This large Mastiff breed has a long history as a guardian for livestock and property. Amazingly, they were also used as guard dogs for temples across Tibet, gaining the nickname “Do Khyi/Do-Kyi. TM. Hagrid, the gentle giant, “The wolf-bear that lives next door.”
The dog has undergone quite the evolution in recent years, and due to Chinese selective breeding programs, the current day “Tibetan Mastiff” is actually more accurately called the “Chinese Tibetan Mastiff”.
The newer Chinese Tibetan Mastiff is taller, fluffier, more wrinkled on the face and bolder in temperament. New colors are more striking, with beautiful blondes, apricots and reds all featuring.
The immense, powerful and regal Tibetan Mastiff had seen a climb in popularity over the past 10 years. Much of this may be the result of Big Splash, who burst onto the scene when selling at a dog show for over $1.6 million, becoming the most expensive dog ever sold.
This sale propelled the breed into the spotlight across the globe, making the modern Tibetan Mastiff somewhat of a status symbol, leading to a huge influx of breeders looking to make a tidy profit.
However an excess of production has meant that thousands of these glorious giants were abandoned and now live in a sanctuary in China.
Thankfully, demand for this breed has somewhat stabilized. This means that those owners only seeking status have dwindled, and that more serious, responsible owners have stepped up to ensure the breed has a future. This is good news.
Now that the breed’s future seems more sustainable, owners and responsible breeders are doing their best to educate potential new owners on all aspects of the breed.
And with such turbulent recent history, questions around the Tibetan Mastiffs’ health and lifespan arise.
Do they live as long as their predecessors? Has the recent selective breeding program impacted their longevity? What are the common health concerns associated with the modern Chinese Tibetan Mastiff?
And that’s what we’re here to answer.
How Long Is The Tibetan Mastiff Lifespan?
A Tibetan Mastiff’s lifespan is 12-15 years. The breed is fairly healthy when compared to other members of the Mastiff breed family, and this shows by their increased longevity.
The reasons for the extended lifespan are not fully clear and everyday dog owners may be surprised by this fact as many would expect a shorter lifespan which is common in very large breeds.
One reason for this may be due to the fact that the breed’s recent evolution may in fact inherit the genetics of other, longer living breed types.
It’s said that in order to produce more striking colors and longer fur, the modern Chinese Tibetan Mastiff is made up of other breeds outside of the original. This may include types of Shepherd dogs or other wolfhounds which typically live longer than those of the Mastiff lineage.
You may hear that the modern Chinese Tibetan Mastiff has Lion blood (which leads to its glorious mane), this myth may have helped produce an air of mysticism around the breed when first released at shows. However, it is simply a myth.
That said, the Tibetan Mastiffs lifespan is somewhat curtailed by common health conditions that you may expect to see in many of the larger Mastiff breeds.
Common Health Issues of The Tibetan Mastiff
All breeds have unique genetic dispositions that may cause health concerns further down the line. The Tibetan Mastiff is no different in that regard. It inherits many of the common health concerns that experienced dog owners may expect to see in large, mastiff breeds, such as hip & elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, gastric bloat, eye problems, overheating and breathing difficulties.
Hip dysplasia is an issue amongst Mastiff and some Shepherd breeds. It occurs when the hip joint isn’t aligned and therefore doesn’t develop properly. This results in an unstable joint. Unfortunately, this can cause permanent damage which includes painful mobility issues and degenerative joint disease.
A good, responsible breeder will run x-rays and health tests on breeding adults to try to mitigate hip dysplasia issues as much as possible. All puppies will also be health tested and scored so that the breeder is fully aware of any puppies that may carry the issue. A transparent breeder will then pass this information onto any new owner or adopter.
Elbow dysplasia also runs in the Tibetan Mastiff genetic lineage. The issue is very similar to hip dysplasia in that joint alignment issues lead to unstable joints, pain and mobility issues, which further lead to mobility concerns and degenerative joint disease. A lack of mobility will then lead to other health concerns such as obesity and any associated issues that domino.
Again, health tests will be run on breeding pairs and their litters. Breeders will be made aware of any issues that may arise.
Owners may be able to help lessen the burden of elbow and hip pain by ensuring the dog isn’t over exercised and that they are able to relax on a softer bed that is able to offer support for such issues.
Hypothyroidism in Tibetan Mastiffs is a health condition that negatively impacts the dog in a number of ways. It is estimated that hypothyroidism is present in up to 30% of the breed.
The disease often leads to an increase in weight, fatigue and lethargy, excessive shedding and intolerance to cold. That said, with adequate professional treatment, most symptoms of hypothyroidism are treatable and can resolve in a number of weeks. However, the disease requires lifelong medication and frequent visits to the vet for checkups.
It’s difficult to associate how certain dogs may react to the disease. Lethargy, loss of libido are typically painless. However, the disease may lead to secondary concerns such as joint pain and mobility issues if symptoms such as weight gain are not kept in check.
Gastric Torsion & Bloat
Bloat is common in all Mastiff breeds and dogs with wider chest cavities. Gastric torsion and bloat can occur when the dog rushes to eat its food too quickly, neglects chewing and swallows large clumps. This can cause a build up of gas, food or fluid which may lead to twisting (torsion) of the stomach. This may then require emergency surgery in some cases.
Thankfully, owners have ways to mitigate risks. Some of these include:
Breaking Up Meals
Portion their meals into multiple smaller feeds throughout the day.
Let Them Eat Alone
Dogs that are raised together may look to outcompete each other when food is around. This may lead to behaviors such as rushing their food so that they can try to help themselves to the other dogs bowl.
Make your dog slow down by introducing obstacles to the food. This may come in the form of bones, ice cubes or something else that they have to take their time to chew.
Avoid Exercise Immediately After
Getting your dog in a routine of exercise after a meal is a bad idea. A routine that offers this may lead to the dog being riled up and excited to finish its meal quicker in order to get outside.
Thankfully, it must be said that the Tibetan Mastiff doesn’t appear as greedy with its food as other larger dogs.
Like other breeds of Mastiff, the Tibetan has the same droopy eyelids. This is called Entropion. It refers to the rolling-in of the eyelids towards the eyeball.
Entropion can lead to several issues such as:
Thankfully, Entropion can be treated with surgery and permanently corrected. Many owners also go down the route of multiple series of “eye tacking” until their Tibetan Mastiff reaches around 18 months of age. Eye tacking uses sutures which act as a temporary solution for entropion until the facial structure is fully developed.
Overheating and breathing issues
Many Mastiffs are notorious for overheating and breathing issues. It has to be said that this issue is often exacerbated by the Tibetan Mastiffs glorious, long fur coat. The breed origins suit cold weather, these dogs do not do so well in hotter, humid climates.
Additionally, their size, muscle mass and shorter snout also mean that the dog cannot take on oxygen as efficiently as other breeds.
Responsible owners should be aware of when their Tibetan Mastiff risks overheating. Excessive exercise, hotter climate and over stimulation will all be contributing factors. Ensure you use AC if available, whilst also having areas of shade and multiple water bowls accessible to your pooch.
Tips For Extending The Longevity Of Your Tibetan Mastiff
12 -15 years is the average life expectancy of your Tibetan Mastiff. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do all in your power to try and improve this. What’s more, health span is equally as important the older your dog gets. Meaning, even if it’s not possible to extend their lifespan, you should aim to improve their quality of life.
Below are some common sense tips for doing just that.
Socialization and Obedience Training
A no brainer for all dogs. Great socialization and consistent training is critical for larger Mastiff breeds that have strong guardian instincts. Their head strong temperament means that they are more wary of strangers, we however want to make sure that they don’t frequently overstep the mark.
A well behaved companion leads to amazingly strong family bonds and emotional regularity. The opposite leads to resentment which may unfortunately lead to mistreatment and alienation, which is a dangerous prospect for a dog as large and powerful as the Tibetan Mastiff.
Healthy & Nutritious Diet
Food is such an important aspect of canine longevity to get right. It goes without saying that all owners should spend time researching how to offer their dog the most nutritiously available food.
These days, kibble just doesn’t cut it. Many owners are experimenting with raw feeding these days, ensuring that they are aware of all the ingredients that went into feeding their dog. Yes, it’s more time consuming, it’s more expensive, but it’s an investment in your dog’s health and longevity.
If raw feeding is a step too far for you, then why not investigate other options. There are many dog food subscription companies out there offering fresh, cooked, nutritious dog meals out there.
The Tibetan Mastiff enjoys moderate exercise, however it is critical that you don’t over exercise this breed, especially in their developmental months as a young puppy.
The Tibetan Mastiff grows at an exceptional rate, over exercise may place too much pressure on under-developed joints and muscles which may cause issues further down the line.
That said, once fully grown, you should ensure your Tibetan Mastiff is receiving moderate exercise every day. Be sure to mix it up with backyard games, tug of war and other games that offer a slice of mental stimulation alongside the physical.
Grooming for longevity? Hear me out…
Regular grooming is good for hygiene, which for a drooly dog with excessive fur is critical. The Tibetan Mastiff requires regular grooming. Their super fleecy fur is sheep like. It requires 10-15 mins of deep brushing a day to ensure it’s detangled and clean.
It’s also important to keep their fur dry. Tibetans can stuffer from something called hot spots, which is basically a form of eczema reaction that is close to the skin. It occurs when areas of their coat are wet or damp. It leads to irritation, biting and possibly infection. This likely wasn’t an issue with the original Tibetan Mastiff as they were bred for cold weather, damp conditions. However, this is not the case for the modern Chinese Tibetan Mastiff breed.
Regular Vet Visits
Let’s face it, vet visits aren’t the cheapest. However, they play a vital role in preventative health. Regular visits to the vet ensuring vaccinations are up to date and undergoing basic health checks can help spot any potential issues early.
It’s a good idea to invest in the right pet insurance and pet plan for your breed. This can help keep you covered whilst also drastically reducing the cost of healthcare for your beloved fluffy giant.