How Long Do Rottweilers Live? What Health Conditions Do They Have?

Rottweilers don’t seem to be quite as common as they used to be even a decade ago. These big, handsome dogs can make wonderful pets but they do come with a variety of health issues that need to be understood by anyone thinking about getting their first Rottie.

How long do Rottweilers live? 11-12 years based on information provided by the American Kennel Club. Life expectancy is affected by various issues such as body condition (are they chronically obese), genetics, and how well the pet owner takes care of their dog.

As a veterinarian with over 20 years of experience, I believe we can get Rottweilers to live longer. I will lay out a plan on how you can accomplish that. Trust me, I LOVE my Rottweiler patients and I want then to stick around as long as possible for their families.

Bailey, One Of My Patients

How To Pick The Healthiest Rottweiler Puppy

Having a healthy Rottweiler starts first and foremost with picking the right breeder. There are two ways you can go about finding a quality breeder:

  • Use the AKC site to find one
  • Go through the American Rottweiler Club to find a reputable breeder
  • If you’re lucky enough to already know and love a Rottweiler, find out who the breeder of the litter was. That’s a great start.

If you’re getting a Rottweiler from a rescue organization, try to find out the medical history of the dog as completely as possible. Understand that, while problems can emerge at any time, chronic health conditions that have been dealt with (successfully or unsuccessfully) for years are going to be your responsibility going forward.

There are quite a few diseases that the American Rottweiler Club recommends for breeders to screen for in order to produce the healthiest puppies possible. You can see the official list here. If you’re buying from a breeder, do they screen for any/all of these conditions?

What Are The Most Common Diseases That Rottweilers Can Suffer From?

The most common diseases that can affect any Rottweiler include:

  • Heart Disease/Subaortic Stenosis
  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
  • Obesity
  • Cancer (osteosarcoma)
  • Entropion
  • ACL Tears

This list encompasses both the recognized diseases that many vets see in Rottweilers as well as my personal experience as a vet.

Subaortic Stenosis

  • The aorta is the the major artery that takes blood out of the heart and delivers it to the rest of the body via a network of other smaller arteries.
  • Subaortic means “below” the aorta. Specifically this would be where the heart and the aorta actually come together, just in front of the aortic valve (the aortic valve is what opens to allow blood into the aorta).
  • Stenosis means “a narrowing.” Subaortic stenosis is where the heart tissue right in front of the aortic valve thickens for some reason and somewhat blocks the flow of blood into the aorta.
  • Symptoms include fainting, especially when exercise is attempted.
  • This disease can be identified with a cardiac ultrasound/echocardiography by a veterinary cardiologist.
  • Some dogs may only be mildly affected and there are medications that can be used to treat this disease.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is fairly well known but many pet owners don’t realize that the same condition can develop in the elbows as well. Unfortunately Rottweilers are a breed that seem to be prone to either or both conditions.

Ultimately the disease occurs when the hip or elbow joint isn’t properly developed so that the joint functions as it should. The bones don’t develop properly to provide the normal amount of surface to cushion the joint and make it comfortable.

When dysplasia is present, the bones end up rubbing together excessively and wearing away at the cartilage that is present. Over time this causes the bones to try and stabilize the joint by producing excessive bony tissue/bone spurs. This condition is pretty painful and can range from causing no visible symptoms to a dog that can’t walk at all due to the pain.

Xrays are the only way to definitely diagnose this disease. If caught when a dog is still growing, there may be a surgical treatment that could help mitigate the disease’s severity later in life.


Rottweilers are a pretty common breed everywhere and unfortunately the majority of time I see them outside of a dog show they are overweight. It’s almost as if the thickness of an overweight Rottweiler’s body is the acceptable “norm.”

I have, in fact, had a few “discussions” with pet owners who were convinced that their Rottweiler should look the way they do. I then have them directly feel the amount of fat sitting over the ribs and the way that their waist is as wide as their chest. Eventually most of them get it.

Because Rottweilers are already anywhere from 80-125 lbs at their “ideal” weight (depending on height and muscularity), carrying another 10-20 lbs may not seem like much to our eyes but it matters a great deal to their bodies. Any pre-existing orthopedic conditions will worsen carrying a heavier load. ACL tears will happen sooner and the need for chronic anti-inflammatory usage will happen earlier than it should.

Diet is, by far, the most effective way of reducing your dog’s weight. Exercise helps, but it’s far more effective to cut calories. If you’re struggling to get your Rottweiler to lose weight, consult with your own veterinarian. They may want to check some bloodwork or use a prescription diet.


Rottweilers can develop any type of cancer, but I’d say at least 8 our of 10 times I diagnose a Rottweiler with cancer it’s osteosarcoma. This cancer usually presents to my clinic as either with a dog limping on a leg or a dog who suddenly seems to have a part of their leg more swollen than the owner remembers.

Usually this cancer will either be at the distal (furthest down on the bone) end of the humerus or the femur but I’ve also seen it in lower legs, skulls, and the shoulder blade. An x-ray will typically be the only diagnostic that is needed for a presumptive diagnosis of osteosarcoma although in some borderline cases a bone biopsy may be done.

Bone cancer is a devastating diagnosis for any dog and pet owner but more so for Rottweilers due to their overall size and the effect of having a non-weight bearing leg on their mobility. Osteosarcoma is treatable (but very expensive to do so) and your vet may refer you to a specialist to do an amputation of the affected limb or chemotherapy.


Entropion is where a part of an eyelid (can happen in one or both eyes) rolls into the eye itself. It can be obvious or it can be really subtle. Does your Rottie’s eyes chronically tear or do they tend to hold one or both of their eyes slightly closed a lot? Could be entropion!

Surgery is the best correction and you’ll want to choose a vet that has some experience in this surgery. It’s more of an art than a science to know how much tissue needs to be removed for the best result. I wouldn’t recommend doing this surgery on a Rottweiler until they are at least 2 years old as their head will continue to grow and widen until then. It’s possible that some milder puppy cases of entropion will actually fix itself over time.

ACL Tears

Anterior Cruciate Ligament tears are not your fault. I open with that because most owners feel that they allowed their dog to do something that caused the tear and that is simply not true. ACL tears are normally a degenerative condition brought about by a changing breed standard (my opinion and certainly reputable breeders don’t do this) that puts excessive strain on the knees of the Rottweiler.

The ACL connects the upper and lower leg (tibia) bones in a way that prevents the femur from sliding off the tibia. The biggest factor that contributes to ACL disease in dogs is the way their leg is put together. Dogs that have straight back legs naturally are going to put more pressure on that ACL on a daily basis.

Unfortunately due to some irresponsible breeding, Rottweilers are now being bred with more straight rear legs than ever before. This, coupled with being overweight, leads to a high proportion of my Rottweiler patients tearing their ACL by the time they are 5 years old with the second ACL tear in the other leg not too far behind the first in many cases.

How Can I Get My Rottwiler To Live Longer?

Healthy Weight

There is no “magical weight range” for a Rottweiler. Each dog is different and their optimal weight will vary based on their height and the amount of muscularity. Typically you should see an hourglass shape when looking at your Rottweiler from above. Big chest, narrow waist.

Rottweilers that are overweight will be less likely to exercise and more likely to develop arthritis. The longer this is allowed to go on, the more likely that the muscles will weaken and your dog will struggle later in life with getting up and simply walking around.

If your Rottweiler is overweight, and you can’t get the weight off with reducing their diet, have a thyroid screen done. A hypothyroid dog can not lose weight unless they get proper thyroid supplementation.

Preventative Medicine/Wellness Exams

I’m a veterinarian so of course I’m going to tell you that regular wellness exams at the vet is extremely important. A good vet can spot conditions so early that you may not even be aware of yet.


The best supplement for a Rottweiler is going to incorporate glucosamine and chondroitin. Fish oils are also great for joints, heart, and skin health.

Because of the size of a Rottweiler, I’d recommend starting a joint supplement by the time they are 4 years old to try and maximize healthy joints as long as possible. Simply using a food that contains glucosamine is not enough. There is not nearly enough of the supplement within the food to actually make a difference.

In Summary

With good genetics (and a dose of luck), a healthy Rottweiler should live longer than 10 years old. That might only be a year or two longer, but it can be done. The biggest issue I see for most Rottweilers is not being at the proper weight. Listen to your vet, take good care of your Rottie, and that beautiful dog will hopefully be with you for a long time.