How Long Do German Shepherds Live? Tips for a Long Life

German Shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, second only to the Labrador Retriever. They’re extremely intelligent and devoted to their families. Unfortunately, the breed is plagued by a lot of health problems that can affect their lifespan. So, how long do German Shepherds live?

German Shepherd Lifespan

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the average German Shepherd lifespan is only 7 to 10 years. In general, large dogs have shorter lives than small dogs. However, German Shepherds are also prone to a variety of health issues that can shorten their life.

German Shepherd Health Issues

Sadly, German Shepherds are prone to many health conditions that shorten their lifespan. Here are some of the leading health issues they struggle with, and what, if anything, you can do to help prevent or lessen the impact of that health condition.

Hip or Elbow Dysplasia

Hip and elbow dysplasia are genetic conditions where the hip or elbow joint doesn’t form properly. Dysplasia is usually progressive and causes pain and lameness. In severe cases, the dog may eventually struggle to get up, and euthanasia becomes the only humane option.

Look for a premium dog food that contains glucosamine and chondroitin or give your dog a supplement. Glucosamine and chondroitin help protect joints and may reduce pain if your German Shepherd has hip or elbow dysplasia or develops arthritis, another common joint problem.

It’s also crucial to keep your German Shepherd at a healthy weight. The heavier your German Shepherd is, the more strain is put on their joints. You should always be able to feel (but not see) your German Shepherd’s ribs when they’re standing up.

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy is a hereditary condition that causes progressive paralysis. Sadly, German Shepherds are one of the most afflicted breeds. There is no cure for degenerative myelopathy. While it doesn’t cause pain, the decreasing mobility can affect a dog’s quality of life, and they can become paralyzed in all four legs.

Since degenerative myelopathy is genetic, it can’t be prevented. That’s why it’s crucial to find a reputable breeder who works to breed only the healthiest German Shepherds to reduce the incidence of this disease being passed on to new generations.


All large, deep-chested dog breeds, including German Shepherds, are prone to bloat. Bloat is a condition where air gets trapped in the dog’s stomach, sometimes causing the stomach to rotate on its axis and cut off blood supply to the intestines. Bloat is often fatal, even when you get the dog to the vet for emergency surgery.

The best way to prevent bloat is to feed your German Shepherd at least twice a day, prevent them from gulping their food by using puzzle bowls, and avoid letting them run around much for an hour after eating.

Tips for Increasing Your German Shepherd’s Life Expectancy

Beyond trying to prevent or manage the health conditions we’ve already discussed, there are some things you can do to help increase your German Shepherd’s life expectancy.

Feed a Good Diet

All dog foods are not created equal. Sure, they may be formulated to meet your dog’s basic nutritional needs, but they might do that with low-quality ingredients sprayed with artificial vitamins rather than healthy, natural ingredients.

Avoid dog food that includes corn, wheat, soy, by-products, and artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Look for food with whole meat as the first ingredient rather than meal, when possible.

Also, you want to make sure you keep your German Shepherd a healthy weight. Obesity causes many of the same health problems in dogs as it does in people. Go easy on the treats.

Thinking about finding organic dog food for your German Shepherd? Check out The Best Organic Dog Food in 2020 – Reviews and Benefits.

Give Them Plenty of Exercise

Just like humans, dogs need regular exercise to stay healthy and happy. Actually, German Shepherds were bred to work all day long, so they must get at least an hour of exercise every day.

Take Them to the Vet Regularly

Dogs tend to hide their symptoms when they don’t feel good. At the same time, most health conditions are easier to treat the sooner they’re caught. That’s why you should take your German Shepherd to the vet at least once a year when they’re younger and twice a year after they turn 7.

It may seem silly to take a healthy dog to the vet, but your German Shepherd may not be as healthy as you think. That seemingly pointless vet visit could save your dog’s life.

Brush Their Teeth

Did you know that 80% of dogs show signs of gum disease by the time they’re 3 years old? This is a bigger problem than just bad breath. Bacteria from under your German Shepherd’s gumline can travel through their bloodstream to their heart and other organs.

Chewing kibble is about as useful as eating crackers when it comes to cleaning a dog’s teeth. Having bones and toys to chew on helps. But the best way to prevent gum and dental disease in your German Shepherd is to brush their teeth every day using a soft toothbrush and toothpaste made for dogs. Never use human toothpaste – it can make your dog sick.

Dog toothpaste comes in fun flavors like beef or poultry, so most dogs learn to see toothbrushing as a treat rather than torture. For best results, turn toothbrushing into just another part of your daily routine.

Find a Good Breeder

Since German Shepherds are so popular, there are a lot of people breeding German Shepherd puppies to make money with no regard for the health of the puppies. For the best chance of having plenty of good years with your dog, look for a reputable German Shepherd breeder who:

  • Lets you visit the puppies on site
  • Allows you to meet the mother
  • Asks you plenty of questions to make sure you will be a good home for their puppy
  • Offers to take the puppy back if you can’t keep it for whatever reason
  • Does health testing on dogs before breeding them

Final Thoughts on German Shepherd Lifespans

It’s sad that the regal German Shepherd has such a short average lifespan due to greedy breeders who don’t care about the health of the breed. Hopefully, the suggestions we’ve included here will help give you plenty of healthy years with your German Shepherd.

Related: How Long Do Pit Bulls Live? Tips for More Healthy Years

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