When Is a Dog Considered Old?

María Besteiros
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. August 23, 2022
When Is a Dog Considered Old?

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Different breeds age differently, with small dogs generally living longer than large ones. Although the standard age for senior dogs varies by breed and size, pet owners should watch for signs of aging and make the necessary adjustments to provide their pets with the best senior dog care possible. To do this, it is important to learn how to recognize the signs of aging as well as the different stages of a dog's life.

The following AnimalWised article explains how dogs age, the differences between each stage of life, and the signs you should look for to provide them with the best care possible.

You may also be interested in: 10 Signs of Old Age in Dogs


  1. When is a dog considered old?
  2. The stages of life of dogs
  3. Signs of aging in dogs
  4. Average life expectancy of dogs

When is a dog considered old?

Although it is a common belief, one year in a dog's life does not equal seven human years. So forget about doing the math to determine how old your dog is. There is no exact science to determine the age at which a dog is considered a senior dog, as the care received and especially the diet can be crucial. But although it depends on several factors, size and breed are usually a good guide.

Small dogs have a much longer lifespan than large dogs. Therefore, there is no exact age at which they grow older, but in general, an advanced age between 7 and 9 years is considered normal.

From this point on, it is recommended to offer them a special diet for this stage and to bring them to a veterinary check-up at least once a year. In addition to a general examination, it is advisable to perform a blood test and an urinalysis.

We should not only pay attention to the age of our dog, but also to the signs of aging. There are signs that indicate that the dog is losing physical or mental abilities. Disorders such as cognitive dysfunction syndrome or joint problems are associated with the aging process, but that does not mean they can not be treated, even if there is no cure. Our veterinarian can help us ensure their well-being by minimizing, through treatments, the discomfort that the disorders associated with the aging process can cause our dog.

The aging process is part of the normal progression of life. So we must find ways to deal with it naturally. However, we should not forget that we can significantly influence the quality of life of our dog by taking good care of them.

Continue reading this other article to learn more about the 10 most common signs of aging in dogs.

The stages of life of dogs

Before going into the signs that can explain how dogs age, we need to know that their lives are usually divided into different phases. As with the aging process, there are no exact dates, but there are some general and indicative signs:

  • Neonatal stage: Dogs are considered to be in the altricial phase from birth to about 2 weeks of age, which means that their nervous, motor, and sensory systems are not fully developed at birth. Their sense of sight, hearing, and ability to regulate heat are barely developed, making the pups absolutely dependent on their mother for survival. At this stage, the sense of smell plays a fundamental role in establishing the mother-infant bond.

  • Transition stage: The next phase in the dog's life cycle is the transitional phase, which occurs between the second and third weeks of life and is characterized by rapid motor and sensory maturation. In this phase, there is a very rapid change in the behavioral patterns of the puppy, which begins to exhibit behaviors more appropriate to adulthood or the mature puppy. During these weeks, the first exploratory behaviors and interactions between siblings can be observed, and play patterns emerge in the litter.

  • Juvenile stage: It is the stage that develops from the 12th week of life until sexual maturity, which occurs at different times depending on the breed. In small breeds, puberty is reached at 6-7 months, while in large and giant breeds it can be delayed up to 18 months. In general, however, puberty is considered to begin when animals reach 85% of their adult live weight.

  • Adult stage: It is the longest period in the life cycle of dogs, as it extends from sexual maturity to the beginning of the mature or older stage. Once a puppy reaches sexual maturity, it is considered mature from a physical point of view, but not from a behavioral point of view. There is still a period of about a year in which the animal develops its relationships with people, with other animals and with its environment. So we can say that within the adult stage there is a transitional phase from “sexual maturity” to full “social maturity”.

  • Mature stage: At this stage, medical problems related to the degeneration of the various organs and tissues of the animal often occur, with problems with the joints being particularly common. However, with proper care and quality veterinary care, mature dogs can continue to enjoy a good quality of life. Behavioral changes are also common during this time. Some of these are due to medical issues, as the pain or discomfort associated with certain diseases can cause increased irritability or aggression in dogs.

Continue reading this other article if you want to learn more about the different stages of a dog's life and the factors that influence them.

When Is a Dog Considered Old? - The stages of life of dogs

Signs of aging in dogs

Even if it is hard to accept, we must learn to recognize when our dog is old. Watching your dog will give you information about the stage of life they are in. Over time, they will show various signs associated with deterioration in their physical or mental performance. These are some of the most common changes that come with age.

  • Gray Hair: Just like humans, you will notice that your dog's coat starts to become white and rougher, especially around the muzzle and on the face.

  • Changes in hearing and vision: In older dogs, there is a gradual loss of hearing, which you may notice by your dog no longer responding to your commands or taking longer to hear what you are saying. In addition, many older dogs develop cataracts and other eye problems.

  • Behavior: Older dogs may be confused, change their sleeping habits, defecate in the house, hide, not respond to their name, etc. These symptoms may correspond to cognitive dysfunction syndrome, a disease similar to Alzheimer's disease in humans.

  • Digestive problems: starting in the mouth, the passage of time affects the teeth. Teeth wear down and oral problems, such as plaque, occur more frequently and teeth fall out. We may notice difficulty chewing. For this reason, some dogs require a change in diet. In general, it is recommended that all dogs eat a special menu for older dogs. These are more digestible and palatable products that contain ingredients that help prevent or alleviate the physical changes we have described. In addition, during this period, intestinal transit slows down and constipation and dehydration are more common. Both of these disorders can improve with proper nutrition, good hydration, and measures such as gentle exercise.

  • Physical activity: over the years, dogs decrease their physical activity. They spend less time exercising, walking or playing and more time resting. We may see a loss of tone and muscle mass and an increase in fat. Obesity must be controlled because it aggravates and makes susceptible to various diseases. Especially larger dogs limp or have difficulty starting due to joint problems. A good, soft and well protected bed will alleviate these ailments.

  • Lumps: age is a risk factor for the occurrence of various cancers. In addition to the annual examination that is recommended and that allows early detection of some cancers, the occasional palpation of our dog's body is the best way to find lumps that could be cancerous. If you have noticed lumps in your dog, do not wait to go to the vet.

  • Degenerative diseases: The entire body suffers the effects of aging. Therefore, it is normal to experience symptoms of diseases that affect the function of the kidneys, heart, or liver as well as joint issues as our dogs age. Therefore, it is advisable to go to the vet at the first symptoms and do not skip the annual checkups.

When a dog stops eating, it is usually not a good sign. However, it is very common for older dogs to lose their appetite. Continue reading this other article to learn why your old dog has stopped eating and what you can do.

When Is a Dog Considered Old? - Signs of aging in dogs

Average life expectancy of dogs

Unfortunately, part of the reality of having a pet is knowing that we will outlive most of them. Estimating the life expectancy of a dog is no easy task. A dog's life expectancy is influenced by a number of factors, including its size, breed, and quality of life. Each dog is unique, and therefore not all age at the same time or in the same way.

As a general rule, we can say that the life expectancy of a purebred dog is about 10-15 years, but the size of the breed plays an important role. On average, the life expectancy of dogs based on their size is as follows:

  • Small breeds (such as Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Pomeranians, and Poodles): 12-17 years.

  • Medium breeds (such as French Bulldogs, Schnauzers, Beagles, and Bull Terriers): 10-15 years.

  • Large breeds (such as Boxers, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds): 8-12 years.

  • Giant breeds (such as Great Danes, Newfoundlands, and Mastiffs): 6-11 years.

The average lifespan of a non-pedigree or mixed breed dog is 16-18 years. The genetic component favors longevity, and as there is wealth in variety, mongrel dogs are longer-lived than purebred dogs.

In addition to genetics, individual factors and the care the dog receives during its life should also be considered. Therefore, it is critical to perform regular check-ups and pay attention to any change in behavior or habits.

It is advisable to visit the vet once a year for a physical examination and blood and urine tests. This way, any health problems that need to be treated can be diagnosed as soon as possible. Performing preventive examinations leads to early detection of ailments and diseases so that we can effectively treat geriatric dogs.

Knowing that you have given your pet the best life possible helps most of us say goodbye when the time comes. Continue reading this other article to identify if your dog is dying and for tips on how to cope.

If you want to read similar articles to When Is a Dog Considered Old?, we recommend you visit our Geriatrics category.

  • Carlson and Giffin. (2002). Canine Veterinary Practice Manual . Madrid. Editorial el Drac.

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When Is a Dog Considered Old?