How Long Do German Shepherds Live? & How to Extend Their Years

The average German Shepherd lifespan ranges from 9-13 years. While this is shorter than some smaller breeds, with love and attention, your devoted companion can enjoy many healthy and fulfilling years.

Factors Impacting German Shepherd Lifespan

Genetics: A German Shepherd’s genes play a significant role in their predisposition to various health conditions. Choosing a puppy from parents with documented health clearances increases the chances of inheriting a strong foundation for a long life.

Health Conditions: This breed has an increased risk of developing specific health problems like hip and elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and bloat. Stay vigilant with regular veterinary care and understand preventive measures to help manage these risks.

Nutrition: Provide the building blocks for a long, healthy life with a high-quality diet tailored to your dog’s age and activity level. Seeking your vet’s guidance ensures you’re meeting your German Shepherd’s specific nutritional needs.

Exercise: These active dogs thrive on a consistent exercise routine that includes physical and mental challenges. Staying fit promotes a healthy weight and minimizes the risks associated with excess pounds.

Environment: A secure and loving environment reduces unnecessary stress, which contributes positively to your German Shepherd’s overall well-being and can support lifespan extension.

Maximizing Your German Shepherd’s Lifespan

How Long Do German Shepherds Live
Image Credit: sergio_kumer/istockphoto

Finding a Reputable Breeder: Prioritize breeders who are transparent about their dogs’ health history and conduct thorough screening tests on their breeding stock. This commitment often translates to healthier, long-lived lines.

Proactive Veterinary Care: Wellness exams at least once yearly, or more frequently as your dog ages, create a baseline for early detection and treatment of any developing health issues.

The Power of Proper Nutrition: Consult with your vet to create a personalized feeding plan for your German Shepherd. Avoiding overfeeding is key for weight management, which significantly lowers the risk of many chronic diseases.

Staying Active: Daily activity is a must! Walks, runs, playtime, and mental challenges like training keep your German Shepherd physically strong and mentally sharp.

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Early Training and Socialization: A well-trained, confident German Shepherd is less prone to stress-related behaviors. This solid foundation sets them up for success as they age.

Common Health Concerns in German Shepherds

Hip & Elbow Dysplasia: These painful joint conditions often have a genetic component. Ask about hip and elbow scores for parents when selecting a puppy.

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): A progressive spinal cord disease impacting older German Shepherds. While there’s no cure, supportive care and exercise can slow disease progression.

Bloat: This life-threatening stomach torsion requires immediate veterinary intervention. Know the signs (swollen abdomen, restlessness) and preventative measures.

Embracing the Precious Time with Your German Shepherd

While German Shepherds may have shorter lifespans than some breeds, every day with these amazing companions is a gift. Focus on quality of life, providing excellent care, and enjoying your shared adventures. As your German Shepherd ages, watch for signs of discomfort and adjust their activities and environment accordingly.

Senior Spotlight: Celebrating Long-Lived German Shepherds

How Long Do German Shepherds Live

Meet Kaiser, a sprightly 14-year-old German Shepherd! His owner, Olivia, attributes his longevity to a raw food diet, daily walks, and regular vet care. Kaiser enjoys leisurely walks and spending time with his grandchildren (human and canine!).

Insights from Olivia, Kaiser’s Owner:

How Long Do German Shepherds Live

We never expected Kaiser to live this long, but we’ve been blessed with every extra year. The key is listening to your dog. As Kaiser aged, we shortened walks but added sniffing games to keep him mentally stimulated. He’s a constant source of joy in our lives!

Breed-Specific Wellness Tips for German Shepherds

Joint Care Beyond the Basics:  German Shepherds are predisposed to joint issues. Here are additional steps to promote joint health:

  • Supplements: Discuss glucosamine and chondroitin with your veterinarian to see if they’re appropriate for your dog.
  • Weight Management: Excess weight strains joints. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial.
  • Low-Impact Exercise: Swimming, controlled leash walking on soft surfaces, and short training sessions are excellent for joint health.

Mental Stimulation for Senior German Shepherds:  Keeping an older German Shepherd mentally engaged is vital. Here are some ideas:

  • Food Puzzles: These challenge your dog to work for their treats, providing mental stimulation and slowing down eating.
  • Scent Work: Hide treats or toys for your dog to find, engaging their natural scenting abilities.
  • Short Training Sessions: Brush up on basic commands or teach a new trick. Training is mentally stimulating and reinforces your bond.
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Expert Insights: Q&A with a Veterinarian

Dr. Anna Lopez, a veterinarian specializing in canine health, answers common questions about extending a German Shepherd’s lifespan:

Are there supplements I can give my German Shepherd to boost their health?

Discuss supplements like those for joint health (glucosamine and chondroitin) or probiotics for digestive support with your veterinarian. They can advise on what’s safe and appropriate for your dog’s unique needs.

What are warning signs I should watch for as my German Shepherd ages?

Decreased energy, reluctance to exercise, joint stiffness, unexpected weight loss or gain, or cognitive changes can all signal a need for a vet visit. Remember, early detection is key for managing any emerging health concerns.


Understanding German Shepherd lifespans is a vital part of responsible ownership. By choosing a healthy puppy, prioritizing their well-being, and recognizing potential health concerns, you can enhance both the duration and quality of your devoted German Shepherd’s life.

The photo featured below the post headline is Credit: Bigandt_Photography/istockphoto

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Frequently Asked Question

Is it possible for German Shepherds to live beyond 13 years?
Yes! While 9-13 years is the average range, some German Shepherds enjoy longer lives with exceptional care and a bit of good genetic luck.

What are the signs my German Shepherd is getting old?
Decreasing energy, graying fur, cloudy eyes, joint stiffness, or behavioral changes may signal the transition into senior years.

Is there anything I can do to prevent health issues in my German Shepherd?
While not every condition is preventable, responsible breeding, good nutrition, exercise, and regular veterinary care offer the best chance for a long, healthy life.

Can a German Shepherd live 20 years?
While extremely rare, some German Shepherds exceed the average lifespan with exceptional care and genetics. Realistically, aiming for a long, healthy life within their typical range is the best approach.

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Is 7 old for a German Shepherd?
Yes, a 7-year-old German Shepherd is considered a senior. You might notice signs of slowing down or changes in their activity preferences. This is a great time for a senior wellness check with your vet!

What is the oldest a German Shepherd has lived?
It’s difficult to verify the absolute oldest German Shepherd; however, records exist of some living to 18 years or beyond.

Do male or female German Shepherds live longer?
There isn’t conclusive evidence that one sex consistently lives longer than the other. Overall health and care play a larger role in lifespan.

How can I help my German Shepherd live the longest life possible?
Focus on these key elements: high-quality nutrition, regular exercise, preventive veterinary care, choosing a puppy from health-tested lines, mental stimulation, and a loving environment.

What are the most common health problems that shorten a German Shepherd’s lifespan?
Hip and elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, bloat, and certain types of cancer are among the most concerning health issues affecting the breed.

My German Shepherd is overweight. How does this impact lifespan?
Obesity significantly increases the risk of joint problems, diabetes, and other diseases that shorten lifespan in German Shepherds. Consult with your veterinarian about a safe weight-loss plan.

At what age should I switch my German Shepherd to senior dog food?
Most German Shepherds benefit from switching to a senior formula around 7-8 years old. Your vet can provide a personalized recommendation based on your dog’s health.

Are there any genetic tests I should get for my German Shepherd puppy to predict lifespan?
Tests for hip and elbow dysplasia predisposition, as well as a test for the gene mutation causing degenerative myelopathy, can give you valuable information but are not a guarantee of lifespan.

How often should a senior German Shepherd see the veterinarian?
Bi-annual checkups are often recommended for senior German Shepherds to catch any age-related health problems early on.