Does your dog count as old? These are the warning signs

Bodri Melissza, 2023. June 25 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

How does a young, lively dog turn into a stolid, ageing dog? Change happens all the time and suddenly you find that your pet is not as lively as it used to be. How does a dog age, and how can you tell when it is getting on in years?


Fortunately, most dogs live to a ripe old age thanks to careful care and attention. The age at which an animal is considered to be old varies from breed to breed. Small dogs usually live from 10-12 years, medium dogs from 8-9 years and large dogs from 6-7 years. Some breeds live longer (e.g. Beagle, Yorkshire Terrier.) While others (e.g. Irish Wolfhound) may unfortunately live less. The life expectancy of an animal is influenced by its quality of life, susceptibility to disease and housing conditions. Experts have found that larger dogs can live shorter lives, while smaller dogs can live much longer. Of course, there are exceptions, and the paper form does not always prove true. However, the signs of ageing are clear in all animals.

When does a dog become old?

As there are many breeds, types and weights of dogs, it is not possible to set a specific age at which a dog is old. Rather, it is determined by whether or not the animal has lived 60 percent of its life expectancy. For a mixed breed dog, it is more difficult to predict the life expectancy, but even for breeds it is not always accurate. So always look out for the tell-tale signs, both physical and psychological. Here’s what they are.

Slowing down its movement

It can be a tell-tale sign if your dog’s movements slow down and he wants to play less. It’s also a symptom if he has trouble climbing stairs or even jumping up and down on tall things. His legs may start to drag or become weaker than usual, which may indicate joint problems. The change may be particularly noticeable if the dog has previously led an active, mobile life.

It is very important to adapt to your dog’s needs, not to overload it and to reduce the amount of exercise it gets according to its age. Also be aware that older, less active dogs can easily gain weight. It is therefore important to consult your vet about what needs to be done.

Vision and hearing deteriorate

Blurred eyes and difficulties with vision may come on gradually and you may not notice it immediately. For example, you may develop cataracts, which are a common eye condition and usually have genetic causes. High blood pressure can also cause eye problems, and cancers can lead to blindness.

Vision loss can also be associated with aggression, because the animal may feel vulnerable. It can be a tell-tale sign if it becomes disoriented, bumps into things or doesn’t maintain eye contact with you, or becomes more clingy. It is very important to take your older pet to the vet from time to time, as it is important to identify and treat problems early.

Hearing loss is also common in older dogs. The animal is less responsive to its environment and therefore more difficult to communicate with. You may not notice the change immediately because it happens gradually.

More sleep

The old dog certainly sleeps much more than when he was younger. As the years go by, your dog’s energy levels decrease, he gets tired sooner and naps more. If you find that your pet prefers to sleep rather than walk or play with you, don’t disturb his rest. It’s worth choosing a special bed for your older pet that is better for his joints.

Difficulties with urinary retention (ischuria)

Incontinence is not uncommon in older dogs. It is important to manage the situation properly and not scold the dog, as this can only lead to unnecessary stress. Signs of the condition may include wet feet, pee stains on the blanket, urine-smelling fur, excessive licking on the back of the body. If you experience any of these symptoms, take your pet to the doctor!

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