I recently learned that the idea that dogs are “senior at seven” comes from a study of border collies only, not from a spectrum of how dogs of different breeds age. Researchers also often focus on beagles for these studies. A new article, published in April 2021, suggests 6 new categories to understand the age of a dog. We’ll take a look.
It turns out that there really isn’t a consistent pattern for classifying a dog’s age throughout its life. For this reason, it is difficult for researchers to compare and use previously published articles on canine aging.
There is some debate about additional subcategories. For example, dogs go through significant changes during puberty and once they are over 12 or 14 years old. As a starting point, however, this timeline chart helps you place your dog on an aging spectrum.
How do dogs age?
The study authors explain that “these categories work to capture age-related developmental trajectories for the majority of dog breeds.” These groups, they say, “support educational programs that inform owners about behavioral changes to expect in their dog as they age, but they cannot be used to reflect health needs associated with mortality. breed specific.
The 6 categories look like this:
- Puppy – 0-5 months
- Juvenile – 6-12 months
- Young adult – 13-24 months
- Mature adult – 2-6 years
- Senior – 7-11 years old (with these potential sub-categories):
7-9 years old = early senior
10-11 years old = late senior
- Geriatrics – 12-18+ (with these potential subcategories):
12-14 years old = geriatric
15-18+ years old = very old
Do dogs live longer?
Apparently there is a more recent article about dogs in the United States that discusses a “a higher median longevity of 15.4 years” than an earlier study in dogs in the UK. So it’s interesting.
It seems that my friends live with dogs that reach their teenage years.
Heck, our former big boy Ginko has reached 4 months shy of his 16th birthday. This makes it my new goal to have over 16 for our current crew. Before Ginko, the oldest dog I ever had was Penelope, a Dalmatian who was 14 when we lost him.
What about giant dogs?
Well, technically giant dogs die while they are still mature adults or very early seniors, so older style canine aging tables where large dogs age faster and are called geriatrics (when their brains and their behaviors do not reflect such mental declines) “mask[s] the severity of problems associated with early mortality in short-lived breeds,” according to the authors of the article.
They go on to say, “Morbidity and mortality in old age are acceptable, even inevitable. However, when we see high morbidity and mortality in an animal that can objectively be classified as young, we should be concerned.
What does this mean about how dogs age?
Well, dogs over the age of 12 tend to see “a greater incidence of cognitive impairment” compared to older dogs. And dogs over 15 “have a much higher incidence of cognitive impairment” than other older dogs.
Ginko experienced canine cognitive dysfunction in his later years, including loss of potty training (also caused by neurological issues) and random wandering around the house, whining, barking, and trouble sleeping.
Speak to your veterinarian if you start seeing such changes in your older dog.
This special senior dog food with medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) has helped Ginko, so I’ll probably switch our current dogs to it at some point as they get older. (PS, I no longer have a relationship with the dog food company, but I feed Pro Plan. Also, this link is an old post. The giveaway is no longer online.)