The Life and Death of Great Danes; the Gentle Giants

Great Danes are fondly known as gentle giants. These huge dogs, originally bred as ferocious guard dogs, are now known to be especially lovable and gentle. They are mild mannered and get along easily with people and other dogs. Their large size and loud bark can still be very intimidating, making them the perfect watchdog for families. They also make good service dogs because of their confident and steady personality.

There are other characteristics of Great Danes that people should be aware of before deciding to take one home. First of all, they are huge! People often underestimate how much room a Great Dane will take up. It is important to look around your house and take this into consideration. Puppies have a lot of energy and a tendency to chew on everything. With a Great Dane this might include your couch or table. Check your house for things that are easily broken or knocked over. Great Danes need a lot of social interaction. This does not make them good dogs to leave alone all day.

History of Great Danes

Great Dane Urns

Great Danes were originally bred in Germany about 400 years ago. They are a cross of Irish Wolfhound and the Old English Wolfhound therefore Great Danes are also known as German Mastiffs. They were used to hunt wild boar and deer and to guard German nobility and were known to be strong, ferocious, and fearless.

While travelling in Denmark, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, a French Nationalist, scientist, and mathematician, saw these large dogs. He called them, le Grande Danios. Translated this means Great Dane. The name stuck. By the late 1700s the Great Dane was emerging in England, Denmark, and Spain. They entered America in the mid 1800s and were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1889. While no longer used for hunting, these dogs make excellent service dogs.

Possible Health Issues in Great Danes

There are several things people should be aware of before bringing a Great Dane into their family. It is common for these dogs to end up in shelters because people fail to take these things into consideration.

Great Danes are prone to several health issues including bloat, heart disease, bone and joint problems, neurological disease, eye problems, and thyroid issues. While some of these are exceedingly rare, they still should be monitored.

Bloat is most common in dogs with deep, narrow chests. This makes the Great Dane more susceptible than other breeds. Bloat is caused when the stomach twists on itself and fills with gas. The blood supply to the stomach and sometimes the spleen is then cut off. Death can occur in as little as a half an hour if left untreated. There is a preventative surgery available where the stomach is tacked in place so twisting is less likely. If you suspect your dog has bloat, take them to an emergency vet immediately.

Heart disease is also more common in Great Danes. Specifically, a condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy is caused when the heart becomes so large, thin, and weak that is no longer able to pump blood into the body. This should be checked yearly by your veterinarian.

Great Danes grow very rapidly making them prone to several bone and joint issues. Their knee ligaments, ACL, can tear easily causing them to lose mobility and eventually form osteoarthritis.

Hip dysplasia is another joint issue that is common in large dogs. This is caused by the hip joints becoming so loose that the hip comes out of the socket. Great Dane puppies should avoid excessive exercise until they are done growing, usually between 18-24 months. Allowing them to grow into themselves will help minimize risks of bone and joint problems.

Other problems such as neurological disease, eye problems, and thyroid issues mean your Great Danes should be monitored regularly by your local veterinarian.

Caring for Your Great Dane

Great Dane Facts

Great Danes require moderate exercise, high quality nutrition, and lot of love and attention from their humans. Puppies need about 90 minutes of exercise a day while adult Great Danes need about 45 minutes. This exercise can include walking, playing fetch, or running. Chewing is an important exercise both mentally and physically.

A balanced diet is essential to the health of Great Danes. Large breed dogs requires different amount of calcium and phosphorus than smaller breeds. Be sure to find a dog food that is specifically made for large breeds.

Because of their size, training is particularly important for Great Danes. They can eat food off your counter or easily knock you over when you get home. Although they can be slow to learn, these dogs are very willing to please you. Be sure to start training right away to avoid allowing bad habits.

Dealing with the Death of Your Great Dane

Great Danes live an average of 7 to 10 years. This means that it is likely that they are outlived by their owners. What do you do when your Great Dane dies?

Dealing with the loss of a pet is never easy. Grieving is just part of life and should never be minimized or avoided. However, we still need to face the practical parts of the death of our pets. If your dog is under the care of a veterinarian when they die, they will assist you in caring for the body, but what if your Great Dane dies at home?

If you are alone, you might want to call someone to help you. A friend can provide both practical assistance and comfort. The first thing you need to do if your dog has died is get something underneath them. This can be a trash bag or puppy pads or both. Do this as soon as possible because decomposition will start to happen quickly.

If you want to save your dog’s collar, take it off and set it aside. Next, wrap the body in a blanket and place it in a large bag (could be a trash bag or other plastic bag). For a Great Dane, this will need to be large enough to fit their body and will probably take two people.

When you are done with all this, you need to decide what to do with your pet’s body. In the past most people buried their pets on their property. For most people this is not an option. In some places it is not even legal.

Thankfully, we do have options when deciding how to memorialize our pets.

If the body of your pet is not important to you, in many areas you can simply call animal control and they will come pick it up. You might want to use your pet’s collar, toys, and food dish to make a simple memorial for your pet.

You can also choose to have your pet buried or cremated. With a quick internet search or a call to your local veterinarian, you should be able to find pet cemeteries in your area and who to call to pick up your dog to have them buried or cremated.

If you choose to have your dog cremated, you will be asked to pick up the ashes probably within a week. From here there are many ways to remember your Great Dane. You can scatter your dog’s ashes, have a memorial stone made, or even plant a tree to remember them by.  This also includes custom engraved Great Dane urns with a portrait of a Great Dane and your dog’s name, dates of birth and death, and a sentiment.

great dane urn

Whatever way you choose to honor your beloved Great Dane, be sure to allow yourself time to grieve.