To calculate your dog’s true age in human years, there is a misconception out there that each dog year is equivalent to 7 human years. However, dogs actually age more rapidly during the first 2 years of their life. After that, the ratio goes down to 5 to 1 for small and medium breeds, 6 to 1 for large breeds, and for 7 to 1 for giant breeds. For example, a St. Bernard would be 80 years old while a Chihuahua would be about 64.
If your dog’s age is unknown, here are a few things a veterinarian checks to get a general idea of how old a dog is:
Your Dog’s Muscle Tone:
Dogs that are younger dogs tend to have more muscle definition from higher activity. Older dogs are usually bonier or are fatter from decreased activity.Your Dog’s Teeth:
Dogs will usually have their permanent set of teeth by their seventh month, so if you have a dog with clean, white teeth he is likely about a year old. Yellowing back teeth on a dog usually occurs between one and two years of age, while a minimum level of tartar build-up could mean you have a dog between 3 and 5 years of age. Missing teeth or severe wear is usually indicative of a senior dog.
Your Dog’s Coat:
A younger dog usually has a soft, fine coat, whereas an older dog tends to have thicker, coarser (and sometimes oilier) fur. A senior dog may display grays or patches of white, particularly around the snout.
Your dog’s Eyes:
Clear, bright eyes without tearing or discharge are more common in younger dogs. Cloudy or opaque eyes usually occur in an older dog.
The age at which a dog is considered elderly varies among breeds. Generally, larger canines are quicker to decline. For example, a St. Bernard could be considered “senior” at age 5, while a Chihuahua would still be youthful at that age.
Longevity and maintenance of body and organ functions in elderly dogs is best maintained by regular, portion controlled meals. Older dogs are less active and require fewer calories. Aging reduces their ability to digest and absorb nutrients, so high-quality food specifically formulated for their needs is highly recommended. Excessive amounts of protein, phosphorus, and sodium can aggravate kidney and heart problems, so most senior foods contain smaller amounts of higher-quality protein, along with reduced quantities of other elements while vitamins, zinc, fatty acids, and fibre are increased.