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In this AnimalWised article we address a particularly sensitive topic. It's about the aging of dogs. Unfortunately, we know that they age and pass away before us and much sooner than we would like. We prefer to avoid thinking about how do dogs age, but doing so will allow us to offer them the best quality of life for this stage. In addition, good care and early detection of pathologies help to increase their life expectancy..You may also be interested in: 10 signs of old age in the Index dog
- When is a dog considered elderly?
- The life stages of dogs
- Symptoms of aging in dogs
- Average life expectancy of dogs
When is a dog considered elderly?
Although it is a widely held belief, one year in a dog's life is not equal to seven human years. Therefore, forget about doing the calculation to determine the aging of your dog. Canine growth is not the same for all dogs. The size and breed of each specimen have influence in the different stages of his life. For this reason, it is not possible to give an exact date when a dog must immediately be considered elderly. Thus, small dogs usually take longer to age. We might not call them old until about 10 years of age. In contrast, large and giant dogs unfortunately age very soon. These specimens with about seven years are already considered of advanced age.
Taking these data into account, on average we speak of senior dogs from the 7-9 years of life. From that moment on it is recommended to offer them a specific diet for this stage and take them for a veterinary check-up at least once a year. It is advisable, in addition to a general examination, to perform a blood test and a urine test..
In conclusion, rather than looking at the age of our dog, we must pay attention to the signs of aging. There are signs that indicate that the dog is losing physical or mental capacity. Disorders such as cognitive dysfunction syndrome or joint problems are associated with the aging process, but that does not mean that, although without a cure, they cannot be treated. Anticipating allows us to improve and even increase the life expectancy of our dog.
Although their years of life will never seem enough, keep in mind that for them a year is a long time and that, rather than appreciating quantity, they will prioritize quality. Therefore, rather than when, focus on how dogs age to meet all their needs..
The life stages of dogs
Before going on to detail the signs that can explain how dogs age, you have to know that their life is usually divided into different stages. As with the aging process, no specific dates are given, but some general and indicative indications are:
- Infant: includes from birth to weaning. We usually promote it around two months of age, but breastfeeding could last a few more months if there are no impediments. The name is due to the fact that the fundamental food is breast milk. In this other article we talk about at what age puppies are usually separated from their mother.
- PuppyAlthough there are variations depending on the size of the dog, this stage goes from approximately two months, when the puppy begins to feed on solids, until one year. Small dogs will mature earlier, while larger ones are considered puppies until 18 and even 24 months..
- Adult: in general, dogs are adults from one year to 7-8. Again, there are differences in sizes. Thus, this period in smaller dogs will last a few more years.
- Senior: this stage begins at approximately seven years of age, again with differences according to the races. In the next section we explain its characteristics.
Symptoms of aging in dogs
Whether you are seven or 10 years old, observing your dog is what allows you to obtain information about the life stage in which it is. Over time, he will present different signs compatible with the deterioration of his physical or mental capacity. Of course, they will not all appear at the same time or from one day to the next. This is how dogs age:
- White hair: Like people, dogs can have gray hair, especially around the muzzle and on the face. In some specimens these appear with a few years of life, so it is not a criterion that can be used alone to calculate the age of a dog.
- Eyes: over the years there is an ocular degeneration that is called nuclear sclerosis. The eyes appear to be covered by a thin bluish film. It does not interfere with normal vision. Cataracts, which look like a milky film and are more common in older dogs, do make vision difficult. Other senses, such as hearing or smell, are also impaired with age. Loss of smell can cause the dog to lose interest in food.
- BehaviourOlder dogs may be confused, change their sleep patterns, evacuate at home, hide, not respond to their name, etc. These symptoms may correspond to the cognitive dysfunction syndrome, a disorder similar to Alzheimer's in humans.
- Digestive system: Starting in the mouth, the passage of time affects the teeth. Teeth wear out and it is also more common for oral problems, such as plaque, and teeth to fall out. We may notice difficulties in chewing. For this reason, some specimens will need a change in diet and, in general, it is recommended that all of them go on to consume a specific menu for older dogs. They are more digestible and palatable products that contain ingredients that help prevent or alleviate these physical changes that we are discussing. In addition, at this time the intestinal transit slows down and the constipation and the dehydration. Both disorders can improve with a proper diet, a good intake of fluids, and measures such as gentle exercise.
- Physical activity: over the years dogs reduce their physical activity. They spend less time exercising, walking or playing and more time resting. We can notice loss of tone and muscle mass and fat gain. Obesity must be controlled because it aggravates and predisposes to suffer from different diseases. Larger dogs especially will limp or have a hard time starting due to joint problems. A good, soft and well-sheltered bed will mitigate these discomforts..
- Lumps: age is a risk factor for the appearance of different types of cancer. In addition to the annual review that is recommended and that will allow the early detection of some of them, palpating the body of our dog from time to time is the best way to locate lumps that could be carcinogenic. If this is your case, don't wait to go to the vet. In general, the propensity to get sick increases because the immune system also ages and becomes less effective.
- Degenerative diseases: the whole body suffers the effects of aging. Thus, it is more normal that with age symptoms of pathologies that affect the functioning of the kidneys, heart or liver appear, in addition to joint problems. That is why it is recommended to go to the vet at the first symptom and not skip the annual check-ups..
Average life expectancy of dogs
As dogs age, we unfortunately know how the process will end. As in the rest of the life stages, we cannot give a single figure as life expectancy. Of course, it will be higher in smaller dogs and smaller in larger ones. If our dog is a purebred, we can look for information about its life expectancy. Typically, a more likely age can be identified in these dogs. On the other hand, in mestizos, crosses of different races, it is difficult to give a life expectancy.
In general, as a guideline, in the bigger dogs we can talk about some 10-12 years. Those of medium size would be among the 14-15, while those of small size could meet 17-18. Of course, in addition to genetics, individual factors and the care that the dog receives throughout its life must be taken into account. Therefore, we recommend you consult these other articles:
- Puppy dog care
- Caring for elderly dogs
In addition, below we leave an image gallery with the photographs taken by Amanda Jones, who dedicated 20 years of his career to this beautiful project that shows several dogs in different stages of their life.