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When is a dog considered a senior?

At what age is a dog considered a senior? How can an attentive dog parent spot signs of aging, and what special care needs does your aging dog have? Our Statesboro vets answer these questions in today's post. 

How old is a senior dog?

The concept that one year in a dog's life is equivalent to seven years in a human's life is probably not new to you. Estimating the age of a dog is not quite as straightforward as one might think. Certain dog breeds tend to mature at a more rapid rate than others do when compared to their peers. 

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

Your dog will start to experience mental and physical shifts as they get older. These changes are a natural part of aging. Some of these changes are the result of the natural aging process, such as the appearance of gray hair around their muzzle, and they won't require any special veterinary care. However, your veterinarian may need to pay attention to other changes in order to assist your dog in maintaining their health and comfort to the greatest extent possible. 

Watch for these signs that 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 dog gets older, there are a number of things you can do to ensure that they continue to enjoy a high level of comfort and overall health.

Vet Care

The first step to caring for a senior pup 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.


A healthy diet not only has positive effects on your dog's physical health, but it also has the potential to help him or her keep their mental faculties intact as they get older. Dogs, just like humans, are able to develop dementia or conditions that are similar to Alzheimer's disease. It is possible that if you feed your dog food that is high in omega-3 fatty acids and give them the appropriate amount of exercise, you can help them keep their mental alertness.

There is also a wide selection of prescription diets and supplements that can be purchased for senior dogs. These diets and supplements are designed to treat specific health conditions that are common in senior dogs. Talk to your veterinarian to find out if they have any specific dietary or nutritional recommendations for your canine companion.

The nutritional requirements of an older dog are likely to shift over time. Older dogs tend to become less active, which contributes to their increased risk of developing obesity. Gaining too much weight can lead to a variety of additional health problems, such as joint pain and conditions that affect the heart. Talk to your veterinarian about reducing the number of calories that your dog consumes on a daily basis or switching to a food that is designed to aid in weight loss specifically.

Exercise - Physical & Mental

It is essential for senior dogs to have some form of mental stimulation in addition to the regular physical activity that they get. You can always teach your dog a new trick or bring home a new puzzle; it's never too late to do either. You can choose from a wide variety of options for activities that involve problem-solving for dogs, such as a puzzle chew toy, which will motivate your dog to engage in mental activity in order to earn a reward.

It is critical that you maintain a consistent routine of physical activity for your dog as they get older because it is important for their health. The benefits of regular exercise for dogs include helping them to keep a healthy weight and maintaining healthy joints. However, you might need to alter the types of physical activity that you are currently providing for your canine companion. For instance, if you find that your dog is struggling to keep up with the lengthy walks that they once adored, you might want to try taking your dog on walks that are both more frequent and shorter in duration.

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 for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

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

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Statesboro Bulloch Regional Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Statesboro companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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