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When is a dog considered a senior?

Today, we'll answer some frequently asked questions about signs of aging in dogs. When is a dog considered a senior, how can you spot signs of aging, and what special care needs does your aging dog have? Our vets in Denver have the answers.

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 your dog ages, they may experience physical and mental changes. While some of these changes are a natural part of the aging process, such as developing grey hair around their muzzle, other changes may require attention from a veterinarian to help your furry friend maintain their health and comfort as much as 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 pup gets older, there are several things you can do to help them maintain their comfort and well-being.

Vet Care

Caring for your senior pup requires prioritizing regular visits to the vet. These wellness exams are essential as they help your vet screen for any developing geriatric conditions and start treatment promptly. During these visits, your veterinarian will evaluate your senior dog's nutrition levels and mobility and recommend any necessary changes to their diet or exercise routine. By doing so, you ensure your senior dog stays in optimum health.


Just like humans, dogs can experience cognitive decline as they age, which may lead to dementia or Alzheimer 's-like conditions. However, providing your dog with a proper diet that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, combined with regular exercise, can help them maintain their mental alertness.

There are also several prescription diets and supplements available for senior dogs, which are designed to cater to their specific health conditions. You should consult with your veterinarian to determine if there is a particular diet or supplement that they would recommend for your furry friend.

As dogs age, their nutritional requirements also change. Senior dogs tend to be less active, and as a result, they become more prone to weight gain. Excessive weight gain can lead to several health issues, including joint pain and cardiovascular conditions. Therefore, it is recommended that you consult with your vet to adjust your dog's daily calorie intake or to switch to a food that is specially formulated for weight loss.

Exercise - Physical & Mental

As dogs age, providing them with both physical and mental stimulation becomes important. Regular physical exercise helps them maintain a healthy weight and healthy joints.

However, engaging them in problem-solving activities such as puzzle chew toys that require them to use their minds to get a treat is also important. You can also teach them new tricks or bring home new puzzles.

If you notice your senior dog having difficulty with long walks, try taking them for more frequent shorter walks instead.

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 wellness exam? Contact our Denver vets to book an appointment today.

Vets in Denver

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