How Long Do Small Dogs Live?

Maltese on grey couch,
Maltese have a life expectancy of about 12 years.

Getty Images/mixetto

We often think of our dogs as family, and the hope is to have them live with us as long as possible. Unfortunately, the life expectancy of a dog is much shorter than it is for a person. Still, some dogs are known to live longer than others. Small dogs in general have a longer lifespan than larger dogs, but many factors play into how long you can expect your dog to live.

Factors That Affect Life Expectancy in Dogs

Not all small dogs will live the same amount of time. This is due to various factors. The overall health of a pet, coupled with the diseases that certain dog breeds are predisposed to, will affect life expectancy. Additionally, the lifestyle a specific dog lives, the nutrition it receives, and preventative measures that its owner takes to limit infectious diseases and parasites can all play roles in how long a dog may live.

If a dog is born with a congenital issue or is a breed that often develops a serious illness, life expectancy may be cut short. This is due to the various problems with internal organs or its susceptibility to disease that affects its immune system. Indoor dogs that are neutered are less likely to be hit by a car and be injured or die, so regardless of breed, lifestyle may also play a role in how long a dog lives.

Finally, if proper nutrition is not provided or a dog is exposed to pathogens without being vaccinated or properly protected with regular preventative medications, life expectancy can be negatively influenced. Not all causes of death are natural or due to old age, so dog owners can play a big role in determining how long their dog may live.

Life Expectancy of Small Dog Breeds

Most small dog breeds are expected to live into the double digits, but there's no way to guarantee this. Some small dogs live much longer than what is expected of their breed while others unfortunately don't, but in general, small dog breeds live longer than most large dog breeds. The following are life expectancy averages of specific small dog breeds.

  • Bichon Frise - 12 years
  • Boston Terrier - 11 years
  • Cairn Terrier - 14 years
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi - 13 years
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel - 11 years
  • Chihuahua - 15 years
  • Dachshund - 13 years
  • French Bulldog - 9 years
  • Jack Russell Terrier - 14 years
  • Lhasa Apso - 14 years
  • Maltese - 12 years
  • Miniature Dachshund - 14 years
  • Miniature Poodle - 14 years
  • Miniature Schnauzer - 12 years
  • Pekingese - 12 years
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi - 12 years
  • Pomeranian - 10 years
  • Pug - 11 years
  • Shetland Sheepdog - 13 years
  • Shih Tzu - 13 years
  • Toy Poodle - 13 years
  • West Highland White Terrier - 13 years

Why Do Small Dogs Live Longer Than Big Dogs?

Small dogs often live longer than large dogs because large dogs age more quickly. One study of 5663 dogs stated that 13.8 percent of dogs simply died from old age, while in another study of 74,000 dogs, cancer was the main cause of death in older dogs, but endocrine disease was the primary cause of death specifically in small dogs. With age often comes disease, so if a pet ages more quickly, their body is put under additional stress and deterioration when compared to a smaller dog that doesn't age as quickly.

Common Health Problems of Small Dogs

Small dogs develop many of the same health problems that large dogs do, but small dog breeds are more likely than large breed dogs to develop specific issues. Luxating patellas, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), mitral valve disease, tracheal collapse, and pancreatitis are common issues that small dogs may be born with or develop throughout their life. For example, dachshunds are especially prone to dying from neurological diseases such as IVDD, and Maltese and Chihuahuas are likely to pass from heart disease, like mitral valve disease. These health problems may contribute to a shortened life expectancy depending on the severity of them and how well they are managed. Other health problems can also decrease a dog's quality of life and therefore lead to euthanasia but aren't necessarily the cause of death in a dog.

How Can You Help Your Dog Live As Long As Possible?

While no one can predict how long your dog will live, there are things you can do as a dog owner to help keep your dog healthy and hopefully prevent a premature end to its life. Feeding a well-balanced diet, following your veterinarian's vaccination recommendations, getting regular health check-ups for your dog, and administering regular parasite preventatives can all contribute to your dog leading a long, healthy life.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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