How Old is the Oldest Bernese Mountain Dog Ever?

Bernese mountain dog laying down
© iStock.com/Kriste Sorokaite

Written by Kristen Holder

Published: January 27, 2023

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Bernese mountain dogs are one of four Swiss mountain dogs from farms in Switzerland. These dogs were recognized as an official breed in 1912. It’s well known that big dogs are short-lived so how old is the oldest Bernese mountain dog ever?

Oldest Bernese Mountain Dog Ever

The oldest Bernese mountain dog ever was 15 years and 2 months old. This was determined in 2004 when a survey in the UK analyzed data on 394 dead Bernese mountain dogs. There are anecdotal tales that confirm Bernese mountain dogs sometimes reach 15 years old.

How Old Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Get?

The average lifespan of all types of Bernese mountain dogs is 7.1 years according to a study in Denmark in 2010. Female dogs average almost 9 years in age while males make it a little less long. However, unfixed females have the shortest lifespan.

Big dogs don’t live as long as small dogs and Bernese mountain dogs are very large. These dogs sometimes weigh 100 pounds and are often over 2 feet tall.

Senior Bernese mountain dog

The oldest Bernese mountain dog ever was 15 years and 2 months old.

©iStock.com/Kriste Sorokaite

What Diseases Stop Bernese Mountain Dogs From Getting Old?

There are common diseases in Bernese mountain dogs that lead to death before old age. It’s especially important in a breed like this to source your pet from a responsible breeder. Regular veterinary care will also help you maintain your pet’s ideal health.

Cancer in Bernese Mountain Dogs

Half of the Bernese mountain dogs to ever exist die of some kind of canine cancer. Common cancers include osteosarcoma, mast cell tumors, fibrosarcoma, histiocytic sarcoma, and lymphosarcoma.

It’s been suggested that deaths unattributable to a cause due to lack of testing are often blamed on cancer. This may be driving up the average death rate statistics for cancer in these dogs.

Chemotherapy for dogs is available. There are Bernese mountain dog patients that have successfully survived cancer because of these treatments.

Histiocytic sarcoma occurs in 25% of Bernese mountain dogs. It’s aggressive cancer that presents with tumors with an extremely high mortality rate. Most victims only survive a couple of weeks to months after diagnosis.

Bernese mountain dogs are susceptible to cancer

Sadly, an estimated half of Bernese mountain dogs die from some form of canine cancer.

©iStock.com/LightFieldStudios

Cruciate Ligament Rupture in Bernese Mountain Dogs

Crossed ligaments, called cruciate ligaments, keep the lower leg bones together at the knee in dogs. Knees aren’t held together by bones and it’s these ligaments with others that make a knee work like a hinge.

A traumatic injury or the wearing out of these ligaments makes the joint extremely painful and sometimes useless. This affects a dog’s ability to walk.

Degenerative diseases like arthritis may also slowly cause a rupture. Most dogs will need surgery to correct this injury though young dogs under 20 pounds might heal without it.

Bernese mountain dog recovering from surgery

Bernese mountain dogs can suffer from a cruciate ligament rupture requiring surgery.

©iStock.com/Kriste Sorokaite

Arthritis in Older Bernese Mountain Dogs

Arthritis is the result of two bones in a joint rubbing together. Normally, there is cartilage to pad a joint so that bones do not rub together. However, dogs that develop arthritis have bones that touch.

This causes pain and other issues like bone spurs. Unfortunately, arthritis is hard to diagnose until it’s advanced. This is because cartilage doesn’t have pain receptors in it so it’s usually almost all gone by the time pain arises.

Hip Dysplasia in Older Bernese Mountain Dogs

While canine hip dysplasia affects all breeds, it affects bigger dogs at a much higher rate. Hip dysplasia occurs when the bones that make the hip joint develop incorrectly during adolescence. One study showed that one-third to one-half of all Bernese mountain dogs will suffer from this disease as they age.

The misfitted joint doesn’t distribute the weight evenly for the intermingling cartilage. Because of this, the cartilage wears unevenly which causes an inflammatory response. This causes pain and abnormal wear which eventually spirals into a serious disease with a diminished quality of life.

If arthritis is going to appear in a dog’s life, it will almost always happen later in life. Since it takes time for cartilage to wear down, it usually takes years for the type of damage to occur that causes arthritis.

Aortic Stenosis in Bernese Mountain Dogs

When the aortic valve on a dog’s heart narrows to the point that blood flow is impeded, it causes the rest of the heart to work harder to compensate for this. This compensation leads to a variety of complications like fatigue and shortness of breath. 

Aortic stenosis is a hereditary disease. It is sometimes detected in puppies though sometimes the dog has to age a year before a heart murmur is detected. If it goes undetected for a long time, the heart can become deformed which may lead to sudden death.

This disease is well known and advanced surgical techniques exist to save dogs with severe cases. Dogs with this disease need to remain calm and not exercise as any straining may cause heart failure.

Osteochondritis Dessicans in Bernese Mountain Dogs

Osteochondritis dessicans occur when an errant piece of cartilage grows on a joint and then rips or disconnects. This affects the functionality of the joint and creates pain. It also may affect a dog’s ability to bear weight on the affected limb.

This disease is common in large breed puppies as they grow quickly between 6 and 9 months old. There is no known cause but there are therapies and surgeries available to correct the condition.

Bloat in Bernese Mountain Dogs

Bloat, also called gastric dilatation volvulus, is a dangerous condition that results in death if not promptly treated. Sometimes, death can occur within hours after bloat begins.

This condition is usually caused by excess consumption of food, liquids, or gasses by a dog. The contents of the stomach cause it to flip, which causes distension. This distension cuts off circulation to major organs and a cascade effect begins that quickly becomes fatal.

Bigger dogs are 20 percent more likely to suffer from bloat than smaller dogs so Bernese mountain dogs are especially at risk. The moment a symptom of bloat seems to be occurring, the dog needs to be rushed to the vet. It’s almost impossible to diagnose true bloat without scientific equipment and training.

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About the Author

Kristen Holder is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics related to history, travel, pets, and obscure scientific issues. Kristen has been writing professionally for 3 years, and she holds a Bachelor's Degree from the University of California, Riverside, which she obtained in 2009. After living in California, Washington, and Arizona, she is now a permanent resident of Iowa. Kristen loves to dote on her 3 cats, and she spends her free time coming up with adventures that allow her to explore her new home.

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