Once we adopt our precious puppers, they become our best friends. They're our little fur children, our confidants, our shoulders to cry on during tough times and the best little pals to laugh with (or at) during good times. So, it's only natural that we want them to live forever.
But unfortunately for us, and the world at large, no matter how amazing, healthy, perfect, and beautiful your pooch is, someday they're going to have to leave us. Many owners wonder that day actually will come. How long can dogs really live? 5 years? 10 years? Maybe even 15? Dogs can actually live for a long time, depending on their breed, their upbringing, and how healthy they remain throughout their lives.
So while, dogs can't live forever, thankfully there's a ton we can do as owners to keep our dog happy, healthy, and around for years to come! And if you're the parent to an older pooch, there's signs we can look out for that show us that our doggo is slowing down, and things that we can do to make them comfortable and healthy for as long as we can.
Signs Your Dog May Be Getting Older
When your dog starts to get older, that means it's time to slow down a little bit. The older your pooch gets, the less they'll be able to do. As a result, in order to keep our pups around and comfortable for as long as possible, we as owners need to look out for certain signs in our doggos that show that they're not as spry as they once were, and as a result, we may need to make some changes so they can live as long as possible.
Slowing down is going to be the first thing you look for as your dog ages. You're going to know your dog's personality - their likes and dislikes, their favorite activities, how far they can run, and when they like to play. As your pooch gets older, their joints are going to start to ache and their muscles make not be as strong. Imagine a person - while a 7-year-old may be able to run around screaming for 6 hours, an 85-year-old may find it more difficult to do the same.
This can extend to also some issues getting up. Their joints are stiffer, older, and well-used, so be patient while waiting for your dog to come hang out and join you!
Relatedly, older dogs also gain weight more easily, primarily because they start to slow down. Because they can't do all the activities they used to, your doggo may put on a few lbs. This is also due to the fact that their metabolism has just started to slow down or they're having thyroid issues.
Dogs that are getting older may also stop responding to you, but it's not because they don't love you anymore! Many dogs, when they reach a certain age just start to lose their hearing. Another thing that may start to go too is their eyesight. Dogs that have started to not see as well may seem like they're avoiding looking at you, but it may just because they can't see you! You may also see some cloudy eyes, which could be cataracts or just aged lenses.
History of Dogs Aging
Dogs evolved from wolves thousands of years ago when we domesticated them. Despite the fact that the two are different species, we can still look to Grey Wolves (our doggo's grandparents and great-grandparents!) for reasons as to why our dogs live as long as they do. Basically, "Gray Wolves, the ancestors of dogs, live a maximum of 11 or 12 years in the wild, whereas wildcats can live up to 16 years. This suggests that the two species face different evolutionary pressures." So history plays a huge part in how long our dogs live and why!
The Science Behind Aging in Dogs
How long your dog lives actually depends primarily on their genetic makeup. For example, the average lifespan of Great Danes is actually between 6 to 10 years, whereas smaller dogs, such as Maltese, have an average lifespan of at least 15 years.
Basically, the smaller your dog is, the longer they will live. This is primarily because there's so much less work for their bodies to do! Think of it this way - the smaller a body, the easier it is to make it work. Your heart doesn't have to beat as hard to get blood throughout your body, your muscles don't have to strain as much to get you moving, and your lungs don't need as much oxygen.
It's the same with our pups! That's not to say that big dogs aren't just as lovable as the small ones. Just remember to show them a super-duper amount of love during the time they're with you!
Training Your Old Pupper
Because your dog can't see or hear as well, it may seem like they aren't listening or that they're ignoring you or maybe even stupid! We've all heard the phrase "you can't train an old dog new tricks!" But that's actually not true! "If your dog does not respond to your commands, don't automatically assume he is being willful or disobedient." Just talk a little louder or start to use hand signals!
Also, it is important to note that just because your dog isn't up for a rigorous game of frisbee doesn't mean they no longer want quality time with you. Perhaps swap fetch at the park for a walk around the block. Find ways to continue to bond with your aging dog. We highly doubt you'll ever regret it!
By Katherine McCormick
Published: 04/06/2018, edited: 04/06/2020