Who Is The Tallest Dog Ever? | Vet’s Perspective

I’ve seen some super tall dogs in my life, but I’ve never seen a Great Dane quite as large as the one featured in this article. Zeus was a dog recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest dog who ever lived.

Zeus measured in at 44″ tall (1.118 M) at the shoulder! He weighed 155 lbs (70.3 kg)!!

How Long Did The Tallest Dog Live?

Sadly, he only made it to 5 years old, dying in 2014 in Michigan. I am not aware of his particular health issues, but I can speculate here based on the above video and pictures I’ve seen of him.

Great Danes typically make it to at least 7 years old, and many can be as heavy (or heavier) as Zeus was. So did his height cause him a premature death?

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Health Concerns With Really Tall Dogs

The biggest issues with dogs who are really tall center around their bones and joints. Let’s look at a few particular concerns that these dogs face:

  • Panosteitis or “Growing Pains”
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia


Panosteitis used to be much more common in the large breed dogs. Somewhere between the ages of 5 months and 9 months (in most dogs; I have occasionally seen it in dogs older than this), they begin to exhibit pain in their legs.

Sometimes the pain stays in just one leg, and sometimes it seems like multiple legs may be affected. Typically, there’s a focal point of pain that a veterinarian is able to locate just by feeling the dog’s legs.

An x-ray can positively diagnosis panosteitis. Typically, in the area that is painful (not the end of the bone, but an area just next to that) there will be an area of inflammation that will look like a glassy circular area on the x-ray.

Did Zeus ever have panosteitis? It’s possible. If he did, that’s not bad news. This condition is outgrown within a few months (usually, although some dogs will continue to have issues for a year or two).

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

I’m grouping these two large orthopedic conditions together because they cause similar problems with different joints. Growth abnormalities occur where these joints don’t come together as smoothly as they should.

The end result is a joint where things don’t move smoothly. The bones don’t line up properly and the weight of the body will cause an abnormal joint to get worse over time. Ultimately, arthritis forms as bones rub against surfaces that they should not.

These diseases will be covered in a far more in-depth article on this blog soon so I’m not going to present the nitty gritty here.

Did Zeus have hip or elbow dysplasia? It’s likely that he had one or both. If he died of “old age conditions” at the age of 5, then I’d bet he was suffering from some pretty severe arthritis. The only way to get that at such a young age is to have some fairly serious dysplasia in those joints at a very young age.

What About Those Massive Dogs On Social Media?? They Look Huge!

Many times dogs that look inordinately large are made to look so with the aid of photo editing or a photographic technique called “forced perspective.”

This is a trick where the object that needs to be larger is placed in the foreground of the picture at an angle to the background person to make them look like they are standing next to each other. However, since the foreground object is actually significantly closer to the camera, it looks much bigger than it is.

What Can I Do To Help My Really Tall Dog??

Are you worried because that cute fuzzy puppy you bought some months ago just won’t stop growing taller? What can you do to help it develop and live a healthier life?

There are some basic things that I recommend:

  • If your dog is growing rapidly and you have it on puppy food, even if it is on large-breed puppy food, I recommend switching to adult food now. In the extensive history of dogs in civilization, puppy foods are a very recent thing. Dogs did just fine on one food their entire lives for a very long time.
  • Don’t run a giant-breed puppy on a regular basis. These are not the dogs to take with you on a jog. I usually tell my clients that the puppy will wear on when exercising before it starts to damage its joints, but I am more conservative with the giant-breed puppies.
  • X-ray them early if they show any signs of chronic pain in their legs to identify issues early and try to tackle them before they progress too far
  • Once they reach skeletal maturity (around 2 years of age), begin giving them a good joint supplement that contains substances like glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM.
    • One product I love is Dasuquin with MSM for large dogs. These are soft chews so they are usually pretty palatable for most dogs.
    • Another one is Cosequin Maximum Strength from Nutramax. These are one of the best quality joint supplements for dogs on the market. I recommend both of these products to my clients.
  • Watch their weight! You’ll notice that Zeus, in the video above, looks skinny. That’s by design. Dogs that are that large in their frame need to stay lean to keep as much weight and pressure off the joints as possible. Had Zeus been 20 lbs heavier, he might have lived even shorter and definitely would have had a much harder time getting around towards the end of his life.
  • Take a giant breed dog to the vet for a routine checkup at least twice yearly, even if they are healthy! Since giant breed dogs age more quickly than every other dog, health problems can develop fast and furious. Regular exams can help spot problems before they become a big deal.
  • Keep them walking! I know above I talk about how I don’t want to run a giant breed puppy because it can damage their joints. Well, when giant breed dogs are getting older, it can be difficult to get them up and moving. You may think you are doing them a favor by not taking them on a walk. The truth is, if they aren’t exercised with a walk regularly their muscle will begin to weaken and atrophy. That will make getting up harder and harder as time goes by.

Zeus Was A Great Dog

To be honest, I don’t have any information as to why Zeus only made it to 5 years. I’m quite sure his owners were heartbroken to lose him. He was certainly a “gentle giant” that they were able to take to public places where he was being used as a therapy dog.

In my experience working with therapy dogs, it’s somewhat rare to see a Great Dane in those ranks. I have met some very sweet and kind Great Danes, but I’ve never met one that would qualify as great enough to be a therapy dog. In that regard, Zeus was definitely one of a kind.