When Is a Dog Considered a Senior?

You may have heard of 'dog years' and it has left you wondering how old your dog is. Today our Austin vets discuss at what age a dog is considered senior, how to spot signs of aging, and the special care requirements that an aging dog may need.

At What Age Is My Dog Considered a Senior?

You've probably heard that one human year equals seven dog years—but it's not quite that simple. That's because individual dog breeds age at different rates.

In general, smaller dogs do not age as quickly as large breed dogs. Here is a general guide:

Small breeds are considered senior dogs around 10-12 years old. 

Medium breeds are considered senior dogs around 8-9 years old.

Large and giant breeds are considered senior dogs around 6-7 years old.

Signs That Your Dog is Getting Old

As your dog ages, you are likely to notice both physical and mental changes. While some of these changes are the natural progression of aging (such as grey hair around their muzzle) and do not require any specific vet care, other changes may need veterinary attention to ensure your dog maintains their comfort into their golden years.

Some signs that your dog is getting older include:

  • Weight gain or loss
  • White hairs on the muzzle and face
  • Vision and/or hearing loss
  • Sleeping more or difficulty sleeping
  • Reduction of mental acuity 
  • Gum disease or tooth loss
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Arthritis and joint issues
  • Reduced liver, kidney, and heart function

Care Requirements for Senior Dogs

As your dog ages the requirement for them to remain healthy changes. Below we list some of the areas that change in the care of aging dogs.

Vet Care

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


As your dog ages, their nutritional needs can 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. 

Besides the physical benefits of a good diet, proper nutrition may be able to help your dog maintain their cognitive function as they age. Dogs, just like humans, can suffer from dementia or Alzheimers-like conditions. Feeding your dog that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, along with providing them with proper exercise, may help them maintain mental alertness.

Exercise - Physical & Mental 

As your dog ages, they must 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 canine companion. 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. 

Along with regular physical exercise, senior dogs must receive mental stimulation too. It's never too late to teach an old dog a new trick. There are lots of options for problem-solving activities for dogs. One example is a puzzle feeder that makes your dog work to figure out how to get their kibble. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Want to make sure your dog can live out their golden years in the best health possible? Contact Northwest Austin Veterinary Center  today, to book an appointment to have your senior dog seen by one of our vets.