When is a Dog Considered a Senior? Charts + Vet Q&A

That famous one-to-seven ratio is a myth but around 7 years of age, dogs will require some lifestyle and nutritional adjustments to maintain a longer and healthier life. 

Some dogs don’t even show signs of aging at 14, and others seem to slow down at age 9. 

It is an individual process. The proof is the oldest dog in the world – Bobi. 

the oldest dog in the world – Bobi

Bobi’s story gives hope to all of us dreaming of lifelong companionship with our furry babies. 

So let’s talk about dog aging, senior years, signs of aging, and tips on how to increase lifespan in dogs. 

When is a Dog Considered a Senior?

Dog size Senior age Geriatric
small (up to 20 pounds)10-1616+
medium (up to 50 pounds)8-13 13+
large (up to 100 pounds)6-1212+
giant (100+ pounds)6-99+
dog size to aging chart

These are general guidelines for dogs’ age, however, size is not the only factor in determining when a dog is considered a senior. 

A dog’s overall health and lifestyle play a role in how quickly they age. Dogs that are kept active and healthy will age more slowly than those that are not. Certain medical conditions can cause a dog to age faster than normal.

In general, most dogs will become seniors somewhere in the seven to ten-year range. This means that large breed dogs, such as Great Danes, will start hitting senior status at seven. 

Medium-breed dogs will reach this stage at around nine years, and small-breed dogs at around eleven years. 

How old is my dog in human years?

Pet Med published guidance on how to more accurately calculate dog years in human years.

The table can help pet owners better understand the aging process in dogs for nutritional and health orientation.

Gog size smallmedium largegiant
Dog age                                                   human years 
dog years in human years chart

Dog Aging Project Organization is conducting studies with the goal to increase lifespan and better understand influences on dog aging. One of the studies includes the correlation between body size and aging in dogs.

It is still not fully understood why larger dogs are more prone to health issues and shorter life spans. 

However, study shows that inbreeding reduces lifespans in dogs. 

The bond between dogs and humans was always strong, so people were always looking for a deeper meaning in their short lives. 

dog qoutes

What Are the Signs of Aging in Dogs?

Some of the common signs are:

  • gray hair on the muzzle 
  • loss of muscle mass 
  • slower reflexes
  • need for more frequent naps 
  • hearing and vision decrease 

Signs of aging will vary from dog to dog based on their individual genetics and lifestyle. Some dogs still remain active and lively at an older age despite changes in their metabolism.

Other signs of aging in dogs include:

  • changes in behavior, such as increased anxiety or confusion. 
  • dogs may also become less tolerant of loud noises or changes in their environment. 
  • older dogs may become less interested in playing or going for walks.

How to Prepare for a Senior Dog’s Needs

A few tweaks to your daily routine will make your dog more comfortable but behavioral observation should be your general guide to knowing when and what to do, change or evaluate. 

Changes to consider are:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Nutritional changes 
  • Physical activity changes
  • Bedding changes
  • Behavior monitoring
  • Veterinary check-ups

Lifestyle changes

Senior dogs may be unable to jump on couches, climb the stars or run as fast.
Small adjustments can have a significant impact on your dog’s confidence and independence.

Changes will include food and water accessibility, shorter but more frequent walks, helping them in and out of the car, etc. 

Temperature regulation 

Senior dogs may become more sensitive to extreme temperatures. Provide a comfortable and well-insulated living environment. During hot weather, ensure access to shade and fresh water, and during cold weather, consider using dog coats and clothes.

Nutritional changes

A senior dog’s diet should also be adjusted to ensure they get the proper nutrition to slow the aging process and take into account any special medical conditions they may have.

Our Senior dog nutrition guide covers nutrients, tips, and human foods you can include in your dog foods.

Senior dogs require less fat, more fiber, and supportive nutritional care based on their overall health. This is the reason why dog food brands have marketing on the bags:

You can also see ages specified (ex: 7+, 11+)

This makes it easy for dog owners to choose dog food for their specific life cycle. 

We created lists and covered the most requested topics for senior dog foods and supplementation. 

Physical activity changes

Walks, playtime, and even agility courses are equally important in senior dogs as young. However, some modifications in duration and difficulty might be needed. 

My 14-year-old golden retriever was only experiencing a slower pace, however, all the activities she enjoyed as a puppy were still our go-to.

So aging in dogs shouldn’t discourage you to enjoy an active life. Activity helps prevent neurological issues, gastrointestinal issues, and mobility issues. 

Regular exercise changes

Although older dogs may not be as active as when they were younger, it’s still important to provide regular exercise suitable for their age and health condition. 

Low-impact activities such as short walks, gentle play sessions, or swimming can help maintain muscle tone, joint mobility, and mental stimulation.

Bedding changes

Bedding plays a role in temperature and pain management. 

Senior dog beds should be easily accessible, soft, and even heated for dogs that have mobility issues. 

Beds should also include beddings that don’t retain moisture to avoid skin infections. 

Behavior monitoring

You should know that dogs are great at hiding pain and illness. Changed behavior is usually the first symptom you need to note. 

Look for signs of discomfort, confusion, anxiety, or changes in activity levels, and consult with your veterinarian if you notice any concerning behavioral changes.

Veterinary check-ups 

Regular visits to the veterinarian become even more crucial during a dog’s senior years. 

Schedule routine check-ups every 6 months to monitor your dog’s overall health, detect any age-related issues or medical conditions early on, and discuss appropriate preventive care, such as vaccinations, dental cleanings, and parasite control.

A topic that is not as covered enough but it is very important is comfort and trust in veterinary care. 

Speaking from experience, you need to feel comfortable asking your vet about issues, bits of advice, and support. 

If you feel like you are rushed, ignored, or misunderstood please look for veterinary clinics with better support. 

You should never feel helpless when it comes to your dog’s health. 

Benefits of Having a Senior Dog in the Home

Senior dogs are also known to be more loyal and loving than younger dogs. They are often more content to just be around their owners, and they can provide a great source of companionship. 

They are also less likely to be destructive, as they are less likely to chew on furniture or other items in the home.

Senior dogs are often already trained and have learned basic commands. This can make them easier to manage and can help to reduce the amount of time and effort needed to train them. They are also less likely to bark excessively, making them ideal for those who live in apartments or other close quarters.

dog quotes

What to Expect When Owning an Older Dog

Owners of older dogs should expect an increase in medical visits and bills, as well as changes such as cognitive decline and other age-related issues such as joint stiffness or arthritis. 

They may also experience an increase in size due to fat accumulation and loose skin as muscle mass decreases. As with any other pet, owning an older dog brings love and companionship in addition to some extra responsibilities.

It is also important to remember that older dogs may need more attention and care than younger dogs. They may need more frequent potty breaks and may need help getting up and down stairs or into the car. With patience and understanding, you can provide your older dog with a comfortable and happy life.

The best way to keep a senior dog healthy and happy is to provide them with proper care, nutrition, and exercise. 

Vet Q&A

Q: My dog is slowing down on walks, is that normal? 

A:  It is perfectly normal for healthy senior dogs to slow down. You can take more frequent but shorter walks and include swimming or other activities to keep your dog active. 

Q: Is it OK to not walk my dog every day?

A: Activity is important as long as your dog is looking forward to it. If you, in any way, don’t feel like it is good to walk your dog every day it is still a good idea to spend time outdoors.
If you are concerned about it please speak with your vet.