How Old Is My Dog?
The most adorable mystery 💕❓
Is there even a way to tell?
The Dodo spoke with Dr. Stefanie Schwartz, a veterinary behaviorist at Pet Behavior Medicine in California, who explained how you can try to figure out your pup’s age.
How to tell your dog’s age
The bottom line is, unless you know when your dog was born, you can’t determine exactly how old he is.
Your best bet when it comes to figuring out (approximately) how old your dog is would be to ask your vet.
“If you go to see a veterinarian who has experience with a lot of dogs and knows what an old dog looks like or what a young dog looks like ... then you have somebody who can give a pretty good guesstimate of how old they may be, at least within a range,” Dr. Schwartz told The Dodo.
Even still, there are some things that’ll help you tell your dog’s age:
- Blood tests
Telling your dog’s age from his teeth
Teeth are a great way to figure out which age range your dog falls under.
That teething phase will really help you get an idea of his age while he’s still a puppy.
“If they still have baby teeth, then you know that they’re less than 6 months old,” Dr. Schwartz said. “From there, you go by, you know, how mature their body is. If they still look like they’re in the rapid growth phase, then they may be around 3 or 4 months old.”
According to Dr. Schwartz, if you notice your pup has a mix of his baby and adult teeth, it’s safe to assume he’s around 5 or 6 months old.
But if your dog has all his adult teeth, you can take a look at the condition of his pearly whites — or, maybe more accurately, his not-so-pearly whites — to try to figure out how old he is.
“If their teeth look shiny and clean and perfect with no tartar, then they’re probably somewhere around a year or a little bit under,” Dr. Schwartz explained.
As your dog gets older, he’s more likely to accumulate more tartar on his teeth.
So a lot of the time, you can assume that the more tartar your dog has, the older he is.
However, it’s important to note that smaller dogs, like toy breeds, tend to be predisposed to dental issues, so this could throw off your estimate if your pup is on the smaller side.
“Most dogs, especially toy breeds, have horrendous dental problems by the time they’re a year old [or] a year and a half, so it gets tricky judging [their] age by their teeth because they’re not going to be pretty,” Dr. Schwartz said. “[Toy breeds are] very predisposed to tartar, so their teeth look older than they are.”
Telling your dog’s age from his coat
Like people, your dog might start to go gray as he gets older. So you can try to figure out how old he is based on his fur and his coat.
“That’s when you go by whether they have any graying on the face,” Dr. Schwartz said. “[This] gets tricky, of course, if they’re gray animals.”
If you can, pay attention to your pup’s snout.
When he starts to gray around his nose and his mouth, it’s safe to guess he’s around “middle-aged” — aka 6, 7 or 8 years old.
Telling your dog’s age from his eyes
Eyes are the window to the soul, but they’re also another way to try to estimate your dog’s age.
“Cataracts can sometimes start around 6 or 7 years of age,” Dr. Schwartz said. “So if there’s any hazy look to the lens, then [your dog is] probably ... somewhere around 6 to 10 years old, at least.”
That being said, plenty of things can lead to cataracts, so make sure you hit up your vet if you notice your dog’s eyes start to get cloudy.
Telling your dog’s age from his blood tests
Since there’s no exact way to tell how old your dog is, blood tests won’t determine how many years your dog has lived, specifically.
Instead, the tests might show certain conditions that can help you figure out which age range your pup falls into.
“With blood tests, you can detect changes that are more associated with old age,” Dr. Schwartz explained.
For example, a blood test can identify whether your dog has things like kidney disease or arthritis, which are often found more frequently in senior dogs.
However, your dog testing positive for kidney disease or arthritis doesn’t automatically mean he’s on the older side.
“You can see kidney disease in younger dogs, too, so that’s not totally reliable,” Dr. Schwartz said. “Some arthritis changes are associated with age, but those can start even in young animals. So even that’s not, by itself, a reliable indicator of age either.”
The best way you can get an accurate estimate of your dog’s age is by looking at all of those factors — teeth, coat, eyes and health conditions — and seeing how they come together.
“So you put it all together and that’s where all the pieces of the puzzle come together to indicate age,” Dr. Schwartz said. “But one thing or another [on its own] is not a reliable indication of age.”
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