The average Bernese Mountain Dog lifespan is approximately 6 -8 years, which is relatively short compared to other large breed dogs. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You actually can increase your Bernese Mountain Dog’s lifespan, by following these ten health tips.
1. Visit The Vet Regularly To Increase A Bernese Mountain Dog Lifespan
Visiting your veterinarian regularly and having your dog on a routine immunization schedule is the best way to keep your pup healthy.
Make sure that you monitor any changes in your Bernese’s temperament. You should also keep an eye out for physical changes or signs of swelling.
Keep in mind that this beloved breed is prone to a large number of genetic diseases, which can shorten their already short lifespan. These diseases include hip and elbow dysplasia, cancer, and blood disorders.
The more often you visit your vet, the more likely you are to identify these issues before these genetic problems get worse shorten your pets life expectancy.
2. Brush Your Bernese Often
You’ll want to routinely brush your Bernese Mountain Dog’s fur as this will prevent mats and tangles on your dog’s silky coat. Brushing your dog frequently also keeps him clean while minimizing shedding.
Bernese mountain dogs have long thick coats that make them better fitted for colder climates, but also more at risk for heatstroke in warmer climates. So if you live in a warmer climate, you’ll want to keep your dog inside during the summer with lots of cool water.
3. Bathe Your Bernese Regularly
Bernese mountain dogs should get washed every few months and especially after getting dirty from playing outside. Keep your dog’s coat clean with dry shampoo between washes. You should also trim your pup’s nails or get them trimmed at least once a month.
You’ll want to be careful to avoid cutting your dog’s nails too short. Be sure to check your dog’s ears weekly. Clean your dog’s ears regularly with cotton balls and ear cleaners to stop any infections or inflammation.
4. Feed Your Bernese A Healthy Diet
You will want to calibrate your Berner’s food amount based on his or her activity level, age, and size. You will want to give your dog between three to five cups of high-quality dry food daily. This amount of food should be divided into two servings.
You will want to adjust the amount of food your dogs will need to maintain a healthy weight. You can determine this by running your hands down the sides of your dog to feel for ribs.
If you can easily feel your dog’s ribs, but can’t see them, then your dog’s weight is fine. You will also want to avoid feeding your dog too many treats or table scraps as this could lead to an unhealthy weight and shorten an otherwise healthy Bernese Mountain Dog lifespan.
5. Understand Your Bernese’s Personality And Temperament
Know that your Bernese is extremely devoted, loyal, and sensitive. While this dog is reserved with strangers, they are gentle with kids. Berneses play well with other dogs or pets and gets sad when isolated from family activities.
This dog is often described as placid, easy-going, and a family companion. These qualities become more obvious the older your dog gets.
6. Give Your Bernese Plenty of Fresh Air
Your Bernese needs fresh air, so let your canine spend time outside in a fenced up yard. Do this daily so your pup can burn off energy and play. Give your dog toys to play with, train your dog, and take your Bernese for long daily walks.
A Berner is a working breed, meaning it has high energy and needs a lot of daily exercises to stay healthy, fit and to extend their life expectancy and average lifespan.
7. Keep An Eye On Your Bernese’s Joints
Bernese’s joints do not get fully formed until the dog is two years old. You can prevent your puppy from damaging their developing joints. Do this by not allowing your puppy to run on hard surfaces or jump until his joints are matured.
8. Be Aware Of The Diseases Common In Berneses
Bernese mountain dogs are prone to health problems like allergies, hypomyelination, von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD), hypothyroidism, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).
There are also more serious health issues that affect this dog breed like elbow dysplasia, gastric torsion, mast cell tumor, and canine hip dysplasia, some of which can seriously effect your bernese mountain dog lifespan. You should also keep an eye out to prevent heatstroke during warmer months. You can prevent most of these health issues with regular trips to the vet.
9. Know The Symptoms Of These Common Bernese Health Issues
Since Berneses are prone to certain diseases, you should be familiar with these health issues’ symptoms. Here’s a break down of Bernese’s six most common health issues symptoms and treatments.
A. Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD)
Large breeds like Berneses often get Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD). This ailment causes the femur bone’s head to meet the hip socket incorrectly. This condition can lead to canine arthritis, with symptoms that might not show up for years.
These symptoms include stiff back legs, lameness, discomfort and pain during exercise, difficulty getting up, running with a bunny hop, loss of muscle tone in the back legs, and loss of enjoyment from physical activities.
Your vet will take x-rays of the hip sockets on your dog and decide if your Bernese needs treatment, which could include surgery.
B. Elbow Dysplasia
Similar to CHD, elbow dysplasia is a common issue with large dogs, including Bernese Mountain Dogs. It’s an inherited condition of developmental abnormalities that can lead to the degeneration and malformation of the dog’s elbow joints. Symptoms include pain with elbow extension, fluid build-up in the joint, lack of range of motion, forelimb lameness that worsens with exercise, and holding the affected limb away from the body.
These symptoms are usually present between four and ten months. If they are present, your vet will x-ray your dog’s elbow and collect sample fluid from their joints for lab tests. Surgery is usually needed to correct affected joints.
C. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
This is also an inherited disease where the retina degenerates and the dog develops blindness or impaired vision. There are late and early forms of PRA. The early version includes abnormal cell development that can result in vision issues as soon as the dog is three months old. With late-onset PRA, cells normally develop but degenerate later in life that leads to vision problems around three to five years of age. Symptoms include dilated pupils, disorientation in new environments, night blindness, and reluctance to go to new places.
Sadly, there is no cure for PRA. Dogs will go blind usually within a year of a diagnosis. But the good news is this condition is painless. If your Berner is coming from a breeder, make sure you have a health certificate that proves his or her parents didn’t have this condition.
D. von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD)
This is the most common hereditary blood-clotting disease for dogs; it can result in excessive bleeding from the smallest cuts. There’s no cure, but you can get your dog a DNA test to see if they have this disease. You will want to know if your dog has vWD, especially if your dog needs any type of surgery.
Symptoms of this disease include anemia, blood in the urine, bleeding in the nose or month, dark stools, and excessive bleeding.
E. Histiocytosis (Cancer)
This is a form of cancer where a type of white blood cell reproduces rapidly invading a variety of tissues. This is a hereditary disease that is very rare in other breeds, but about 25 percent of Bernese Mountain Dogs have this type of cancer. Symptoms include loss of appetite, lethargy, amenia, weight loss, and skin abnormalities.
There’s no cure or successful treatment for this cancer. Chemotherapy could prolong periods of remission increase their life expectancy, but this disease quickly spreads and could lead to a significantly shorter lifespan.
F. Gastric Torsion
This condition is also referred to as bloat. It’s a severe condition causing your dog’s stomach to fill with fluid, gas, or food that makes the stomach expand.
If the stomach stretches too far, then blood circulation to the heart and stomach gets cut off and stomach tissue will die. An enlarged abdomen can also put pressure on the lungs, which makes it hard for your dog to breath.
The stomach might twist at the bottom and top, which prevents gas from exiting the stomach. If you catch this early, the dog can get emergency care. If not caught, this condition can lead to death within hours; so if you think your dog has bloat, you need to act fast.
Symptoms include vomiting, enlarged abdomen, excessive drooling, coughing, pale gums, and the inability to defecate. If you think your dog has bloat, take your pup to the vet right away. Your vet will sedate your dog and put a tube down their throat to release gas from the stomach.
If your dog’s stomach is already twisting, your pup might need emergency surgery to get rid of gas pressure. Your vet could staple the stomach to prevent this condition from happening again.
10. Get These Recommended Health Tests
One way to get ahead of these conditions or be aware of how susceptible your dog is to these ailments is to get certain tests. Tests like hip and elbow evaluation, cardiac exams, DNA tests, and an ophthalmologist evaluation. Early detection of illness can be a key factor when it comes to extending the life expectancy of your beloved Bernese Mountain Dog.
Take Care Of Your Bernese Mountain Dog
Now that you know how you can increase your Bernese Mountain Dog Lifespan, it’s time to start making these changes. Visit the vet often, watch out for symptoms of common health issues, and shower your pup with lots of love. And while you’re at it… learn more about caring for Large Breed Dogs on our blog.