When Is A Dog Considered A Senior? (+Special Considerations)

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Even though it breaks our hearts, our dogs age more rapidly than humans and go from tiny puppies to graying seniors before our eyes.

A dog is considered a senior when there are clear signs of aging; small breeds are considered seniors at 11 to 12 years old and giant breeds at seven.

The larger the dog breed is, the more energy it takes to keep their bodies going, and there is more wear and tear that happens to the body, which leads to faster aging.

Therefore, small dog breeds will often become senior citizens at a later age than larger dog breeds.

As your dog ages, there are specific signs to look out for that will tell you your dog’s golden years are fast approaching.

It is important to look out for these signs as there are considerations you need to make in terms of their care to provide the best care for your senior dog.

Considerations such as medication, changes to grooming, additional supplements in their food, and changes in routine all need to be made to make a senior dog’s life more comfortable and exciting instead of slowly becoming more painful and tiresome.

Keep reading to find out when a dog is considered a senior citizen, what are the signs of aging, and what considerations you need to make to make their golden years with you bliss.

When Is A Dog Considered A Senior

Contents & Quick Navigation

What Are The Life Stages Of A Dog?

As your dog ages, they will go through four distinct life stages. Understanding each of these life stages is important to properly care for and accommodate your dog as they age.

Newborn To Puppy

From birth to approximately a year old, dogs are considered puppies. A puppy needs a lot of supervision, training, stimulation, and most importantly, specialized nutrition.


From approximately one to three years old, your dog is considered an adolescent or teenager.

They look a bit odd during this stage because their limbs are a bit out of proportion, but they fill in their weight rapidly during this time.

During their teenage years, your dog needs plenty of exercise, training, and mental stimulation to help them form their complete adult body and temperament.


The adult portion of your dog’s life is the longest. During this time, they will need consistent nutrition, exercise, attention, and structure in their lives.

Up until this point, your dog should have had yearly vet visits to check up on their health as part of their maintenance.


As mentioned earlier in this article, dogs become seniors at different times according to their breed size.

Smaller breeds tend to live longer (15 to 18 years), whereas larger breeds tend to live shorter lives (8 to 12 years).

Therefore, dogs become senior citizens at different times, and it is up to you to watch out for their signs of aging in order to make considerations for their care.

When Is A Dog Considered A Senior?

There are small, medium, large, and giant breeds of dogs, and they all have different lifespans. Toy and miniature breeds fall under the small breed category.

Approximately two to three years before their earliest expected lifespan is when your dog will be considered a senior dog.

See the table below for an approximate breed size : life span : age of senior citizenship ratio.

Breed Size Average Lifespan Average Age Of Senior
Small breed (Yorkshire terrier) 15 to 18 years 11 to 12 years old
Medium breed (Collie) 12 to 15 years 10 years old
Large breed (Labrador) 10 to 13 years 8 years old
Giant breed (Irish wolfhound) 7 to 10 years 7 years old

Our family dog was a Border Collie mix and he acted like a puppy all the way until has last couple of years when arthritis kicked his butt.

He was well into his late teens running full speed through the fields at our local elementary school.

Even though he acted like a puppy we still had to keep in mind that we should treat him like a senior dog.

What Are Some Signs Of An Aging Dog?

There are signs and symptoms of aging humans feel and many of these are similar in dogs.

However, your dog will not be able to tell you their knees hurt, they need a nap, or they can chew their hard food. It is up to you to watch out for these signs of aging.

Slowing Down

One of the most common signs of aging in dogs is being slow when getting up.

Puppies and adult dogs should be able to get to their feet quickly, even after a long sleep.

Senior dogs will get up slowly and may wobble and hobble around before becoming more surefooted.

Aches And Pains

Stairs, couches, and beds may start to pose a problem to a dog who is aging.

You may notice your dog start sleeping on the floor instead of curled up at the foot of your bed, or barking for you to pick them up instead of climbing the stairs or jumping on the couch.

This may be a sign it is getting too painful for them to jump or put strain on their hips, knees, and elbows.

Tapping Out

Exercising your dog is one of the most important things to do every day.

However, you may notice your dog not being able to keep up with your regular schedule. They may refuse to go on walks or runs altogether as they get older.

Making Messes

Older dogs start losing control of their bladder muscles and may start making messes around the house.

If you notice they often get up from a wet bed or they start urinating while walking around, then they may not be aware it is even happening.

There are some medications you can use to help them, but you would need to consult your vet to determine the appropriate treatment. You can also use doggy diapers to help control the mess around your home.

Mental Decline

Older dogs can suffer from many of the same mental difficulties older humans suffer from.

If you notice your dog becoming confused, becoming extremely irritable, and unable to do trained tasks, then they may be suffering from the dog equivalent to Alzheimer’s disease called canine cognitive dysfunction.

Symptoms of CCD can be lessened, although not cured, with medication.

Sight And Hearing Issues

Going deaf and blind are the most common signs of aging in all animals.

If you notice your dog barking at walls, getting jumpy around the television, or getting frightened when you touch them, even though they have been looking at you, then they may be losing their sense of sight and/or hearing.

Dogs are prone to developing cataracts in their mid-to-late adulthood. Look out for white lines or films over your dog’s eyes. This can be a sign of cataracts. Fortunately, cataracts can be treated and removed.

What Considerations Should I Make For My Senior Dog’s Care?

Caring for a senior dog can be difficult, and many people simply give up and surrender their senior dogs.

Caring for any animal is a lifetime commitment for them, and they should not be thrown out simply because things get a little tough.

There are many things you can do for your senior dog to make their life easier and prolong the good golden years.


Senior dogs need additional supplements in their diet. They may need joint, heart, urinary, and weight management supplements in order to stave off diseases such as arthritis and diabetes. 

Consider foods, vitamins, and supplements specially formulated for senior dogs.


Even though your senior dog may not be able to keep up with their old exercise regimen, it is essential they still get exercise everyday.

Exercise helps maintain healthy, strong bones, and more importantly, it keeps the heart in good condition.

Consider short walks three to fours times a day and keep up with their mental stimulation through puzzles and toys.

Vet Care

Once your dog is a senior, their yearly vet check-ups are no longer sufficient. At their age, things can go wrong fairly quickly, and it is important to stay on top of their health at all times.

Consider taking your senior dog to the vet every six months.


You may think you can cut back on your senior dog’s grooming because the older they get, the more sensitive they are.

While increased sensitivity is common in older dogs, neglecting regular grooming actually does more harm.

Your dog’s nails will need to be trimmed or ground down more regularly as their activity decreases.

They won’t groom themselves as often, which means daily brushing is essential to prevent matting from occurring.

Daily teeth brushing is also of great importance, as tooth decay can lead to an infection in the blood, which can be fatal.

FAQs About Senior Dogs

How can I help my senior dog live more comfortably?

There are many things you can do to help your senior dog live a more comfortable life:

  • Put ramps on stairs they use
  • Raise their food and water bowls off the ground
  • Keep a heating pad under their bed to keep them warm
  • Use a handheld harness when going on walks
  • Keep the fur between their toes trimmed for maximum traction

Barking Off On Senior Dogs…

A dog is considered senior when they start showing signs of aging at the appropriate age for their breed size.

To refresh your memory, here is a table showing the dog breed size and their average age of seniority:

Your dog’s golden years can be healthy, long, and lively.

However, it is important to keep in mind there are considerations you should be making in order to keep your senior dog as comfortable and healthy as they can be.

After reading todays article would you consider your dog a senior?

Tell us about your dog in the comment section below.

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When Is A Dog Considered A Senior? How Will I Know? - Yellow Lab sitting next to owner.

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When Is My Dog Considered A Senior? How Will I Know? was last modified: January 15th, 2023 by LTHQ

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