Life Expectancy of Small Dogs

The old rule of thumb that a year in your dog's life equals seven years in yours no longer holds sway. Instead, popular wisdom now dictates that in general, a six-year-old dog is equivalent in age to a forty-five-year-old person; a ten-year-old dog is like a person of sixty-five; and a fifteen-year-old canine is comparable to a person of ninety. The average dog life span is now twelve years of age, an increase of more than 70 percent since the 1930s; and the good news for small-dog owners is that on the whole, the smaller canines are usually the longest-lived of all.

In general, large dogs live shorter lives because their bodies must work harder, but there are some wild cards in the deck for small dogs too. The tinier they are, the more susceptible these dogs are to accidents and illnesses, and those bred down to teacup-size often have inbred genetic weaknesses affecting their health and longevity.

Of course, breed-specific health problems also skew life expectancy projections. The cavalier King Charles spaniel, for example, is prone to mitral valve disease, shortening its life expectancy to ten or eleven years of age. Von Willebrands disease in schnauzers and Scotties can also shorten their lives, but most still last into the double digits. English toy spaniels and Norfolk and Norwich terriers usually live until about eleven years of age. But the majority of toy and small dogs are expected to live from twelve to fifteen years. Smaller mixed breeds generally outlast their larger counterparts as well.

The life expectancy of the Maltese and miniature schnauzer, and shih tzu, as well as the Parson Russell, West Highland white, Sealyham, Lakeland, cairn, Boston, and Yorkshire terriers is from fourteen to sixteen years. Statistically, the longest-lived of all are the miniature dachshund, toy and miniature poodle, Chihuahua, and Lhasa apso, often living from fifteen to eighteen years.

No one can predict how long your dog will live, but the care you provide — including proper nutrition, weight control, exercise, and mental stimulation — will definitely put the odds for a long life in your favor. It's up to you to make the most of every year of your dog's life and to lovingly and realistically deal with the changes that old age brings.

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