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Some of us don't know the exact age of our dogs. This is typically the case if you have a rescue or adopted dog and don't know much of his or her history. But knowing your dog's age can be really helpful in caring for him or her. So how do we determine our dog's age when we don't know much of anything about it? Here are some tips:
Puppies have baby teeth that fall out and are replaced with permanent, adult teeth as they age. The process happens in a predictable, age-specific way, so it's rather easy to determine a young dog's age by examining their teeth.
But most dogs have their adult teeth by the age of six months, which makes it more difficult to age them out after this time period. In general, young adult dogs have better dental health than older ones. Signs of tartar, plaque buildup, gum disease and other wear and tear can indicate your dog is older. But this isn't very accurate given some dogs, despite their age, have better or worse general dental health than others due to diet, chewing habits and genetics.
Dogs experience several changes as they age and one of them is the graying of their fur. Gray hairs tend to accumulate around the eyes and muzzle in older dogs. Have you ever noticed your dog's whiskers turning gray or white? This typically means he or she is middle-aged or older. Still, this is not a very accurate way to determine age because fur color can depend on the individual dog. Some younger dogs can get gray hairs early on while other senior dogs maintain their original color.
Another change that occurs as dogs age is the clarity of their eyes. Middle-aged and senior dogs usually get a lens over their eyes called lenticular sclerosis, which makes them appear cloudy or hazy. This, however, does not affect their eyesight or vision like cataracts do. Around half of all dogs around the age of nine have this eye haziness and almost all dogs a few years older have it.
Yet another change you may see as your dog ages is how he or she carries weight and muscle mass. Older dogs tend to have a little extra fat on their lower back area. In addition, dogs lose muscle as they age so senior dogs tend to look more skeletal. Often you'll notice their spines and hips are more prominent than when they were younger.
Another way to help you determine the age of your dog is to take into account how long you've had your pup. For instance, if you brought home your dog five years ago, he can't be any younger than that. This may seem obvious, but it can be helpful in determining your pup's age. Your vet will likely ask how long you've owned your dog to get as much information as possible, in order to define an age range that makes sense for him or her.