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When Is a Dog Considered a Senior?

When Is a Dog Considered a Senior?

At what age is a dog considered a senior? Dog owners may want to know what signs to watch out for as their pups enter their golden years so their care and routine can be adjusted accordingly. Here, our Santa Clarita vets share when your dog is considered senior and how to keep your elderly pup happy and healthy.

How old is a senior dog?

Most people have heard the old idiom, "1 human year is equivalent to 7 dog years." However, estimating the age of a dog this way is not entirely accurate. There are important factors which influence a dogs proportionate age to human years, such as breed, size, and genetic makeup. 

The general guide to follow is:

Small breeds are considered senior dogs at 10 to 12 years old. 

Medium breeds are considered senior dogs at 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

Like humans, dogs will undergo physical and mental changes as they age. Some changes are natural and expected, such as greying fur or the slight decline of stamina, but others may require veterinary attention. As an owner, you might want to know how to differentiate these signs.

If you notice any of the following signs in your senior pooch, contact your vet for assistance:

  • 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 

Vet Care

The first step to caring for a senior pup is to prioritize regular vet visits.

You should take your senior dog for routine wellness exams in order to minimize risk of a developing health issue flying under the radar. Your veterinarian will assess your senior dog's nutrition levels and mobility, making any appropriate recommendations to change their diet or lifestyle in order to accommodate their changing health as a result of their age.


Speaking of diet, proper nutrition can play an important role in your dog's cognitive function as they age. Just like humans, canines can suffer from dementia other conditions which affect the mind. You can help your pooch maintain mental alertness with foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids and regular exercise. Consult your vet for the best diet to keep your aging pup sharp.

There is also a range of prescription diets and supplements available for senior dogs in order to target typical geriatric health conditions. Speak with your vet to see if they recommend a specific diet or supplement for your pup.

As your dog ages, their nutrition needs will likely change. As senior dogs slow down and exercise less, they become more prone to weight gain. Excess weight gain can cause other health issues, including joint pain and cardiovascular conditions. Speak to your vet about adjusting your dog's daily calorie intake or switching to a food that is specifically formulated for weight loss.

Exercise - Physical & Mental

Same with physical exercise, your senior dog requires mental stimulation. It's never too late to teach your pup a new trick or bring home a new puzzle for them to try. There are lots of options for problem-solving activities for dogs such as a puzzle chew toy that will encourage your dog to exercise their mind in order to get a treat.

As your dog ages, it is important that they keep up with a regular schedule of physical activity. Regular exercise helps dogs maintain a healthy weight and keeps their joints healthy. However, you may have to adjust the forms of exercise you are providing for your pup. For example, if you notice your dog is having difficulty with the long walks they once loved, try taking your dog for more frequent walks that are 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.

Contact our Santa Clarita vets for a wellness exam on your senior pup today!

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Sweetwater Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients! Our friendly and experienced vets are passionate about the health of Santa Clarita companion animals and horses. Get in touch today to book your four-legged friend's first appointment.

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