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Bernese Mountain dogs have short lifespans and this is something fans of this breed find difficult to accept. 

This sweet dog breed, boasting teddy-bear looks, is indeed one of the shortest living dogs, even when compared with other breeds of the same size. 

Such short lifespans are therefore worthy of investigation. Discover what studies reveal about this unfortunate breed. 

Study Shows Sad Statistics 

According to a 2016 study, data was obtained by owners and veterinarians concerning 389 Bernese Mountain Dogs. 

The goal of the study was to investigate this breed's lifespan and causes of death. 

By the end of the study, 381 out of 389 dogs had died. That's a whopping 97.9 percent and their median life expectancy was a mere 8.4 years. 

Female lived slightly longer than males (8.8 years and 7.7 years respectively). 

Bernese mountain dogs have a low life expectancy and high incidence of cancer

Bernese mountain dogs have a low life expectancy and high incidence of cancer

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Why Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Have Such Short Lifespans?

The ultimate cause of death remained unknown for 89 dogs out of the 381. That's 23.4 percent. 

The remaining dogs suffered from the following:

  • 58.3 percent developed some type of cancer
  • 4.2 percent developed degenerative joint disease
  • 3.4 percent developed spinal disorders
  • 3.1 percent developed renal injury
  • 1.8 percent developed gastric/ mesenteric volvulus 

What Cancer is Killing Bernese Mountain Dogs?

Statistics therefore show a high predisposition for cancer in this breed which leads to shorter lifespans. 

But what type of cancer affects this breed? One prevalent type of cancer is histiocytic sarcoma, a highly aggressive type of cancer associated with poor prognosis and survival times.

Most diagnosed dogs are middle aged dogs. Prognosis for this type of cancer is not very good as cancer spread happens in 70 to 91 percent of dogs, but new research shows potential increase in survival times with chemo for good candidates.

Other forms of cancer included the following: lymphoma, osteosarcoma, sarcoma, leukemia, fibrosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumor,  transitional cell carcinoma and chondroma.


Klopfenstein, M., Howard, J., Rossetti, M. et al. Life expectancy and causes of death in Bernese mountain dogs in Switzerland. BMC Vet Res 

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