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When is a Dog Considered a Senior?

How can dog owners spot signs of aging in their pets? When is a dog considered a senior? Our Jackson veterinarians address these questions and more in today's blog post.

How old is a senior dog?

You're likely familiar with the notion that one human year is equivalent to seven dog years. However, estimating a dog's age is not quite that simple. Specific dog breeds age at a different pace. 

Generally, smaller dogs will not age as quickly as large-breed dogs. This is a general guide:

Small breeds are considered senior dogs when they turn 10 to 12 years old. 

Medium breeds are considered senior dogs when they hit 8 to 9 years old. 

Large and giant breeds are considered senior dogs at around 6 to 7 years old. 

Signs That Your Dog is Getting Old

As dogs age, they undergo both physical and mental changes. Some of these changes are natural and won't require any specific veterinary care, such as graying around their muzzle.

However, other changes may need attention from a vet to help your furry friend maintain their health and comfort as much as possible.

Therefore, it's important to keep an eye out for these signs that indicate your dog is getting older:

  • Gum disease or tooth loss 
  • Arthritis or joint issues
  • Reduced heart, kidney, and liver function
  • White hairs on the face and muzzle 
  • Vision and/or hearing loss 
  • Weight gain or loss 
  • Reduction of mental acuity
  • Sleeping or more difficulty sleeping 
  • Loss of muscle tone 

Your Senior Dog's Care Requirements 

As your puppy ages, there are many things you can do to ensure their comfort and well-being.

Vet Care

The first step in caring for a senior dog is to prioritize regular vet visits. By taking your senior dog for routine wellness exams, you're allowing your vet to screen for any emerging geriatric conditions and begin treatment as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will assess your senior dog's nutrition levels and mobility and provide recommendations for any adjustments that would benefit your dog, such as exercise or diet changes.


As dogs age, they may experience cognitive decline, similar to humans who have dementia or Alzheimer's disease. However, proper nutrition can help maintain their cognitive function. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, coupled with adequate exercise, might help your dog stay mentally alert. Additionally, various prescription diets and supplements are available for senior dogs that address their specific health issues. To determine if a particular diet or supplement is suitable for your dog, consult with your vet.

As senior dogs become less active, their nutritional requirements will change. They may become more susceptible to weight gain, which can lead to other health problems like joint pain and cardiovascular conditions. To prevent this, it is recommended to adjust your dog's daily calorie intake or switch to a food that is specifically formulated for weight loss. Consult your vet for the best action for your pet's health.

Exercise - Physical & Mental

As dogs age, providing them with both physical and mental stimulation is crucial. Regular exercise can help your senior dog maintain a healthy weight and strong joints. However, you may need to modify their physical activity to cater to their needs.

If you notice your dog struggling with long walks, try breaking them into shorter, more frequent walks. In addition to physical activity, mental stimulation is also important.

To keep your dog's mind active, introduce new problem-solving activities such as puzzle chew toys that require thinking in order to get a treat. Teaching your dog new tricks is also a great way to challenge its brain and provide mental stimulation.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Is it time for your senior dog's or cat's wellness exam? Contact our Jackson vets to book an appointment today.

New Patients Welcome

North Madison Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of all companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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