Are you wondering when your furry friend becomes a senior? How can you tell if your dog is getting older and what care an aging dog requires? Find out the answers in our latest article, where our veterinarians at O’Fallon provide all the information you need.

How old is a senior dog?

You've probably heard that one human year is equal to seven dog years, but determining a dog's age isn't that straightforward. Different dog breeds age at different rates.

Typically, smaller dogs age more slowly than larger breeds. Here's a basic guideline:

Small breeds are considered senior dogs when they turn 10 to 12 years old. 

Medium breeds are considered senior dogs when they hit 8 to 9 years old. 

Large and giant breeds are considered senior dogs at around 6 to 7 years old. 

Signs That Your Dog is Getting Old

As your dog gets older, they will experience mental and physical changes. Some of these changes, like grey hair around their muzzle, are a natural part of the aging process and don't require special veterinary care.

However, other changes may require your vet's attention to ensure your dog's health and comfort.

Keep an eye out for these signs that indicate your dog is aging:

  • Gum disease or tooth loss 
  • Arthritis or joint issues
  • Reduced heart, kidney and liver function
  • White hairs on the face and muzzle 
  • Vision and/or hearing loss 
  • Weight gain or loss 
  • Reduction of mental acuity
  • Sleeping or more difficulty sleeping 
  • Loss of muscle tone 

Your Senior Dog's Care Requirements 

You can do several things to help your pup maintain their comfort and well-being as they get older.

Vet Care

To properly care for an older dog, start by making regular visits to the vet a priority. These routine check-ups help your vet identify any potential health issues that come with age and start treating them early on. During these visits, your vet will evaluate your senior dog's nutrition and mobility, and suggest adjustments like changes to their diet or exercise routine that can improve their well-being.


Proper nutrition can benefit your dog's physical health and support their cognitive function as they get older, just like humans. Dogs can also experience conditions similar to dementia or Alzheimer's. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, combined with regular exercise, may help maintain your dog's mental alertness.

For senior dogs, there are specialized prescription diets and supplements available to address their specific health conditions. Consult your vet to determine if a particular diet or supplement would be suitable for your furry friend.

As dogs age, their nutritional requirements change. Senior dogs tend to be less active, making them more susceptible to weight gain. Excessive weight gain can lead to other health problems like joint pain and cardiovascular issues. Talk to your vet about adjusting your dog's calorie intake or transitioning to a weight loss-specific food.

Exercise - Physical & Mental

As your dog gets older, it's crucial to make sure they stay physically active. Regular exercise is essential for maintaining a proper weight and keeping their joints in good shape. However, you might need to make some changes to the types of exercise you offer. If you see that your dog is struggling with the long walks they used to enjoy, consider taking them on shorter walks more often instead.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Is it time for your senior dog's wellness exam? Contact our O’Fallon vets to book an appointment today.