Those of us who are guardians of Newfoundland dogs are very fortunate for our breed is one of the longest and possibly “the” longest living of the giant breeds. Many sources are now stating that Newfs live nine to 15 years. A survey done by the Newfoundland Club of America in the early 1990’s found the average lifespan to be just under 10 years and this has been confirmed by a more recent survey carried out by the UK Kennel Club along with the British Small Animal Veterinary Association.
Recent trends are suggesting that longevity of Newfoundlands is on the increase. One of the bellwethers that I use is the Oldest Living Newfoundland Award of the Newfoundland Club of America. Until the turn of the century a 13 year old Newf would have been a contender for the honour but now the Club does not even acknowledge nominations for dogs under 14 years. Another great source of information on older Newfs is Newf Net Forums, the largest of the internet discussion forums for our breed. Just recently a new discussion category was created specifically for seniors as the interest in our golden oldies is skyrocketing. Discussion of Newfs over 10 years of age is now a daily occurrence and some of us on Newf Net have 13 year olds to talk about.
What caught my eye with the British survey were the causes of death. While the most common afflictions were musculoskeletal (25%) and dermatologic (15.1%) these were not the major reasons for the demise of Newfs. The major cause was cancer (27.1%) and most commonly, bone cancer.
Next was old age at 19.3%. No details were given on this. This probably includes a variety of unspecified conditions including cardiac problems which came in third at 16%. Surprisingly the category which includes bloat/gastric torsion, gastrointestinal, was a distant fourth at 6.7%. I suspect that many of the demises attributed to old age might be due to undiagnosed bloat. Often when I interview someone who has lost a Newf in their sleep, they describe symptoms that sound much like bloat/gastric torsion.
I’ve only had one Newf actually die of confirmed “old age”. My 12 year old girl seemed to be dying so I rushed her to the vet. He confirmed that she was dying but said there was no specific cause as every system in her body was shutting down. Otherwise there must be a disease that might have been prevented such as cancer and that particular one seems to be the main threat as our Newfs age.Peter Maniate has been writing a column about Newfoundland dogs for the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine since January, 1996. The preceding column originally appeared in the December, 2011 issue. Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.