Life Expectancy of a Rottweiler and Common Causes of Death

Life Expectancy of a Rottweiler

Dog years to humans are pretty short, and this makes the life expectancy question a very pressing one. Why so? Because compared to other breeds in the same weight and size category, Rottweilers have a shorter lifespan. It’s, therefore, understandable why it’d be the most pressing question. Dogs become family, and losing a family member is the most devastating thing. Nonetheless, there’s a silver lining in all this.

In human years, Rottweilers live for between 60 and 90 years. The figure depends on the conversion chart used, and they differ from one another quite a bit. So, even though they have an average lifespan, in dog years, of between 8 and 10, with some living to 12 years, if they were human, they’d be said to have lived life. And even as dogs, they do live life all while being really wonderful pets. They’re incredibly loyal, calm, and protective.

Life Expectancy of a Rottweiler Demystified

Comparison

When we say that Rottweilers have shorter lifespans, we do so while comparing them to some breeds of dogs, in the same weight category, that can live as long as 15 years. Such breeds include the Tibetan mastiff, which has a lifespan of between 12 and 15 years. An adult male Tibetan Mastiff weighs between 90 and 150 pounds while a female one weighs between 70 and 120 pounds.

Now, a male Rottweiler weighs between 95 and 135 pounds while a female one weighs between 80 and 100 pounds. Researchers and analysts have attributed the shorter life expectancy to the Rottweilers’ weight. Still, the fact that some heavier breeds outlive them means that there could be some other underlying issues behind this phenomenon.

Rottweilers’ Lifespan

The average lifespan of a pure breed Rottweilers is about 9 years (the exact figure ranges between 8.7 and 8.92 years). It’s also important to note that females outlive males by about 10 months. According to a 2017 study, female Rottweilers have an average lifespan of 9.5 years; the results showed that the expectancy ranged between 7.8 and 11 years. Male Rottweilers live for an average of 8.7 years, with the dataset showing that their life expectancies ranged between 6.8 and 10.1 years. A total of 5,321 Rottweilers in the United Kingdom were used in the study.

Outliers

Nonetheless, there are some outliers. Some Rottweilers have lived longer, clocking 13 years and above. The existence of such outliers has necessitated research in which scientists aim to establish the factors that promote longevity. In order for Rottweilers to live long, they have to dodge some life-threatening diseases such as cancer. 

Susceptibility to disorders

Furthermore, the 2017 study showed that Rottweilers are predisposed to disorders, given that 60.31% of Rottweilers in a sample of 5,321 had at least one specific condition. On the positive side, some of these disorders, e.g., aggression and otitis externa (swelling of the ear canal), aren’t life-threatening. But some e.g., obesity and degenerative joint disease, can cause death. 

We must point out that the latter, on its own, doesn’t cause death. However, the methods of treatment, e.g., using steroids or aspirin to relieve pain, could result in death. But could their susceptibility to disorders contribute to their shorter overall lifespan? Let’s find out.

Causes of death in Rottweilers

What do Rottweilers usually die from? Rottweilers, which are bigger, have shorter lifespans compared to smaller breeds such as chihuahuas (up to 20 years), dachshund (over 15 years), and Jack Russell terrier (more than 16 years), among others. This analogy makes people conclude that their size is the reason they don’t live long. A 2013 study scientifically supported and validated this conclusion. 

The study analyzed all the breeds available in the Veterinary Medical Database. Each breed had 120 dogs. The researchers concluded that large dogs die early because they age quickly. This is because as they grow older, the conditions that are likely to cause death (mortality hazards) also increase. Given that they age quickly, then their size makes them susceptible to developing mortality hazards, and they die as a result. 

The 2017 study provided a list of what these mortality hazards are. Some of these hazards are specific disorders, e.g., obesity, while others are group-level disorders, e.g., musculoskeletal and dermatological disorders. From the study, 33% of Rottweilers die from cancer, 16% die from the inability to stand, while 7.1% die from the mass-associated disease that is obesity. The failure to stand could be due to several reasons, among them:

  • Paralysis
  • Geriatric vestibular syndrome: as the name suggests, it’s common in old dogs. It’s a condition that disturbs the dog’s balance, making it unable to stand.
  • Botulism: This is a form of body poisoning caused by toxins released by a bacterium.

This 2017 study used a sample population of 312 Rottweilers under veterinary care in the UK in 2013. We summarize these causes in the table below.

Cause of Death Prevalence
Cancer/Neoplasia 33%
Inability to stand 16%
Obesity/Underweight 7.1%
Gastrointestinal disorders 6.1%
Brain disorders 4.2%
Undesirable behavior 4.2%
Musculoskeletal disorder 3.8%
Lower respiratory tract disorder 3.2%
Spinal cord disorder 2.9%
Vertebral arthropathy 2.6%
Other disorders or diseases 12.8%
Table 1: Mortality Hazards

Factors affecting Rottweilers average lifespan

Size

The 2013 study revealed that an increase of 4.4 pounds (2 kg) sheds 1 month off a dog’s life expectancy. As such, a larger dog will have a shorter life span compared to a smaller breed. Furthermore, larger dogs age faster than smaller dogs. This implies that an 8-year old Rottweiler is older than a chihuahua of the same age, from a physiological standpoint. The accelerated aging, due to size, makes a Rottweiler more susceptible to developing health conditions that ultimately cause death.

Health Conditions and Disorders

Rottweilers are naturally susceptible to developing health disorders because of their size. They develop more and more disorders as they grow older, and, as seen above, this is pegged on the fact that they’re a large breed of dogs. Therefore, age-related diseases are accelerated in Rottweilers and other large dogs.

Table 1 shows that neoplasia or cancer is the leading cause of death in Rottweilers. It’s the direct result of this breed’s size. Biologically, the large dogs’ size leads to above-average cell divisions since the body can accommodate such. However, after a certain point, what contributed to the large size becomes detrimental to the dogs since they’re no longer growing. At this point, the cell divisions and growth become abnormal and constitute what is known as neoplasia. 

Rottweilers develop two types of disorders, namely those that lead to death, i.e., mortality hazards and those that aren’t life-threatening. The former type is summarized in table 1 above. Table 2 below gives a list of all the disorders that your Rottweiler could develop and their prevalence.

Disorder Prevalence
Musculoskeletal 12.01%
Dermatological 10.96%
Gastro-intestinal 8.87%
Undesirable behavior, e.g., aggression 7.96%
Neoplasia 7.96%
Obesity 7.05%
Aural 6.60%
Claw 4.96%
Mass lesion  4.32%
Dental 3.50%
Traumatic Injury 3.32%
Ophthalmological 3.14%
Urinary Tract 2.55%
Anal sac 1.87%
Congenital 1.87%
Table 2: Common disorders in Rottweilers

Sex

Female Rottweilers live longer than their male counterparts. This could be due to the fact that males are typically larger than females. A fully grown adult male could weigh around 135 pounds while a fully grown male could weigh about 100 pounds. 

Using the analogy given above that a weight increase of 4.4 pounds sheds 1 month from a Rottweiler’s life expectancy, then it’s accurate for us to say that the 35-pound difference is bound to shed 8 months. If the comparison is between a 135-pound male and a 91-pound female, then the 10-month difference we highlighted above becomes a reality. 

Hormones

Closely linked to sex is the impact of having intact ovaries and fully functional testicles on longevity in female and male Rottweilers, respectively. A 2002 study revealed that performing gonadectomy in Rottweilers before they’re 1 year increased the risk of developing bone cancer by 25%. Their study concluded that endogenous sex hormones play a crucial role in preventing bone cancer, hence increasing the life expectancy.

Furthermore, in a 2009 study published in the Aging Cell journal, the researchers noted that removing ovaries before the female dogs were 4 years contributed to a shorter lifespan. This, therefore, implies that the ovaries contribute to biological processes that enhance longevity, perhaps due to the hormonal influence.

Age

Research shows that Rottweilers are particularly susceptible to developing cancer when they’re less than 10 years old. Once they cross this age, the risk starts dropping. However, there is a need to understand the circumstances that would be ideal to ensure that these dogs reach 10 years without developing cancer. Is it because of the environment or lifestyle? This has been the subject of a study that started in 2010.

Before the researchers can conclude their study and provide scientific backing for how to improve your Rottweiler’s life expectancy, there are some interventions you could use in the meantime.

How to help a Rottweiler live longer

Genes

First and most importantly, you should buy a puppy from a reputable breeder. Such a breeder does selective breeding where they screen specimen and choose only those that don’t have health problems or hereditary defects. Going through all these hoops will guarantee that your Rottweiler won’t develop certain disorders and will, therefore, live longer.

Environment and food

Cultivate a nurturing environment for your Rottweiler. You could do this by feeding it nutritious foods, exercising it regularly to keep it lean and healthy, providing clean water, and not exposing it to toxins and harmful chemicals.

Keeping your Rottweiler lean and healthy is particularly important because obesity is a mortality hazard for this breed. It causes 7.1% of the deaths. Furthermore, reducing exposure to harmful chemicals works to prevent instances where your dog could interact with carcinogenic particles, which could, in turn, trigger neoplasia/abnormal cell growth.

Regular Check-ups

You could do this by taking your Rottweiler for checkups biannually, once it’s 7 years old. Doing this will ensure that your vet diagnoses any early onset of geriatric conditions, e.g., degenerative myelopathy and the geriatric vestibular syndrome. Before this, you should ensure that you maintain a regular checkup schedule from birth.

Avoid neutering or spaying

As seen above, gonadectomy increases the risk of developing bone cancer, ultimately causing death once your Rottweiler gets sick. As such, avoid performing this procedure, particularly before your female dog reaches 4 years old, and your male Rottweiler gets to one year. To be on the safe side, you could do this later.

Vaccination

Vaccinate your Rottweiler fully and at the recommended time. You should also avoid over-vaccinating it.

Maintain good hygiene

You could do this by keeping its sleeping area, the toy it uses, and its feeding bowl clean. Doing so will strengthen your Rottweiler’s immune system. Furthermore, maintain good dental hygiene to ensure that your dog doesn’t develop any dental disorder or periodontal disease. For this, you could buy it toys made using tough rubber.

Other interventions you could use to strengthen its immune system include feeding it a healthy diet and controlling its weight. These measures work cumulatively to reduce the risk of developing health conditions such as cancer. Also, by using these natural methods, you don’t expose it to circumstances that could trigger any of the disorders mentioned above. 

Rottweiler with his paw hurt and sleeping on his owner's lap

Parting shot

All in all, at the end of the day, there’s only so much you can do as an owner. But everything you can do, you should do because it’s guaranteed to increase your Rottweiler’s lifespan either directly or indirectly. With more and more scientists focusing on understanding how to improve the life expectancy, it’s only a matter of time until they come up with a concrete solution.

For now, though, an adult Rottweiler has a life expectancy of about 9 years. But creating a nurturing environment, maintaining high levels of hygiene, exercising it often, and delivering the recommended vaccination dosages are some of the measures you should use to increase this figure. Some Rottweilers have lived to over 13 years, and yours could be the next record-breaker. 

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