Life Expectancy of Dogs and Cats


This is one of the most frequently asked and sometimes most difficult question a veterinarian faces. Clients ask about the expected life span of a particular breed or species. Like people, an animal's life expectancy can vary tremendously, and like us, our pet's expected life span has increased with better nutrition, medical care, and general knowledge of their needs.

Some pets have fairly short life spans. Hamsters average one to three years and gerbils two years. Guinea pigs and rabbits can live about six to eight years. I knew a lady with a sixteen- year old budgerigar. If you're middle-aged and own a parrot, you might want to leave him to someone in your will. These birds can live up to 30 years and well beyond.

Life Expectancy of Cats and Dogs

People most commonly ask about how long they can expect to have their dog or cat. The concern and fear of losing a much-loved pet usually motivate the question. Cats on average live to their early teens. Exceptions are common. I once treated an eighteen-year old cat called Tiger. He required eye surgery. Routine blood work revealed a metabolic disease, which was easily treated. Six months after he was well, the family dog accidentally stepped on Tiger breaking a leg too severely to attempt treatment. Who knows how long Tiger might have survived? I have treated cats at twenty-four years of age.

Dogs tend to follow the old adage "The bigger they are, the harder they fall." Great Danes and other giant breeds rarely live beyond seven to nine years. Rottweilers and other heavy breeds usually live only into the early teens. Little mixed breeds often survive into their late teens. All of this of course depends on good health, which in turn is related to diet, exercise and general care. Veterinarians recommend regular blood screens for early detection of disease in geriatric animals. Like people with good genetics, there are variations within breeds with some lines of animals being particularly long-lived.

I don' know all of the reasons people ask this question of their veterinarian so often, but as a pet owner I have always envied people with very elderly animals. I have lost two beloved pets to cancer at relatively early ages. It is important to remember the quality of a pet's life as well as length, and preserve that quality though excellent preventative health care, making necessary changes in an animalšs exercise and diet as they age.

How Old in Dog Years?

Most people believe that a year in a dog's life equals seven years of a human's life. Recent medical studies prove this theory wrong. Experts at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine say that a ratio devised by French veterinarian A. LeBeau is more accurate.

A puppy at:

3-months old = a 5-year-old child

6-months old = a 10-year-old child

12-months old = a 15-year-old child

A dog at:

2 years = a 24-year-old adult

4 years = a 32-year-old adult

6 years = a 40-year-old adult

8 years = a 48-year-old adult

10 years = a 56-year old adult

14 years = a 72-year-old senior

18 years = a 91-year-old senior

Article submitted by: © Dr. Jennifer Scott, DVM - Dog Professor Software