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When is a dog considered a senior?

When is a dog considered a senior?

How can dog parents tell if their furry friend is aging, and what special care do they require? Additionally, at what age is a dog classified as a senior? Our veterinarians in San Mateo have provided the answers to these questions in this blog.

How old is a senior dog?

You may have heard that one human year is equal to seven dog years, but determining a dog's age is not that straightforward. Various dog breeds age differently from one another.

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 grows older, you may observe changes in their physical and mental health. While some of these changes, like greying hair around their muzzle, are a natural part of aging and do not require veterinary intervention, others may need medical attention to ensure your dog's well-being and comfort.

Keep an eye out for these warning signs that indicate your furry friend is aging:

  • 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 furry friend ages, there are a few actions you can take to ensure their continued comfort and overall health.

Vet Care

The first step to caring for a senior pup is to prioritize regular vet visits. By taking your senior dog for routine wellness exams, you're allowing your vet to screen for any emerging geriatric conditions and begin treatment as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will assess your senior dog's nutrition levels and mobility and provide recommendations for any adjustments that would benefit your dog, such as exercise or diet changes.


Maintaining proper nutrition for your dog can benefit not only their physical health but also their cognitive function as they age. Similar to humans, dogs can experience dementia or Alzheimer's-like conditions.

Providing your dog with a diet that is high in omega-3 fatty acids and regular exercise can help them maintain mental alertness. Additionally, there are prescription diets and supplements available for senior dogs that target various health conditions.

Consult with your veterinarian to see if they recommend a specific diet or supplement for your furry friend. As your dog ages, their nutrition needs will change. Senior dogs may slow down and exercise less, making them more prone to weight gain.

Excessive weight gain can lead to joint pain or cardiovascular problems. It is important to speak with your vet about adjusting your dog's daily calorie intake or switching to a food specifically formulated for weight loss.

Exercise - Physical & Mental

In addition to physical exercise, it's crucial to provide mental stimulation for senior dogs. It's never too late to teach your furry friend a new trick or introduce them to a puzzle game. There are numerous options available, including puzzle chew toys that encourage dogs to use their cognitive abilities to earn a reward.

As your dog gets older, they must stay active with a consistent physical activity schedule. This helps maintain their weight and keeps their joints in good shape. However, you may need to modify the types of exercise you provide for your pup. If you notice that your dog is struggling with long walks they used to enjoy, try breaking up the walks into shorter, more frequent ones.

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 San Mateo vets to book an appointment today.

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At South Hillsdale Animal Hospital, our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Mateo companion animals. Get in touch today to learn more about our services and becoming a new client with us.

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