Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

When is a dog considered a senior?

At what age is a dog considered a senior? How can an attentive dog parent spot signs of aging, and what special care needs does your aging dog have? Our Southgate vets answer these questions in today's post. 

How old is a senior dog?

You're likely familiar with the idea that one human year is equal to about seven dog years. However, estimating the age of a dog is not quite that simple. Specific dog breeds age at a different pace compared to others. 

But speaking generally, smaller dogs will not age as quickly as large breed dogs. As a general rule of thumb:

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 they age, your dog will begin to undergo both mental and physical changes. While some of these changes  happen because the natural aging process (such as grey hair around their muzzle) and won't need any specific veterinary care, other changes may need your vet's attention. This can help your pooch maintain their health and comfort as much as possible going into old age. 

Watch for these signs that your dog is getting older:

  • 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 

There are several things you can do to help your pup maintain their comfort and well-being as they get older.

Vet Care

The first step to caring for a senior dog 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 vet will also assess your senior dog's nutrition and mobility and provide recommendations for any adjustments that would benefit your dog, such as exercise or diet changes.


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

There is also a range of prescription diets and supplements available for senior dogs that are targeted to the various health conditions that they experience. 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

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. For example, if you notice your dog is having difficulty with the long walks they once loved, try taking your dog for more frequent, but shorter, walks.

Along with regular physical exercise, it is important that senior dogs also receive some sort of mental stimulation. It's never too late to teach them a new trick or bring home a new puzzle. There are lots of options for problem-solving activities for dogs—puzzle chew toys are some of the first that come to mind—that will encourage your dog to exercise their mind in order to get a treat.

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.

Is it time for your senior dog's wellness exam? Contact our Southgate vets to book an appointment today.

New Patients Welcome

Southgate Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Southgate companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

(734) 284-9122 Contact