Unfortunately, this dream is a long way removed from reality. While we can expect to live into our late 70s or potentially much longer, most dogs are lucky to make it to their 15th birthday. Author Agnes Sligh Turnbull put it best when she wrote, "Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really."
So, just how long can you expect your dog to live, and what can you do to give them the best shot at a long and healthy life? Read on to find out.
Signs of Aging in Dogs
While the age at which a dog can be classified as geriatric varies from breed to breed, one of the most common signs of aging is vision loss. Deteriorating eyesight is an unfortunate but normal side effect, so if you notice your pooch bumping into things, losing sight of balls when you throw them, or just showing signs of eye redness or cloudiness, this may be a sign of encroaching old age.
Hearing loss can also occur, and your pooch may need to go to the toilet and in some cases may not be able to control their urination. Their fur and muzzle may start going gray, and they may gain or lose weight based on changes in their lifestyle and diet.
However, perhaps the most obvious sign of old age, and often one of the most distressing to see, is simply your dog slowing down. Where they were once ready to run for miles at the drop of a hat, they now take an age just to get moving each morning. As the pain of arthritis takes hold, your dog may suffer from mobility issues and show an intolerance for exercise.
Other signs to look out for include grumpiness, behavioral changes such as aggression towards other dogs, and a general lack of energy.
- Lack of focus
- Dropped Ears
- Vision and hearing loss
- Increased urination
- Inability to control urination
- Graying muzzle and fur
- Mobility issues
- Exercise intolerance
- Lack of energy
- Behavioral changes
History of Dog Lifespans
Back in the fairly recent past, that was the 1970s, dogs over six years of age were commonly classed as senior pooches. However, as we move deeper into the 21st century, the average canine life expectancy is now double what it was just four decades ago.
That's an astonishing rise when you think about it, and there are a few key factors that have helped it come about. The first is that our knowledge of canine health and the illnesses and diseases that affect our furry friends is greater than ever before. As the standard of human medicine has evolved and improved, and new technology for diagnosing and treating health problems has been developed, many of these changes have also had a flow-on effect in the field of veterinary medicine.
The final piece of the puzzle is simply the fact that our dogs are more important to us than ever before. Dogs aren't just pets — they're our family members and constant companions, and we always want to be able to give them the best possible care.
The Science of Dogs Aging
Dogs simply don't live anywhere near as long as humans. Even the oldest dog on record, an Australian Cattle Dog named Bluey, only lived to 29 years of age.
However, it's worth pointing out that there are several factors that can impact on a dog's life expectancy. Size is the most important of those, with smaller dogs living much longer on average than larger breeds. The care you provide for your dog throughout the course of their life is also a huge influencing factor while getting your pet spayed or neutered can increase their chances of a long and healthy life.
The average life expectancy for dogs can differ greatly depending on their breed. For example, while Jack Russells live for an average of 13 to 16 years and Chihuahuas 15 to 17 years, Labradors have a lifespan of around 11 to 12 years and Beagles 12 to 15. Giant breeds like the Great Dane and Irish Wolfhound, however, only live to around 8 to 10 years of age.
It's also important to point out that the age at which a dog is considered a senior varies depending on their breed. For example, while a Great Dane might be considered geriatric at the age of 5 or 6, smaller breeds such as the Chihuahua only reach their golden years at around 10 or 11 years of age.
Caring For a Senior Dog
- Schedule regular vet visits. A check-up every six months can help you stay on top of any health issues.
- Feed a high-quality diet. Your pet's dietary needs will change as they age and their activity levels adjust accordingly. Feed a premium dog food designed to provide all the essential nutrients for your dog's size and life stage. If in doubt about what to feed, ask your vet for advice.
- Exercise body and mind. Just because your pooch is slowing down doesn't mean they can't still benefit from regular exercise. However, make sure that you take it easy and never force your pet to over-exert themselves. Mental stimulation is also important to help your aging dog's mind stay as sharp as possible, so regular training, puzzle toys, and challenging games with you can all help.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Keeping your dog in a healthy weight range reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and a range of other health problems. It also reduces the strain on tired, aching joints.
- Make them as comfortable as possible. A good night's sleep is always important, but can be harder to achieve for an older dog battling the pain of arthritis. Provide warm and comfortable bedding, consider a raised or heated bed, and make sure your senior pooch has everything they need to get the best possible sleep every night.
How to React to Your Dog Aging
Adapt to their decreasing energy.
Make sure they are extra-comfortable.
Feed them a premium diet tailored to their age.
Enjoy every day!