Senior status in dogs is not measured by their number of years. Your 9-yr-old pooch might qualify as a senior, while your neighbor might have a 10-yr-old dog who’s well in the mid-life stage. For the most part, senior dogs are determined by their breed. For instance, giant breeds like deerhounds are considered elderly by their 6th to 8th year, while small breed dogs like a miniature poodle won’t be senior until they reach 17 years old.
There are two breeding methods that affect the longevity of a dog’s life—inbreeding and the pure-breed approach. In-breeding is when close relatives are bred with one another to retain certain traits, both positive and negative. For instance, breeding half-siblings with a long lifespan can result in an offspring with the same longevity.
Pure-breeding is when the same male dog is used to mate with different females. This way, the undesirable genes of other male dogs will disappear, and only the male dog who fathers all the offspring will carry forward his genetic characteristics.
Here’s a run-down on the life expectancy of dog breeds:
Breeds and Longevity
|Breed||Average Life Span (Years)|
Determining the life expectancy of a mixed-breed dog is a little trickier than determining the life expectancy of a purebred dog. On the one hand, a mixed-breed dog’s life expectancy is affected by the life expectancies of each breed he’s made up of — assuming you can figure out what those breeds are. On the other hand, a dog’s unique mix means a unique gene pool, and the more unique the gene pool, the less chance the undesirable trait has of affecting the dog. And if you’re looking for a precise figure for your particular dog’s breed mix, research isn’t a whole lot of help. If you’re willing to take an average, though, a mixed-breed dog’s life expectancy is about 13 years. (More here)
The senior status of dogs vary from one dog to another. To find out if your dog can be considered senior, you will have to look at a number of signs.
One sign that your dog has hit “senior-hood” is when your dog doesn’t move as fast as in the old days. A senior dog spends most of the time napping or lying down.
Your dog might have been able to catch Frisbee throws in a matter of minutes before. Your dog is probably a senior if this is no longer the case.
Another sign is when your dog’s coat has gotten grayer and the coat has gotten thinner. You will notice your dog’s face and muzzle look grayer than before. You might also find soft lumps in your dog’s trunk. While these lumps aren’t life-threatening, this is another sign of senior-hood and you should call the vet once you feel lumps in your dog’s body.
When your dog no longer responds as quickly as before, that’s not because your dog is being combative. Your dog’s hearing is affected by aging, just like in us humans.
Lastly, you might notice your dog getting prone to accidents, suffering from incontinence or getting lost in your backyard. These are all signs of aging that come along with senior-hood.
When all these signs are present and your dog has finally reached senior status, don’t panic. There will be changes, yes, but with your companionship and guidance, your old companion will surely enjoy his advanced years.