Life Expectancy and Causes of Death of Great Danes

The average life expectancy of great danes is only around 6,5 years, as numerous international studies and data collections have proven. The most frequent causes of death are cancer, stomach torsion and heart diseases.

source: www.danesworld.info

Compared to other dog breeds the great dane has a very low life expectancy.

In all big studies about the life expectancy of purebred dogs the great dane is – due to its low life expectancy of only 6,5 years – always on the last ranks, often only “under”reached in life shortness by breeds like the Dogue de Bordeaux.

What we also have to consider is, that dogs in the first world countries are mostly kept in good conditions and have a good medical care. And still many great danes (and also other purebred dogs) die far before their maximum age. Many great danes reach their already low number of years only with comprehensive medical care, like operations of a stomach torsion – which one third till one half of great danes will need in the run of their life. Another example is the medication needed for heart diseases like the DCM. And many great danes have to take pain medication and need regular physio therapy due to problems with their skeletal and locomotory system.

Without the good care, the modern veterinary medicine and the mental and financial willingness to sacrifice of their owners the life expectancy of great danes would be even lower than 6,5 years!

The low life expectancy is caused by the low genetic variety of the breed which leads to inbreeding depression and accumulation of hereditary diseases. Also the selection only for champion titles and look of the last 150 years and the current hypertype trend take a toll. And in the end a lack of transparency and education of both breeders and breed officials have manifested the bad health condition of the great dane in total.

color group number average age males females
fawn/brindle 2798 6,46 6,20 6,69
black/harle 4840 7,00 6,52 7,44
blue 2523 6,72 6,34 7,07

data of deaths of great danes, only dogs older than 3 months, january 2019 source: www.danesworld.info

But panic and politicking are as contraproductive as lethargy and ignorance. Great danes can reach a maximum age of 13,14, even 15 years. It is possible to raise the average life expectancy of great danes to 8 or 9 years, if the long known principles of population genetics would finally be applied to the breeding of pure bred dogs in general and great danes specifically. The single breeder can already start to take action by avoiding inbreeding, by health testing and using dogs for breeding with many old ancestors. But without the help of his breeder colleagues and the breed clubs the single breeder is helpless and his efforts are only a drop in the bucket. It is necessary that the breed clubs act rationally and coordinately on national and international level.

In the end a change of mind has to happen, for a holistic breeding management will raise the low life expectancy of the great dane. The change has to take place in the heads of the breeders and breed officials at the first place.  And maybe this is the biggest obstacle.