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When is a Dog Considered a Senior?
Dogs are our best friends and precious members of the family. They make us laugh and listen to us when no one else will. They snuggle up with us on cold winter nights and take walks with us on warm summer nights. So it’s important that we take the very best care of them. Young dogs and senior dogs need different things when it comes to exercise and nutrition. But when is a dog considered a senior exactly and how can we help them continue to live a happy and healthy life?
In this blog post we’ll look at what age constitutes senior in the varying breeds and sizes of dog. We’ll also share some signs to look for that may suggest your pup is developing some senior health issues and what you can do to help.
When are Dogs Considered Senior Dogs?
All dog breeds have some things in common: They love to be around their humans, think rolling in gross stuff is really fun, and would rather eat cheese than just about anything else. But beyond that, different breeds and sizes of dogs are very unique when it comes to health, aging and overall lifespan.
For most dog breeds, they will be considered puppies until they reach 6 months to 1 year of age. At this point they officially become adult dogs and their “adulthood” will last until they reach roughly 6 or 7 years of age. At this stage many medium breeds such as Boxers and Cattle Dogs will begin to show signs of old age.
Some small dog breeds, however, will reach the age of 10 or 12 before they begin to show significant signs of aging while larger breeds will show signs much earlier.
In order to accurately answer “When is a dog considered senior?” we’ve got to dig a little deeper and look at the specific sizes and breeds of dogs.
Small dog breeds are those that typically weigh smaller than 20 pounds. These breeds can include Chihuahuas, Bichon Frises, Shih Tzus, and Yorkshire Terriers, to name a few. These pups are interesting because they reach their adult age much faster than larger breeds, usually becoming full grown by 6 to 8 months of age. After that though, they age far slower than large breeds and they tend to have a much longer lifespan. Some small breeds easily live to 16 or 18 years of age and may not be considered a “senior” until age 12.
There are, however, always exceptions to the rule. Some small breeds, such as Cavalier King Spaniels, have shorter lifespans and are considered senior at 8 years old, which is about average for most breeds.
Large breeds like German Shepherds or Golden Retrievers enter their senior years sooner than their smaller counterparts and because of this, tend to have shorter lifespans. For instance, the typical lifespan of a Labrador is roughly 12, so this breed would be considered a senior at around the age of 8.
Then we have the giant breeds like the Great Dane and Bernese Mountain Dog that have, sadly, significantly shorter lifespans. Both of these breeds have a lifespan of only 6 to 8 years, and so would be considered senior at around 4 to 5.
If you need any more clarification of your dog’s lifespan and when they should be considered a senior, it’s a good idea to speak to your vet.
Signs Your Dog is Aging
It’s not always easy to determine the life expectancy of a dog or when they will officially enter their golden years. To start, mixed breed dogs don’t always follow the typical health and aging patterns of purebred dogs. In addition, when you adopt a rescue dog who began life on the street, it’s not always easy to determine their exact age.
In these instances it’s important to pay close attention to them to see if you notice any visible signs of aging:
Do you notice your dog is having trouble getting up? Are her joints stiff and painful? Do they have trouble on walks or perhaps refuse to go on walks any longer? When our pups begin to slow down and show signs of arthritis, it’s a clear indicator they are a senior dog.
Picky Eating and Weight Loss
It’s hard to believe that the dog who, for YEARS, sat inches from us drooling every time we ate literally anything could one day lose their food drive. It’s actually quite sad to see our pups begin to show less interest in food. Some dogs may then also lose weight while losing muscle mass, making them suddenly appear very frail and bony.
If your dog is becoming more finicky about his food or has lost interest in food in general, be sure to get him checked out as his slack of appetite and weight loss could be due to an underlying health condition such as cancer or kidney disease.
Just like humans can experience a decline in our mental faculties as we age, our pups can, too. You might notice that your dog seems disoriented by his surroundings from time to time or doesn’t seem to recognize a friend or neighbor who drops by. You may also notice his sleeping patterns change. Many senior dogs are up during the night wandering around, seemingly confused.
Drinking and Urination
Many senior dogs begin drinking more water, and this is usually indicative of an underlying health issue that is developing. Kidney disease and Cushing’s disease are two conditions seen often in older dogs that cause them to drink excessively. This can, in turn, cause your dog to pee more often.
Some older dogs do not necessarily drink more but they begin to experience incontinence, just like people. And yes, just like people, you can try and get your pup to wear a diaper to keep his bed and your house clean.
Lumps and Bumps
As they age, many dogs will develop lumps and bumps on their body. Not all are cause for concern and not all will be cancerous. But it’s important to check your dog often for any new lump or bump.
Caring for Senior Dogs
When it comes to how we care for our older pups, one of the biggest changes is how often we take them to see the vet. During their adult years, between the ages of 1 and 7(ish), one yearly exam is just fine.
It is recommended that senior dogs see the vet twice a year for complete blood work, urine analysis and a full physical examination. Yearly visits are no longer advised because many health issues can progress quickly in a matter of only a few months.
You’ll also want to work closely with your vet to ensure your senior dog is getting the proper nutrition. Different health conditions require different dietary needs and your pup may need to be placed on a special prescription food.
If your pup has arthritis, speak with your vet about appropriate exercise. Just because your dog is a senior does not mean he shouldn’t be active. Far from it. Exercise is how humans and our pups stay healthy and strong.
Pet Insurance for Senior Dogs
Is it worth it to get an insurance plan for a senior dog? Is it even possible if your dog has gotten up there in age?
Yes and yes.
The ideal situation is to enroll your dog into an insurance plan when they are very young and healthy. This is because insurance providers don’t cover pre-existing conditions. The older a dog gets, the more apt he is to develop a health condition that then won’t be covered.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother enrolling your senior dog. Even if he has a condition that isn’t covered, your policy will cover accidents and other diseases that could develop. And you’ll have peace of mind knowing you can pay for the very best care of your very best friend.
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- https://northernpikevets.com/senior-dog/ “At what age is my dog considered a senior?”
- https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/physical-mental-signs-dog-aging/ “Physical and mental signs that your dog is aging.”