It is easy for us to estimate the age of another person as we know the signs which each period has, but with dogs it may be more difficult for many. When a dog is brought into a shelter they usually don’t have a lot of data with them so the staff has to determine this. If they can do it, then there are some signs that you can learn as well so here is our guide on how to determine a dog’s age.
Knowing a dog’s age is really important as the vaccines they require as well as the possible illnesses they are prone to are both determined by this factor. With a puppy it is really easy to know that the dog has a young age but at that time it is also important to know the exact age.
Finding out the age of a puppy should start by looking at their teeth. The baby teeth start growing somewhere between three and six weeks and the adult teeth appear between 12 and 16 weeks in the front and at 16 to 24 weeks in the back.
So now that we know how this works for puppies let us move on to adult dogs. For them there is a lot of variety due to the breed or their size and this is also something determining their life span. Chihuahuas tend to live longer and Irish Wolfhounds or other large races will have very short ones. This means that a Chihuahua can reach 18 years in age whereas a Great Dane is geriatric at seven.
The general approach is to check the mobility, teeth and loss of cognitive functions but let us look at the most important signs in more detail.
Eyes Tell The Truth
The eyes begin to change as the dog’s age progresses. The part which focuses and refracts light can become a bit cloudier and more discolored. The condition called lenticular sclerosis is something that appears somewhere between six and eight years of age. This can help us determine the age and it doesn’t cause any harm.
The problem is not to confuse this with cataracts as that is a very serious condition and the way it manifests itself is also through cloudy eyes. Breeds like Boston Terrier, French Bulldog or Staffordshire Bull Terrier are predisposed to have it event at a very young age (before two years old).
Just like us, the hair of the dogs becomes grayer as they age and this can tell you that the dog is older. Of course, the age when this process begins depends on many things. This applies to us too, some people get white hair at a young age while others have the same hair throughout their life so it varies a lot.
If you see graying on the muzzle then you are dealing with a mature dog but it isn’t much more precise than this. Some breeds like the Golden Retrievers can start graying from 4 or 5 years of age. To add to this, some other dog breeds are inherently gray in color since birth so with Whippets, Poodles or Italian Greyhounds this technique won’t work at all.
Some research made recently showed that one cause of premature graying can be the dog’s temperament so anxiety or an impulsive behavior manifested through destructiveness or hyperactivity can lead to the muzzle graying earlier.
Dogs have two sets of teeth, the same as humans. We get the first set during the first years of our life and the second one in late childhood or when we transition to adolescence but for dogs this happens in the first six months of life.
This means that if the dog still has his first teeth then he is still very young but, once they get the second set, estimating the age becomes more difficult. The rate through which the teeth change depends on very many things such as the breed, background, diet or the dental care provided and a 15-year old dog can have better teeth than a five year old.
Tartar and plaque build up on the teeth of dogs at an early age but if you see a lot combined with broken teeth then you are probably safe to assume that the dog isn’t very young. One other thing you can take into consideration is the dog’s breath as this also gets less pleasant with old age, especially when tooth disease or gum problems are present.
Young dogs are more athletic and older ones will probably get more weight. It is typical for a young dog to be fit and for a middle-aged one to be larger while in their senior years dogs tend to lose weight.
At the same time, the muscle tone will decrease during old age and the dog will be less active, sleep a lot more and their metabolism will slow down. More pain starts to appear when the dog gets older as their bones or muscles start to ache and arthritis is the main cause to blame for this.
There are cases when dogs are born with some congenial conditions that will mean the start of arthritis from a young age but they are quite rare. That being the case, it is a good idea to estimate that a dog is older if arthritis is visible.
Dogs are often really energetic and active during the first two years of life and then their activity level starts to decline. After five or six years the activity will decrease even further as they might have problems running. Some accidents might happen in the house if you have a lot of stairs and your dog can become forgetful or confused, things which lead to depression.
Now if you see a dog that is less active age might not be the only variable here. Some illnesses can hinder mobility such as hypothyroidism and this will make your middle-aged dog behave like an older dog so take that into consideration as well.