It’s difficult to estimate the age of shelter dogs because they don’t have a long history. This information is vital to provide the best care.
According to Dr. Brian DiGangi of the ASPCA, a senior director for shelter medical programs in Gainesville (Florida), the test can be used to determine when to administer preventive measures, like vaccinations and deworming, as well as the right time to screen for common diseases, like heartworms.
You can easily identify a pup. They have the irresistible adorable factor, and they are shorter in stature,” explains Dr. Michael Lund of ASPCA New York City. They have visible body features, such as paws too big for the size of their bodies, excessive and loose skin and a gangly appearance.
You can tell the age of your puppy by looking at its teeth. The puppy’s adult teeth will appear at ages between 16 to 24 weeks.
How can you tell the age of your dog if you have no idea about it? As a dog gets older, Dr. Raymond Bouloy of Cypress Creek Pet Care, in Cedar Park Texas, says he looks for changes to the hearing and vision. Is the dog in pain or experiencing any mobility loss? Do you have any cracked, loose or painful teeth? Does there appear to be a loss in cognitive ability? “All these factors help me to determine the approximate age of senior patients.”
It’s still not a precise science. DiGangi says that the signs of ageing in dogs can vary considerably depending on their breed, lifestyle and past medical histories.
Also, they vary in size. Bouloy explains that smaller breeds such as Chihuahuas or Terriers live longer while larger breeds including Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds have shorter lifespans. A geriatric Chihuahua could be as old as 18 and a Great Dane, seven.
The vet will be able to give you the most accurate estimate of your dog’s lifespan, but these tips may help make an educated guess. These tips may not be foolproof.
Watch for signs of graying
Kate Creevy is an associate professor of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University College Station. She teaches small animal internal medicine at this college.
She explains that this begins at different ages, and advances at different rates. As some adults in their forties are graying, while others may not be at all until they are in their seventies, this can also vary in dogs. The graying of the muzzle is indicative that the dog has reached adulthood, although it cannot be more precise.
Even younger dogs may go grey. Bouloy is a board-certified canine/feline practitioner. Whippets and Italian Greyhounds can be gray-colored dogs regardless of their age.
Temperament can also play a part. A team of researchers conducted a study in Applied Animal Behaviour Science to examine the impact anxiety has on premature graying. The researchers found that anxiety, impulsivity and destructiveness (based on indicators such as hyperactivity and destructiveness after exercise) were strong predictors for muzzle graying.
Look into your dog’s eyes
The lens, which is the part of the eye responsible for refracting and focusing light in a dog’s eyes, begins to change as the animal ages. If you look closely at the eyes of many older and middle-aged dogs, a slight bluish-gray discoloration can be seen.
This benign condition is known as Lenticular Sclerosis and typically occurs when the dog reaches about six to eight years old. Lund says that it is a great way to estimate the age of middle-aged or senior dogs. The cloudy lenses of lenticular sclerosis should not be mistaken for cataracts. This serious eye condition can cause blindness and is also marked with a cloudy cornea. Typically, he says teenage dogs will show signs of an incomplete cataract that progresses into a complete cataract.
Not all cataract-affected dogs are old. Lund said that some breeds — including Boston Terriers and French Bulldogs , as well as Staffordshire Bull Terriers are predisposed to developing juvenile cataracts at an early age. The disease can cause cataracts (e.g. Diabetes or an eye injury can cause cataracts. The lens changes are rare but can be a good indicator of age.
Check the condition of your dog teeth
Creevy says that dogs also have two teeth sets, the baby and the adult. Humans begin to develop adult teeth in the late teenage years. This occurs within the first six month of life in dogs.
She says that after this, estimating age by teeth is difficult. After all permanent adult teeth have emerged, the only way they change is by developing tartar or stains. These changes can occur at different rates depending on the dog’s face shape, its breed, his diet and dental care.
According to Dr. Heather Loenser of the American Animal Hospital Association, there’s no way to accurately age a canine based on its dentition after adult teeth have erupted. Dr. Heather Loenser, veterinary advisor for the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), says that a dog’s dentition can be a good indicator of age.
There are some exceptions. Lund states that some dogs may have plaque and tartar on their teeth as young as a puppy. If there is no evidence of youth, moderate or severe tartar buildup and teeth staining can lead to a dog being excluded from the category of young adults.
Take a sniff of your dog’s breath if you feel like it. Buechner Maxwell says that older dogs have bad breath. “Especially if they haven’t had regular dental treatment and are suffering from significant gum disease or teeth.”
Learn Your Dog’s Behaviour
Lund says that very energetic and active dogs tend to be younger. This makes it easier to predict their age at 1 to 2 years, rather than 5 to 6 years.
Dogs’ activity level begins to decrease as they age. DiGangi is a board-certified veterinarian in shelter and canine medicine. She says that older dogs may find it difficult to get up and down or climb stairs. They may also sleep more. In some cases older dogs will start to get up at night, or have accidents inside the home.
Loenser is also an associate veterinarian in Bridgewater Veterinary Hospital, New Jersey. He says that some dogs show signs similar to senility, a condition known as canine cognitive dysfunction. These dogs may become confused and depressed.
You need to take into account other factors in this area. Bouloy says that injuries can cause mobility issues earlier in life, which may be mistaken for age-related arthritis. Your veterinarian can also detect hypothyroidism, which is a low thyroid level that makes a middle aged dog appear to be a geriatric.
What is the fitness level of your dog?
Creevy notes that “young dogs are usually lean and fit while older dogs gain weight.” Lund says that weight gain in middle age is normal, but as dogs get older, they lose muscle mass and tend to become less fit.
This is partly because older dogs are less likely to be active and more inclined to nap. They also have a slower metabolic rate. It is possible to keep older dogs lean and in shape, but not by continuing to feed them the same amount as they ate while growing and being active.
As dogs age, they also experience more pain and discomfort. As most dogs remain active for their entire lives, it is normal to expect some stiffness in the joints and discomfort or pain as they age.
He says that some dogs have congenital problems leading to an early onset arthritis. However, “most often, arthritis can be detected in dogs as old as the middle ages or older.”