You still remember the first day you brought your dog home – his boundless energy, his endless curiosity, and the challenge of keeping up with him.
Today, he’s just content lying around his favorite spot in the house. You’ve noticed that he has mellowed down and lost a spring (or two) in his step.
How old is your dog?
One thing is for sure – your dog will grow old. From being a furry bundle of energy, your pup will grow mellower, reflecting his age.
But how old, exactly, is your dog?
There is no one way to determine a dog’s age. However, there are a few indicators that you can look for to know how old your dog is.
Your dog’s breed and size play a crucial role in the aging process. Broadly speaking, smaller dogs mature faster compared to larger breeds. But once smaller breeds reach the age of maturity, their aging usually tapers off. Typically, a small breed dog will enter into its senior years at around 10 to 12 years old, while a larger dog will enter its senior years at approximately five or six years old.
Generally speaking, vets consider dogs aged between seven and eight years old senior.
It is easier to determine a dog’s age if you had him since he was a puppy. However, veterinarians use a few tricks to estimate a dog’s age.
One of the simplest ways vets determine a dog’s age is to look at its teeth. Compared to adult dogs, puppies have sharp temporary teeth. Around three to four months, your puppy’s permanent teeth begin to emerge. And by his first year, his teeth will show some signs of wear and discoloration.
Entering his third year, you will notice a buildup of tartar as well as some increase in wear. Upon reaching his tenth year, dental issues like loose or missing teeth begin to emerge.
Aging dogs, like humans, also experience graying hair. You can usually spot these on his chest, muzzle, and haunches.
Entering his sixth to the eighth year, you will notice some cloudiness or discharge in your pet’s eyes. This is normal and a part of the aging process for canines.
Loss of hearing is another indicator that a dog has entered its senior years. Observe his reaction to your call or your approach.
Compared to puppies, senior dogs tend to have less muscle tone. Some older dogs can gain or lose weight, too.
A dog’s activity level usually tapers off as he grows older. That means that your canine may prefer taking naps instead of playing or going for walks.
Helping your dog age gracefully
Knowing your dog’s age is essential as this allows you to help him live comfortably during his sunset years. If he is indeed in his sunset years, here are a few things that you can do.
Watch his weight
The more weight that your dog carries, the more vulnerable he becomes to disease. Apart from that, excess weight can put additional stress on his aging hips and joints.
Before calling your pet food delivery service for an order of his favorite food, consult your vet if you need to transition your dog to pet food specially formulated for seniors.
Although an older dog may prefer to lounge around instead of going outside for a walk or play, keeping him active will help stave off unwanted pounds as well as arthritis. However, keep exercise in moderation.
Swap out his toys
A good dog deserves ample playtime. However, make sure that your pet’s toys are appropriate for his age. When buying new toys for your dog, choose ones that are softer and avoid chew toys that can be hard on his chompers.
Rearrange your home
As your canine’s mobility takes a nosedive, you have to make some necessary adjustments around your home. Perhaps, you might want to get him a new bed that will make it easier to get up from. Or maybe you can add pet steps, mattings, or ramps in areas he frequents.
Aging can be difficult for your pet. Make his life easier and comfortable as he enters his twilight years by following these tips.
Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet’s Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Orijen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.