Dogs are loyal and loving. They bring so much joy to our lives, we wish they could live forever! But, as with any other creature, your furry friend will eventually begin to age. There are some signs your dog is getting old that you can spot, so you can give them the loyal support they deserve in their golden years.
Are those runs to the front door getting slower, tail wags getting less vigorous? You may not notice it immediately, but if you’ve had your dog for a few years, they’ll be getting on.
How old is old for a dog?
You may be wondering how old your dog is, but there’s no 100% certain way to know how to tell a dog's age. They can’t tell you, and their history may be a bit blurry, especially if you’re a pet parent to a rescue dog.
Generally, a vet or somebody with a lot of experience with dogs will know more or less how to tell how old a dog is. They would check things like the size of their paws compared to the rest of their body, the condition of their teeth, and their gum health.
As with any creature, different dogs age differently. This depends on several factors, such as diet, lifestyle, and breed. Larger breeds tend to age a little faster than the smaller ones, so it’s tricky to figure it out.
At what age is a dog a senior? Some age quickly, while others slowly move into their senior years, needing slower walks and softer food. Generally, dogs are considered seniors when they reach around seven human years of life, but this doesn’t mean they’re 49 years old! There’s a misconception that for every one human year a dog ages by seven.
Smaller dog breeds age slower than larger breeds. Large breeds tend to show signs of aging around the 7-year mark, while their smaller counterparts only begin showing symptoms at the 9 or 10-year mark. The giant breeds, Great Danes and St. Bernards usually age even quicker than large dogs.
On average, a dog’s life spans 10 - 13 years. You should begin to watch out for the signs that your dog is getting old around the 7-10 year mark.
What to expect in your aging furry friend
The changes in older dogs’ behavior are usually subtle and slow. Here are some signs your dog is aging:
Greying - You can expect to begin seeing silver-streaked fur which will start at the chin and chest area and slowly spread.
Slowing down - You may notice your walking partner has slowed down; he is no longer as interested in running up a hill or chasing after squirrels or ducks anymore.
Added weight - Just like some people pack on a few extra pounds in older age, dogs sometimes become a little chunkier. This is due to a slowed metabolism and other age-related issues such as thyroid issues.
Loss of hearing - If you notice your usual calls of “Max, walkies, c’mon Max!” are not getting a response, it could be due to hearing loss, which is common in old age.
Loss of eyesight - Your Molly may begin to bump into things; a sign of deteriorating eyesight.
Mobility issues - Old age in dogs sometimes comes with arthritis and joint pains. This could cause them to move with more difficulty and slow them down. It could also cause them to have a hard time getting on and off the bed or the sofa.
Instability - This can be caused by several factors, including joint pain, old dog syndrome, being a little overweight, or a lack of hearing and sight.
NB: These changes usually come on slowly. If you experience any sudden changes in your dog’s behavior or sudden physical changes, it’s most likely not age-related. Take them to the vet as soon as possible!
Making aging gentler for your dog
Aging can’t be stopped, but it can be done gracefully. Make your senior dog comfortable by taking care of its health, and by making a few adjustments to its lifestyle.
Here are some small adjustments you can make that will make your best friend's life more comfortable.
Dog bed ramps - If your senior dog battles with mobility caused by arthritis and joint pain, a non-slip ramp might be a great solution. These not only help dogs climb up onto beds and couches, but they can also help your furry friend navigate porches or stairs.
Good nutrition - If your old boy is putting on some weight, consider reaching out to a vet to get a change in diet that can accommodate the slowing metabolism. Obesity is not healthy in any living being, and can negatively impact your dog’s joints, mobility, and heart health. Foods that are made for more energetic dogs might make your pooch pack on the pounds.
A balanced, and nutritious diet can help combat joint pains, reduce inflammation, and aid in digestion.
Comfort - Comfort is an important factor to consider with a senior dog. Try not to rearrange your furniture if you have a dog that suffers from deteriorating sight, as they will be moving around by memory and any disturbances might disorient them and confuse them.
Light activity - Senior dogs may not be able to run a marathon with you, however, they still need light activity. If they’re battling with a few extra pounds, or with some age-related aches and pains, swimming regularly is an excellent idea. It’s also calming and a great way to bond with them.
For furry friends that are not too fond of swimming, short slow walks are recommended. Take it easy with them, go at their pace and rest with them when they need to. It’s the perfect time for doggy cuddles!
Love makes the world go around
More than anything, your aging pup will need affection. Even though they don’t play as much as they used to, and tend to sleep a bit more throughout the day, older dogs are still the most loyal and loving creatures, and deserve affection.
An aging dog is nothing to fear, many senior dogs live on for many years in a healthy, supportive environment. With the right love and care, your good old boy, or girl, can have the best golden years of their lives!