Pit bulls are fantastic pets.
Despite their somewhat misunderstood reputation of being aggressive attack dogs, pit bulls are naturally loving and loyal to their owners.
They’re great family pets that are gentle and kind to kids when raised from pups.
But what about their life expectancy? How long do pit bulls live, and what are some of the causes of death among these loyal companions?
Throughout the USA, there are sub-breeds of the pit bull terrier that are very common. And these dog breeds all have somewhat different life expectancies.
Let’s break it down for you.
- American pit bull terriers
The American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) labels the Pit Bull terrier as an all-around athlete. They note that its body is built for speed, power, agility, and stamina.
The life expectancy of an American pit bull terrier is between 8 - 15 years.
- Staffordshire bull terrier
The Staffordshire bull terrier is smaller in size and weight than the American pit bull terrier. These medium-sized pure bread dogs, known for their giant smiles, also make for loving companions.
The Staffy, as it’s affectionately known, is expected to live for between 12 and 14 years.
- American Staffordshire terrier
One way these dogs differ in appearance from the Staffordshire bull terrier is that they’re somewhat larger with rounded heads. They were bred in the 19th century by Irish settlers to be loving family dogs.
These beautiful dogs live between 12 and 16 years.
Factors that determine the life span of a dog
There are so many different factors that could affect your pit bull’s lifespan. Our dogs often become more than just a pet. They’re our companions, our family members, and our best friends.
Let’s break it down into 5 key categories.
Genetics are simply out of your control. A pit bull that inherits sickly tendencies from its parents simply won’t enjoy the same health as others in the same litter that hasn’t inherited these traits.
So if you’re buying a puppy, make sure you’re getting one from a reputable, registered breeder who can prove your pup's genetics.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to adopt a dog, have it checked out by your local vet as soon as possible and test for the most likely diseases that appear in pit bulls.
2. Spaying and Neutering
There are substantial health benefits to having your pit bull spayed or neutered.
In female dogs, it prevents uterine infections and decreases the incidence of breast tumors, which are malignant or cancerous in about 50 percent of dogs.
Neutering male dogs also have huge benefits. For one, it prevents testicular cancer and also a few prostate problems.
Feeding your dog the best quality food you can afford will contribute to it having a healthy, long life.
But be careful not to approach your dog's diet with a one-size-fits-all approach. You must adjust their food intake according to age, weight, and physical activity.
Pit Bull puppies, for instance, benefit from having an 8% fat intake as part of their diet due to growth spurts and hyperactive younger months. In comparison, adult pitties would only need about 5% fat as part of their diet.
Read the labels on your selected dog food brand and ensure that your dog gets enough fat, proteins, carbs, and vitamins. You might also want to supplement their feed with vitamins, so they grow to be strong and sturdy.
Exercise plays a huge role in the life expectancy of your dog. That’s because pit bulls often suffer from obesity due to their stocky, muscular build.
This obviously leads to serious health issues, especially in aging dogs.
So try to give your pit bull regular exercise.
This might be a specific time you set aside to play with your dog. But it could also be as simple as including him in your daily routine, whether you go for a bike ride or a short walk.
Including your dog in your daily activities will help him enjoy a longer life. When taking your pup for a walk, choose the right collar or body harness according to their size.
Regarding how much exercise is needed, one article suggests between one and two hours a day for healthy dogs, depending on age. (1)
You should also vary activities to stimulate your pit bull. Go for walks, train them in new tricks, or play around in the yard with a toy.
And remember to give your dog enough water when exercising, especially on a hot day.
5. Living Environment
The environment that a dog finds itself in also contributes to its life expectancy.
Dogs who live outdoors may encounter (not so friendly) wild animals. They’re often exposed to traffic noise and stresses that cause them to be overstimulated. And an outdoor dog can jump a fence or sneak through an open gate, exposing them to various dangers.
On the other hand, indoor dogs benefit from the warmth and shelter that humans enjoy. Indoor dogs tend to live longer as they are less likely to chase after other animals or moving cars.
Common health issues that Pit Bulls suffer from
Unfortunately, there are a few issues that will likely trouble your pit bull, no matter how much love and care you give them. Let's have a look at a few of them.
The most common heart disease that the pit bull breed suffers from is aortic stenosis. (2) Unfortunately, this disease rarely shows any symptoms, which means that it brings an abrupt end to some pitties.
Make sure that you take your dog for regular vet checkups to identify traces of heart problems early.
This is a painful hip disease that causes weak hips in pit bulls.
Telltale signs of this disease are when your dog avoids climbing stairs or walks with a limp. Hip dysplasia can occur in puppies of just a few months old but is most commonly picked up in dogs of one to two years of age.
Hypothyroidism and Obesity
A dog treated for Hypothyroidism usually has a normal life expectancy. But the disease does cause a dog to have a lower quality of life.
That’s because it causes huge gains in weight without the accompanying appetite. Although not curable, the condition is manageable.
There is a wide range of cancers that pit bulls are susceptible to, but the most common types are Mast cells and Melanoma.
According to one source, one in four pit bulls will develop cancer. The odds of this happening increase by 50% when a dog reaches age 10. (3)
There are varying factors that contribute to cancer developing in pit bulls.
Other than genetics, these factors include injury, trauma, poor diet, and exposure to chemicals.
Here are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of your pit bull contracting cancer and living a long, healthy life.
Give them a good diet.
As mentioned earlier, a healthy diet is super important to a dog's lifespan. Avoid certain foods like chocolate and avocado that is unnatural for your dog to eat and supplement their vitamins and mineral intake.
Minimize the use of chemicals
If you find yourself constantly cleaning the dog bowl, wiping his toys down, or spraying air freshener in the home, make sure you use organic, natural chemicals.
We often forget to check if the cleaning products we use to clean are pet friendly. We can increase their life expectancy by ensuring that our dogs aren’t exposed to strong chemicals that could cause them health problems.
Keep them out of direct sunlight
Many parts of the world, including the US, have seen an increase in average daytime temperatures. These soaring temperatures take a heavy toll on your pit bull.
Melanoma in dogs is often fatal, with an average diagnosis of between 5 and 8 months only.
So if your dog lives outside, make sure that it has enough shade for all parts of the day.
If your dog lives indoors, choose the cooler parts of the day, like early mornings or late evenings, to go for a walk. And if you go out in the middle of the day, choose a shaded park or, even better, a woodland area.
Your dog's kidneys help clean up the waste in its blood system.
When their kidneys fail, the effects on your pit bull's health can be devastating as this waste will build up in its blood.
Signs of kidney disease usually include weight loss, your dog drinking way more than usual, and urinating more often. When you spot any of these signs, take your dog for a visit to the veterinarian.
The leading cause of death
As discussed, many different factors affect a Pitbull's lifespan. But the leading cause of death in these dogs might surprise you.
According to research material, over a million dogs are hit by cars each year. (4) And while there are no exact numbers to draw from, it is safe to assume that many of these dogs are from the Pitt bull breed.
Pit bulls are medium-sized muscular dogs with strength and stamina. And unfortunately, this often leads them to run after cars and other animals. Doing so may bring them into high-traffic areas where a car could hit them.
So be sure to keep your dog safe behind a secure fence when it's out in the yard.
And while on a walk, ensure your terrier feels comfortable and safe with the harness or collar it’s wearing.
This will ensure that he’s not trying to escape or get rid of whatever annoys him.
What’s the longest a Pit Bull has lived?
The oldest pit bull on record lived for 26 years. His name was Max, a pittie from Louisiana, USA.
Other pit bulls have lived for up to 20 years, but these reports aren’t verified. This makes Max the longest-living pit bull by several years.
How do I calculate my Pit Bulls age?
If you’ve adopted a Pittie without knowing its age, there are a few things you could check that indicate his age.
Check their teeth
Puppy chompers will be in various stages of development according to their age. A dog of about three years will have visible signs of yellow teeth and plaque. Senior dogs, in turn, will have more rounded or worn-down teeth.
Examine their coat
We all go grey with age; the same goes for our canine friends. Checking how much grey hair they have in their facial area will also tell you if your dog is getting on in years or not.
Look into their eyes
A telltale sign that a dog is getting old is when they start getting cloudy eyes. Though cloudiness in the eyes could also be a sign of disease, in general, it’s still a reliable way of checking if a dog is getting old.
A final thought
Pit bulls are loyal dogs that bring happiness to any home. And although there are a few health issues to note, they will generally be a special part of your family for many years.
Make sure you give your pit bull as much love as possible from a very young age and he’ll live a long and healthy life.