We all imagine herding dogs to be long lived and healthy breeds. Getting loads of exercise and staying mentally agile well into their teens. So it comes as rather a shock to many owners when they lose their dog before they even hit their tenth birthday. The average Australian Shepherd lifespan is just nine years, which feels really unfair for such an active pup. Fortunately, there are some things you can do before and after you bring home your puppy, to help them well exceed that sadly small number of years.
Typical Australian Shepherd Lifespan
On average Australian Shepherds only live around 9 years, although they have been reported to have made it up to 15 in some less usual cases. So what is the difference between the dogs that live into their teens and those that never hit double digits? As it turns out, a few things can play a part!
The Impact Of Diseases
The Australian Shepherd’s genetic background predisposes them to several health conditions including:
- Heart disease
- Eye defects
- Hip dysplasia
- Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis
Now, a few of these shouldn’t limit your dog’s years. Dogs can live just a long without hearing or even sight if you care for them properly. But there are a few that can limit their lifespan, either as a result of terminal issues or the need for euthanisia. Even urinary disease cause death unless it results in a full obstruction of urinary flow.
How Can I Help My Australian Shepherd to Live Longer?
“Fur babies never stay long enough.” I still remember the sting of tears in my eyes as I read these words. A dear friend had just texted me to let me know that her beloved hound, one of my favorite canine friends, had passed on. It’s true – no matter how long we have them, it’s never enough. But there are things we can do to up the stakes a little.
Avoiding Hereditary Diseases
One good way to improve your dog’s odds of living to a ripe old age is to buy a puppy from a breeder that health tested there parents. I recommend with Australian Shepherds to ask for evidence of good hip scores and a clear eye test at a minimum. Also don’t be afraid to ask about family history of epilepsy and heart disease, and to politely walk away and find another litter if they were present in their dogs’ lines.
The Right Diet
Every dog has a better chance of living longer with the help of nutritionally balanced food. As very energetic, clever canines they need a diet formulated for larger working breeds. This should be high in protein and fats, but low in fillers. Carbohydrates should be way down the ingredients list in terms of proportions.
Keeping your pup at the right weight will help a bunch too. Slim, but not thin, dogs live longer than their overweight counterparts.
It’s great to have lots of vitamins and minerals in your chosen kibble, but make sure that your dog isn’t consuming too much magnesium. This can make it easier for urinary stones to develop. Again, make time to check in with your veterinarian about this and other nutrients in your dog’s diet.
Water intake is important as well. Most dogs should consume 8 to 9 ounces of water per 10 pounds of body weight daily.
Does Fitness Matter?
Exercise is an essential part of any dog’s wellbeing, but even more so with a herding breed. Fitter dogs are better about to fight off infection and have stronger muscles, including that all important heart.
As puppies they only need a few minutes of formal exercise a day, but as they grow your Australian Shepherd will benefit from a good run morning and evening. If not more! It’ll also make them more relaxing to have around the home between times.
What About Heart Disease?
If you do have a dog with congenital heart disease or heightened risk of heart disease, you might be tempted to restrict his or her activity. Don’t be too cautious. Of course, if your vet prescribes a certain level of activity, you should absolutely follow it. But all things being equal, exercise is a positive thing for dogs with heart rhythm issues.
Research suggests that when dogs exercise, it helps to establish a healthy heart rhythm. Because the heart gets used to beating evenly, the dog has less of a risk of dangerous heart rhythm issues if he or she develops a blood flow obstruction.
Regular Check Ups
Routine veterinary care can make all the difference in helping your dog to live a long and healthy life.
In a study of almost 3,000 dogs of all breeds, only 8 percent of dogs who received veterinary care within the prior year could be classified as healthy, meaning that they were within acceptable weight range and had no disease diagnoses. Among those who had received care, 19 percent were healthy.
With regular veterinary care, you can get the vaccinations, parasite prevention, and other preventive measures that keep your dog healthy. Vets can help you to keep your dog’s teeth clean, an important factor since dental disease is a major contributing factor to systemic illness. Also, only a veterinarian can give you recommendations specific to your pet and based on his or her personal history.
A Question Of Safety
You might not think of training as associated with the Australian Shepherd lifespan, but consider that the breed has one of the highest rates of traumatic deaths. If you make sure that your dog responds to commands like “come,” “stay,” and “heel,” you can prevent a number of accidents.
Training is particularly important for dogs with vision or hearing difficulties. If your dog can’t hear a car coming, you’ll need to make sure you have ways of keeping him or her close to you when you’re out and about.
Having a good leash and harness system if you are not confident they will stay close by will help too.
Does My Dog Have Traits Linked to Longevity?
In general, the longest living dog breeds are smaller in size. Australian Shepherds are a medium size breed, 18 to 21 inches at the withers depending on sex. The skeletal height of your dog is fixed, but you can keep your dog from becoming overweight by getting regular weight checks at the vet and by feeding and exercising him or her appropriately. The more you’re able to keep your dog at a healthy weight, the better off he or she will be.
Patty Accursio says
My Australian Shepherd is now 18 years old and still going. She’s a wonderful dog and still gets around but very hard on her now. She will be 19 in August, 2023.
18?! Wow! Good to hear!
My Aussie, Jack, lived 13.5 years. He had cancer, but he did phenomenally well with chemo treatment, even after losing his front right limb to the cancer. He ran on 3 legs and acted as if he still had 4 legs.
His health, however, suddenly went downhill when blood-clots formed in his lungs.
Enjoy each day that you’re given with your Aussie.
Take photos of you hugging and kissing your fur-baby, because -one day, you’ll wish that you could reach into those photos to hug and kiss your baby.
If your photos already show that, it will help you. We share the eternal spiritual bond of love.
Wishing you many more happy days with your baby!
Brush their teeth! That may help reduce heart problems/bacteria/gum disease.
Michelle Smith says
Hi, we have an Aussie as well. She is 11 and still going strong, she loves to play and she brings soooooo much joy to me and my daughter!… It will be a sad sad day the day she dies, hoping for another 11 years!!
My Australian Shepherd turned 18 on November 26, 2021. I guess he is living on borrowed time. He was healthy until about a year ago when he seemed to have trouble going up and down stairs. Now he can’t do stairs at all and has a little vertigo, but he eats and sleeps fine and seems happy. He always sleeps with a smile, and he still runs in his sleep:)
Mary Nagy says
A vet said there was a hard nodule in 11 year old male aussue adrenal gland, possibly cancer. Is this common? Diagnostic testing is very expensive. What can I do?
Does any of you have toy aussies or aussie corgies. How long do they live till
Mine is over 10 and still going strong 🙂
Does any of you have toy aussies or aussie corgies live for?
I agree. Thank you.
We have had Aussies for 40 yrs, have 2 now, love them to pieces!
Ron T says
I was wondering why Australian Shepherds were pegged with a median lifespan of only 9 years. I have had two Australian Shepherd purebreds that got up to 16. My last dog was an Australian Shepherd-Brittany cross whom I got at approximately 1 year and had her for 14 years, which would make her 15 when she died. I had one Australian Shepherd crossbreed who died at age 10 due to a cancer common to the Yellow Lab (his other half). My current dog is an Australian Shepherd-Husky who can still climb trees at age 10. Given my experience, I am skeptical of studies that purport to show their median lifespan at only 9.
I know… I think that there lifespan is 12-16 years…..
I have an Aussie-Brittany mix. He’s 17 now and still doing very good. Still jumps on the couch and is obnoxious for attention. I feel like that’s a very health mix.
My ex had an Australian Shepherd that had puppies at the age of 10. When we moved in together she was 13 and had already developed uterine cancer. I had them get her fixed, curing her. And due to having a high-strung puppy also she grew stronger and lived 18 1/2 years.
After deciding to take her out of her pain and put her down. They gave the injection and Sheba lifted her head up and licked my Exes face and then lay down to sleep
deborah josch says
My Australian Shepherd is 16 She is in her final weeks for sure but she was still chasing a frisby 2 years ago.
Anne Adley says
I have a 10 year old mini Aussie. I love her dearly. She has always been a picky eater and is usually more interested in what I’m eating than her dogfood.
I want her to live to be as old as Bluey!!
Anne Adley and Mattie
We feed Diamond Naturals after trial and error. They hurl when fed any other highly rated dog foods. Anything with a type of meal as first ingredient. Our oldest are over 9. Raw meat was recommended but a diarrhea and hurl nightmare. We have good luck with Salmon or chicken as first ingredient.
Hi, I have a 21 yr. old Australian Shepherd and he is still very active. I was curious if other owners had Aussies that had lived this old.
Loretta Benge says
WOW that is an amazing story. I wonder what you feed, where you live and what sort of routine yours has. Is it a purebred? Good for you. Thanks for the reply. Loretta Benge Perhaps you could reply on face book?
Angie S. says
I would love to know what food you are feeding your Aussie???
Nicole Davis says
My mini Australian Shepherd is 12 years old and everyone thinks he’s a puppy. He very energetic and so full of life. He goes on long walks regularly. I’m hoping he makes it to 15. I’ll be so sad when he’s gone. Such a gem!
Hi! I have a 9m mini Australian Shepherds. I’m feeding him mostly the time I cook for him. Your dog has leave a good life I would love for you to tell me how did you raise him. So I can do the same for my:) thanks in advance!!
That’s so cute and funny! Hope he lives ’till 20!
Jeremy Dyer says
I have an Aussie snoozing on the floor beside me who’s 15 yrs and 3 months (in Canada.) She’s never had a health problem, apart from age-related arthritis and some cognitive decline. Though never a working dog, she has run as many miles, and probably more, than any of her forebears. Her sire’s line was 100% ranch/working dogs, and her dam was a conformation and obedience champ.
14 and 15 year old Aussies were not uncommon prior to the last decade or two. But the overall health of the breed has recently declined dramatically, due mostly to human breeders who fail to take the time (ie. won’t do the research, won’t wait to breed) and to spend the money to identify, then screen out, ALL dogs which have serious issues. And don’t even get me started on how this breed has been ‘dumbed-down’ by breeders who talk about valuing the breed standard, then consistently produce pups with the brains and temperaments of Goldens, labs, etc.
Sarah Holloway says
As always, we’ve tried to make this article as accurate as possible using quantitative data from credible sources. Our source for the median age Aussies achieve is Adams et al, listed in the References and Resources section. Of course, as with all median values, half of Aussie Shepherds will enjoy a longer life, including many who even see their teenage years.
The worlds oldest dog you are thinking of was Bluey, an Australian Cattle Dog, who did indeed reach an astonishing 29 years old!
I hope that you and your dog also enjoy very many years together.
The Happy Puppy Team