Bernese Mountain Dog Lifespan: How Long Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Live?

Senior Bernese mountain dog
© iStock.com/Kriste Sorokaite

Written by Katelynn Sobus

Updated: June 26, 2023

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Bernese mountain dogs typically live around 7-10 years. Females may live up to two years longer than males. Common illnesses in Bernese mountain dogs include cancer, joint disorders, and bloat.

In this article, we’ll discuss how long Bernese mountain dogs live on average, how to increase your dog’s lifespan, and more.

How Long Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Live?

Bernese mountain dog laying down

Bernese mountain dogs have shorter lifespans than most breeds, living 7-10 years on average.

©iStock.com/Kriste Sorokaite

Bernese mountain dogs have shorter lifespans than most breeds, living 7-10 years on average. This is because they’re a giant breed.

Typically, smaller dogs live longer lives while larger dogs live shorter ones. However, Bernese mountain dogs do have a pretty long lifespan considering their size, as some giant breeds live even less time.

How Old Was the Oldest Bernese Mountain Dog?

The oldest Bernese mountain dog ever was over 15 years old! This is an impressive feat for such a big pupper. 

Every dog guardian wants their dog to live as long as possible, which is why we’ll discuss how to help your Bernese mountain dog live longer later in the article. Who knows – maybe one day they’ll set a new longest-lived record!

Bernese Mountain Dog Life Cycle

Bernese mountain dog puppy

Bernese mountain dogs are considered puppies for longer than most dogs.

©iStock.com/Marketa Vydrova

Puppyhood

Bernese mountain dogs are considered puppies for longer than most dogs. Not only do they take a long time to reach full size, but they also hold onto that puppy energy and behavior.

It’s not easy to have a 100+ pound puppy and all of the behavioral problems that show up at this stage of life, so do be prepared for that – or consider adopting an older dog in need of a home instead.

Your Bernese mountain dog may not reach their full size until two to three years old, and might even continue to gain muscle and experience changes in their bodies beyond then.

It’s important not to over exercise them as pups, as this can be too much for their growing joints. Common advice includes letting the dog lead during exercise, avoiding strenuous activities like hiking, and limiting repetitive exercises that can encourage a dog to exhaust themselves (such as games of fetch). Your veterinarian will have more information on how much and which types of exercise are appropriate as your dog ages.

Adulthood

Adulthood is when most dogs begin to mellow out, and it’s the age most people prefer. Adult Bernese mountain dogs can handle more exercise, are less rebellious than in their puppy years, and don’t yet have the health problems associated with senior dogs.

Old Age

At just four to five years old, Bernese mountain dogs are considered seniors. They typically still have years of life left in them, though!

Seniors may need to slow down when it comes to exercise, though this isn’t typically necessary until your dog indicates less interest or the desire to shorten walks or playtime. It’s important to follow their lead.

You can also expect health problems to begin to develop in these years, with probably the most common being arthritis.

What Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Typically Die Of?

Neoplasia

Neoplasia is abnormal cell growth which causes growths and tumors. These may be either benign or cancerous.

A small study of 381 dogs showed neoplasia as the possible leading cause of death in Bernese mountain dogs, affecting over 200 of the dogs studied.

Joint Problems

Many Bernese mountain dogs are humanely euthanized due to joint problems such as degenerative joint disease or spinal problems. 

Bernese mountain dog recovering from surgery

Bernese mountain dogs often struggle with joint problems.

©iStock.com/Kriste Sorokaite

Bloat (gastric dilatation-volvulus)

Giant breeds are more prone to bloat, which is when a dog’s stomach fills with air or fluid and flips inside of their body. This cuts off blood circulation.

Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) kills 30% of affected dogs, even those who receive prompt and aggressive veterinary care. It’s important to know the signs of bloat so that your Bernese mountain dog has the best chance of survival if they develop it.

These include swollen abdomen, pain, retching, restlessness, and excess drooling. Your dog might also pose in a downward dog or “praying” position with their head down low and their rear in the air.

Old Age or Unknown Causes

Lastly, sometimes Bernese mountain dogs die of unknown causes. In the study we discussed above, this was true for 89 of the 381 dogs.

Typically when a senior dog dies of unknown causes, we call it dying of old age. 

How To Increase Your Bernese Mountain Dog’s Lifespan

Adopting from a Reputable Breeder

Bernese mountain dogs have suffered a decrease in average lifespan over the years due to poor breeding. Adopting from a reputable breeder increases your chances of a long-lived dog.

Reputable breeders will screen for genetic illnesses in your puppy’s parents according to OFA’s CHIC Program guidelines.

Feeding the Right Diet

A high-quality dog food goes a long way to keeping your Bernese mountain dog healthy. Ask your veterinarian what they recommend you feed your pup.

Most vets recommend a WSAVA-compliant food, as these brands have vet nutritionists formulating their foods and run scientific tests to ensure the best quality possible.

Just as important as feeding the right kibble is feeding it in the right amounts. Excess weight can increase your dog’s chances of developing joint problems and other health conditions.

Exercising Your Dog Regularly

Regular exercise will also help your dog to stay fit and healthy. Bernese mountain dogs enjoy moderate exercise for 30 minutes or more each day.

This can mean a long daily walk, playtime in the backyard, or even going for hikes or practicing dog sports.

Providing Routine Veterinary Care

Your Bernese mountain dog should see the veterinarian for a check-up once yearly until senior age, then once every six months. Keeping up with your dog’s vaccines, parasite prevention medications, routine blood work, and other testing can help to extend their life.

Spaying and neutering your dog at the age recommended by your veterinarian also decreases their risks of developing certain health problems and increases their life expectancy.

Bernese mountain dog being examined by veterinarian

Your Bernese mountain dog should see the veterinarian for a check-up once yearly until senior age, then once every six months.

©iStock.com/LightFieldStudios

Catching Illness Early

Knowing common illnesses that Bernese mountain dogs face can go a long way to catching a disease early, and therefore extending their life.

Sometimes, prompt veterinary care can give a dog years. Other times, it can only help their quality of life – but giving your pup the best last days possible is still highly important.

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About the Author

Katelynn Sobus is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on pets including dogs, cats, and exotics. She has been writing about pet care for over five years. Katelynn currently lives in Michigan with her seven senior rescue cats.

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