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Signs of Aging in Dogs

It’s common knowledge that aging in dogs happens at a much faster rate than humans. But you might be wondering when is a dog a senior? Dogs are usually considered a senior when the dog is between the age of 7 and 10 years old, however not all dogs age at the same rate. Bigger breeds (such as a St. Bernard) age faster than smaller breeds (such as a Chihuahua).

Check out our infograph to determine your dog’s age in human years. A dog’s biological clock really depends on his genetics, diet, state of health, and overall stress. Although aging is inevitable, you can slow down the progression of senior dog health problems. 

Signs of Aging in Dogs

VISIBLE SIGNS OF AGING IN DOGS

There are some visible signs of aging in dogs that you might notice, including: graying of the coat (especially the muzzle), thinner fur, cloudiness in the eyes, weight gain, change in their gait, visible decay on the teeth, lumps and bumps, and less muscle tone.

HEALTH SIGNS ASSOCIATED WITH THE AGING DOG

Obesity. Older dogs are more prone to obesity than other groups of dogs. This is often due to the fact that their appetite remains the same, but their ability to exercise declines. Senior dogs often develop joint conditions which causes pain, and the outcome of pain is often an unwillingness to walk, run or play. 

Teeth/Gums. As dogs get older, the constant use of their teeth will catch up with them. You will start noticing plaque accumulation, bleeding on the gums, and even teeth loss as they age. Having a preventive approach to dental care (by brushing their teeth and giving them dental chews) can help keep these problems at bay. 

Muscle and Strength. As your dog exercises and moves around less, muscle loss and accompanying weakness will follow. You should try to encourage your dog to go on walks, even if they are shorter, and manage their weight. For more information on how to strengthen a senior dog's skeleton, check out our blog Tips to Cope with Senior Dog Hind Leg Weakness.

Eyes. Just like with people, dogs can experience vision loss and cataracts as they age. Many of these conditions can be addressed with early treatment. 

Incontinence. You may start to see that your dog is having more accidents as they age. It is important not to get angry with your dog when this happens, as bladder control can be difficult for the older dog. If possible, make sure to install a doggy door or give your dog frequent bathroom breaks. It will also be important to make sure that your veterinarian checks to make your dog does not have any kind of urinary tract infection or kidney dysfunction. 

Bone and Joint Conditions. The most common health conditions associated with older dogs is osteoarthritis and the progression of dysplasia. You may see your dogs back legs collapse after too much activity, see that they are walking more stiffly, or see that they tend to sit and rest more often than before. 

AGING DOG’S BEHAVIOR 

Dog behavior changes with age, this is another sign to determine if your dog has become a senior. Senior dogs tend to be less active, less energetic, and less interested in what’s going on around them. Sleeping a lot and forgetfulness are also common symptoms of old age in dogs.

Anxiety is common in the senior dog, especially around other younger dogs. When a dog is already feeling weaker or less able, their food may be threatened by the other dogs. Provide your dog with a safe environment to eat and make sure that rough-housing between dogs is kept to a minimum. 

Many of these behavioral changes are the result from physical conditions (loss of hearing and smell, joint stiffness, and muscular weakness). The pain from arthritis or any other joint pain can also cause aggression in dogs when faced with human contact or other dogs.

One way to make your senior dog feel more comfortable is to pay attention to him and make him feel loved. It’s also beneficial if you engage him in family activity (such as putting his bed in the center of the living room), or taking him for short walks throughout the day.