The dalmatian dog with its white coat and black spots is one of the most recognizable dog breeds. But dals have more to offer than just good looks. They also provide years of love and devotion. The dalmatian life expectancy is 11-13 years, same as the average lifespan for similar-sized dogs.
But despite their average lifespan, dalmatians aren’t considered a healthy dog breed. Dals are prone to a variety of health issues, partially caused by a period of over-breeding when the movie “101 Dalmatians” came out and the breed’s popularity suddenly skyrocketed.
We’ll look at how the dalmatian life expectancy compares to other breeds, consider the factors that affect this dog’s life expectancy, and cover what dalmatian owners can do to provide the best care.
How Does the Dalmatian Life Expectancy Compare to Other Dogs?
Purebred dogs typically live 8-15 years, depending on the breed. But these numbers differ by dog size. Small dogs have the longest lifespan (10-15 years) and large dogs have the shortest (8-12 years).
The American Kennel Club (AKC) considers dals to be medium-sized dogs, which typically live 10-13 years — close to the dalmatian’s 11-13 year lifespan. Here’s how those numbers compare with the average life expectancies of other popular breeds from small to large:
- Chihuahua life expectancy: 14-16 years
- Poodle life expectancy: 10-18 years
- Beagle life expectancy: 12-15 years
- Husky life expectancy: 12-15 years
- Pit bull life expectancy: 12-16 years
- Golden retriever life expectancy: 10-12 years
- German shepherd life expectancy: 7-10 years
- Great Dane life expectancy: 7-10 years
- Mastiff life expectancy: 6-10 years
As you can see, the dalmatian is a medium-sized, medium life expectancy dog. Then why do other medium-sized dogs outlive the dal?
What Affects the Dalmatian Life Expectancy?
We’ve already mentioned that size affects dogs’ lifespans, but here’s how breeding and inherited health issues also affect the dalmatian life expectancy.
As one of Europe’s oldest dogs, there’s debate about where dalmatians originated. The name comes from the Dalmatia region of what is now Croatia. Dalmatians were originally bred to be coach dogs, running alongside horse-drawn carriages (and later firehouse carriages) for hours at a time. It takes a healthy dog to perform such an athletic job, but that also means dals require a lot of exercise to remain in peak condition.
In spite of their stylish coats, dals were bred as much for their athleticism as for their looks. Because of this, they’ve avoided some of the health problems that can arise from selective breeding. (For example, many German shepherds suffer from hip dysplasia because they were bred to emphasize their sloped back.)
So, for most of the dals’ history, they were bred to be healthy athletes, which contributes to a healthy life expectancy. However, according to the New York Times, problems started when Disney released “101 Dalmatians” back in the 1960s. Suddenly, families across America raced to adopt a breed that's not for novice owners.
Each time Disney re-releases a new film or series in the “101 Dalmatians” franchise, there’s another surge in demand for dalmatians. To meet this demand, unscrupulous puppy mills and inexperienced backyard breeders begin producing more litters without running proper health testing on the parent dogs. This leads to inbreeding, which makes the dalmatian’s inherited health problems more prevalent, shortening the dalmatian’s lifespan.
Dals are prone to a variety of health problems. Most of these inherited conditions aren’t fatal, but they can shorten the dalmatian’s life expectancy. Here are the breed’s most common health issues and how these conditions can affect a dalmatian’s length and quality of life.
Dalmatians are prone to a specific type of bladder stone known as a urate or uric acid stone. These stones can partially or completely block the urinary tract, which can be life threatening. Signs include difficulty urinating, dribbling urine, and peeing in the house. Your dog may need surgical treatment and medication to prevent future stones. Air-dried bladder supplements can help support healthy urinary tract function in dalmatians.
Copper-Associated Liver Disease
In some dalmatians, copper builds up in their liver, leading to liver disease and, if left untreated, liver failure. Early signs include lethargy, loss of appetite, and yellow or jaundiced skin and eyes. To treat the condition, your dal may need a low-copper diet.
A deaf dog will fail to respond to your voice commands and may need to be trained using sign language. While deaf dogs can live long, healthy lives, they’re more likely to be injured by something in their environment because they won’t hear it coming. A deaf dalmatian should never be allowed off-leash because they’re at higher risk of being hit by a car.
The most common neurological disorder in dogs, epilepsy causes seizures. Left untreated, it can lead to brain damage and early death. But, most dogs respond well to anti-seizure medication and can lead a healthy life.
While not as common in dalmatians as it is in larger breeds like German shepherds and Rottweilers, dals can still get hip dysplasia. This malformation of your dog’s hip joints isn’t fatal, but it can cause immobility, which will dramatically shorten your best friend’s life.
While owners can't fully defeat genetic predisposition, lifestyle also plays a role in a dalmatian's health. Owners who provide a healthy lifestyle can help keep their dals active into their golden years.
What Can Owners Do to Extend the Dalmatian Life Expectancy?
Pet owners play an important role in their dog’s health. Much like with human health, diet and exercise can keep your family pet healthier for longer. Here’s what you can do to ensure your dal gets a strong start and lives a healthy life.
Choose a Reputable Breeder
Adopt your dalmatian puppy from a responsible breeder who has done the Dalmatian Club of America’s recommended health screenings on all of their adult dogs, including exams for hip dysplasia, congenital deafness, thyroid function, and eye health.
Feed Them a Healthy Diet
Look for dog food that features meat as the first ingredient and includes other recognizable whole foods in the ingredient deck. Be careful to feed your dog the appropriate amount for their size — obesity can shorten your dog’s life by two and a half years on average.
Provide Plenty of Exercise
With its carriage dog history, the dalmatian breed is extremely active and needs a lot of exercise to stay healthy. Dals are too active to serve as a companion dog for the average family. They do best with an owner who loves running, daily hikes, or long afternoons at the dog park.
Try All-Natural Supplements
Dals are prone to a variety of health problems. All-natural supplements for dogs can help promote your dog’s overall health and wellness. Try a bladder supplement to help keep dal’s urinary tract healthy, and add omega-3 oil to protect their joints and encourage healthy mobility into their old age.
Schedule Regular Checkups
Your family veterinarian is your best partner in your dalmatian’s healthcare. Make sure your pet stays up-to-date on their vaccines and gets annual checkups so your vet has a better chance of identifying and treating health problems before they become serious.
A Devoted Dal Will Give You All Its Time
The dalmatian has won the world’s hearts with its beautiful black and white coat. And if one of these dogs wins your heart, you’ll have years of love ahead of you.
The dalmatian life expectancy is 11-13 years, which is about what you’d expect for a dog of its size. However, this dog has been plagued by overbreeding, which has made some of its genetic health problems more common.
In order to keep your dal healthy for as long as possible, work with a responsible breeder, feed them a healthy diet, try air-dried pet supplements, and make sure your best friend gets plenty of exercise. For dalmatians, exercise is extremely important because it’s a very active breed — only the most active dog owners will be able to keep up.
For more information on your dog's health and wellness, check out the Native Pet blog.