If you’re the lucky adopter of a rescue dog or stray that you found on the street, you’ve probably got a ton of questions regarding their health and general needs. More often than not, many owners find themselves peering down at their best friend and wonder how old they are. While you won’t be able to determine the exact day, month, or year, these tips will help you to get a realistic estimation of your dog’s age.
Each breed is different, and larger dogs tend to live shorter lives. Try to keep this in mind when you’re making an educated guess, and consider any medical conditions that may cause your dog’s body to age faster than normal.
Check Their Teeth
If you weren’t already aware, puppies get a set of baby teeth just like humans do! Once they reach about four weeks of age, those teeth begin to wiggle and fall out. Puppies have a full set of adult teeth by the time they’re three months old, and by the four to six-month mark, they’ll have a full set of adult teeth. They’re generally in good condition and retain a polished clean color. While they’re young, it should be easy for your dog to eat solid foods, and they’ll need a bone or chew-toy as a natural way for them to practice their own dental hygiene.
Older dogs are far more prone to having calcium tartar buildup, which looks like a yellowish cement-block. If you look closely, you might also notice some breakage and chipping in older dog’s teeth. This is why it’s so important to start getting them regular vet checkups and teeth cleanings every 6 months to a year once your senior pup has begun to visibly age.
Smaller, flat-faced breeds such as the Pug or the English Bulldogs are likely to manifest tooth and gum problems in their golden years due to the unnatural size and shape of their jaws.
Dogs Go Grey Around the Muzzle and Paws
Sometimes grey hairs are the result of cuts or nicks that may have been deeper than your typical small gash. Most of the time though, once you start to see those single white hairs popping up around your dog’s face, they’re getting older. While this is another factor that depends on your dog’s breed, most canines start to show their streaks of wisdom around 6 years of age.
It generally starts with a noticeable beard of color change in the muzzle and the toes. Then, your dog’s face will be pepper with grey hairs around the eyes and cheekbones. It happens before you know it, one moment they’ve got a face full of color and the next thing you know you’ve got a whole different pup!
Getting Wider Around the Waist
A chubby dog isn’t necessarily old, but it’s fairly common for canines to become overweight or obese as they age. They eat more and become less active like most living beings do as they get older, which is why it is essential to keep your dog on a regular feeding routine. In some cases the situation may be the opposite, if you’ve got a dog who never ate very much to begin with, they may end up eating less as they get older. As long as they’re consuming enough to maintain a healthy weight, that’s the most important thing to be concerned about.
Weight management in senior dogs is important because it keeps pressure off of the hips and back, along with reducing fat buildup around the heart and other internal organs.
They’re Moving Slower, and Getting Around is Harder
When you were a kid, you were probably able to jump up and go for a run or hop into a sports game at the drop of a dime. As you’ve gotten older your back starts to ache, you might have sprained your ankle once or twice in your life, and you just can’t seem to move as quickly as he used to. Our dogs go through these life changes as well, and as they get older you will start to notice that playtime does not last as long as it used to. Where your dog used to be able to play and run around for hours on end, they max out at 30 to 45 minutes these days.
It’s not just their stamina that is reduced though, it also becomes quite a bit more difficult to do things like get up and down a flight of stairs or jump in and out of the car. Your senior dog's joints aren’t what they used to be, so make sure that they aren’t overexerting themselves during their exercise time.
They Have Less Energy and They Sleep More
At some point or another, you’ve probably asked yourself, “why does my dog sleep so much?” The simple answer is that with extra weight, a slower metabolism, and worn down joints, your dog is just tired. The average senior dog has about as much energy as your elderly grandparents; they might be up for a short walk around the block but they’re not interested in any mile-long hikes.
Let them get their rest, they’ve earned it. If at all possible, start providing your senior dog with daily multivitamins and supplements to keep them healthy in their old age.
Getting old is tough, so be as understanding as you can, and don’t get angry if your senior pup has an accident or isn’t as quick as they used to be. You’ll be there too, someday!