happy life with his owners and because of his unique appearance, he got to be a celebrity dog that even has his own Facebook page.
With their noble look, the Danes are also called the “Apollo of dogs.” Like the Greek god Apollo, this breed has an imposing look that gives it a bright fixture. Its appearance and pleasing personality make it stand out when lined up with other dogs. They may look tough but they have a low level of aggression.
Great Dane Average Lifespan
On average, Great Danes live between 6 to 8 years. There have been lucky ones who lived for more than a decade. A study suggests only 17% of Great Danes make it up to 10 years. There were unverified reports stating that there are dogs from this breed living up to 17 years.
Recorded history claimed the oldest living Dane only made it to 16. It’s rare to hear about Danes living a long life because they face a number of health conditions especially during the later years of their existence.
Why Do Large Dogs Have Shorter Lives?
When it comes to dogs, bigger is not always better. Large dogs are subject to a shorter lifespan compared to small breeds because they reach adulthood faster than normal. This is because their cells divide and grow faster than normal. As a result, their bodies find it more difficult to reach the normal adult size of dogs.
Body mass also has an impact on a dog’s life. Did you know that for every 2 kilograms added to a dog’s weight, it loses a month of its life expectancy? It’s pretty much the same with humans, who suffer from life-threatening conditions like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes because of an increased body mass index.
In the case of Great Danes, they were not really bred to have a long life but for their size. That explains why you cannot expect them to live long enough.
Common health problems
- Cancer – it’s one of the leading causes of death for this breed. The most common types of cancer among Great Danes are lymphoma and cancer of the bone. Canine lymphoma is actually a diverse group of cancer but the most common type is the multicentric lymphoma that occurs in the lymph nodes.
- Stomach bloating – their deep and narrow chest makes them more prone to bloating compared to other dogs. The cause of bloating is not yet known but it’s allegedly because of over-feeding. Besides, Danes do not use as much energy as smaller breeds and that is why it is important not to over-feed them. The good thing about Danes is they are not gluttons so it is easy to watch their diet.
- Hypertrophic osteodystrophy – this refers to a skeletal disorder that affects giant breeds. The exact cause is not yet identified but studies suggest it happens due to excessive calcium supplementation. There are suspicions that insufficient Vitamin C causes this condition.
- Cardiomyopathy – it is a disease of the heart muscle that occurs when the ventricle is not capable of pumping enough blood into the lungs. As a result, fluid gathers in the lungs and causes difficulty breathing and even collapse. It is a genetically acquired condition that occurs during the middle age. Symptoms to watch out for include weakness and collapse.
In addition to the health problems mentioned above, many Great Danes also suffer from hypothyroidism and Wobbler’s Syndrome. Hypothyroidism occurs when a dog’s thyroid gland is not capable of producing sufficient thyroid hormone. In dogs, the common signs include intolerance to physical activities, sudden weight gain, and unexplained weakness or lethargy.
Wobbler’s Syndrome, on the other hand, is a cervical spine disease that occurs when the spinal cord or nerve roots compress and it causes pain in the neck. This condition may lead to partial or complete paralysis that makes it difficult for a dog to walk properly. It is diagnosed through x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging.
If you notice anything unusual, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away. Don’t give your pet any medications without your vet’s advice. Some diseases may have similar sets of symptoms.
How to Help Great Danes Live Longer
Like with other dogs, you can help your Dane live a long and healthy life. These things can help your buddy enjoy his life until the senior years or even live longer than the average lifespan for his breed:
- Feed him the right diet. Great Danes need to be fed foods rich in protein. Based on the weight caloric chart, a Dane weighing 54 kilograms should be given around 2,500 calories of pet food per day. If you want to offer commercially prepared food, make sure it is specially created to meet the nutritional requirements of giant breeds. Be selective in sharing people food with your pet because not everything that we usually eat, especially chocolates, grapes, and nuts, is good for our pets. Most importantly, never feed your Dane table scraps.
- Exercise as needed. Danes only have medium energy levels and they do not need too much exercise because it will put a strain on their bones. But physical activity is still a must because it helps keep a dog’s weight under control. Your Dane will appreciate a walk in the park but make sure to limit his activity. Remember, this dog enjoys a leisurely life so you may find him lying on his bed frequently. Pups should not be given more than one and a half physical activity per day while adult dogs should not exceed an hour of exercise.
- Groom your Dane accordingly. Grooming is important for any dog’s overall health. The good news is that their coats are easy to maintain because they have smooth and short hair. You don’t need to invest in an expensive grooming tool because a simple rubber brush will be fine to use for them. You don’t have to bathe him frequently because it will only remove the natural oil in your pet’s skin and make it dry. Don’t forget about dental care, because periodontal diseases can also be a problem in dogs. Prevent the bacteria buildup in your pet’s mouth by regularly brushing his teeth.
- Keep your pet happy with enough mental stimulation. Like humans, canines also benefit from having a sharp mind. Mental stimulation can be achieved through activities like obedience training and socialization. At seven weeks of age, your Great Dane pup can already be introduced to simple commands like “sit” and “stay”. But you don’t have to go too far because you can help your buddy learn new skills by playing games with him. You can purchase doggie puzzles to keep your Dane entertained and happy.
- Visit your vet for annual check-ups. Although your Dane appears to be in top shape, remember to adhere to your vet’s recommendations because some diseases appear asymptomatic. Besides, dogs are pretty good at hiding pain so owners do not always know that something is already happening inside. A wellness exam is done once a year to help maintain a dog’s health. Check-ups are a must, especially when your dog reached 7 years of age. If your buddy has a history of a certain condition, it is important to follow it up.
- Keep vaccinations up to date. Vaccines are divided into two categories. There are the core vaccines and the non-core vaccines. Core vaccines or essential vaccines include canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies. The first shot should be given from 6-8 weeks of life. Bordetella, 5-in-1 vaccines, and rabies should be given every year. The non-core vaccines may not be given if your Dane is at high risk of the side effects.
- Have your Dane spayed or neutered. It is advisable to neuter or spay your dog starting at four months of age and before the ninth month of life. Removing a dog’s testes or uterus and ovaries will provide them with a number of health benefits. It also lessens the risks of cancers and avoids them from reproducing. There are studies linking neutering and spaying to better behavior in pets. When the sexual organs are removed, it prevents dogs from going into heat and canine overpopulation.
- Supervise your Dane when going outdoors. Never let your buddy roam free without you by his side. You never know what can happen, from simple accidents that will injure them to being exposed to people with bad intentions. When visiting a dog park or walking your dog outside, put him on a leash. When buying a leash, get one that is durable enough for giant breeds. It is recommended to begin leash training at a young age or as early as eight weeks to help your Dane get used to it.
- Prevent heartworm and ticks. Did you know that parasite infestation can threaten a dog’s life? Parasites can harm your pet’s organs, like the heart and the lungs. The good news is you have a lot of choices on how to keep your pet free from ticks and heartworm. There are chewable tablets that you can give once a month to prevent fleas, roundworms, heartworms, and all sorts of parasites. In addition to oral medication, there are collars readily available to keep these critters at bay.
Furthermore, avoid exposing your Great Dane to second-hand smoke. Like humans, pets may also suffer from respiratory problems and cancer because of exposure to cigarette smoke. Second-hand smoke puts pets at high risk for developing many types of cancer from lung and nose cancer.
A Great Dane may have a short lifespan, but you can help your dog live longer with proper care. Feed him a well-balanced diet and don’t forget to exercise your dog daily. These things, along with mental stimulation, socialization, and regular visits to the vet will help your buddy live longer than his average lifespan. But if you really want to have a pet with a longer life span, get a small breed like a Toy Poodle or a Chihuahua.