What are the signs your dog is getting old?

Posted by Argos, 16 June 2022, last updated 12 May 2023.

There are many signs that show your dog is getting older, and the reason it’s important to look out for these signs is so that you can care for them properly as they live through their senior years. Sadly, our four-legged friends don’t live forever, but you can help them live a long and happy life by making sure you spot the signs early and adapt your routine or habits to help them along. Here we answer your questions  about the signs of ageing in dogs, and for more information on how to care for them, explore our guide to senior dog care.

What age is a dog senior?

Even if your dog is healthy and full of life, they may still be at senior dog age.  Below is a general rule of thumb based on the size of your dog:

  • Small dogs are classed as seniors when they are between nine and twelve years old.
  • Medium sized dogs are classed as seniors when they are between seven and ten years old.
  • Large dogs are classed as seniors when they are between five and eight years old.

What are the signs of ageing in dogs?

There are many different signs that show your dog may be ageing. Some of these include:

  • Slowing down
  • Movement problems such as arthritis
  • Deafness and hearing problems
  • Sight loss
  • Dog dementia
  • Going grey
  • Respiratory problems

Below we will go into each sign in more detail so that you can decide if they apply to your precious pooch.

Slowing down

Just like humans, the older a dog gets the more likely it is that they will start to slow down. This might mean they take a little longer to get up after taking a nap, they might take their time when out on a walk and they may sleep more often too. This is a natural part of ageing and shouldn’t cause too much concern, however, if you notice signs that your dog is struggling significantly more than usual, take them to the vet to be checked over to ensure they don’t have any underlying health conditions causing the issue.

Movement problems such as arthritis

Arthritis is more common in some breeds than others, however, it  isn’t uncommon for a senior dog to develop movement problems of some kind. This is because, as they get older, the general wear and tear on their muscles and bones starts to effect how well they can move. You may spot signs of this while they are out on a walk or if they are taking a little more care to do their usual activities.

Again, as this is a natural part of ageing, this isn’t usually something to be too worried about, however, if you are concerned you should see the vet. If you find that your senior dog is having trouble staying in a comfortable position, whether that’s lying or sitting down, or if they seem in pain at all, they should be seen by a medical professional.

Deafness and hearing problems

Deafness in dogs is common, many elderly dogs develop hearing problems as they increase in age. There are many symptoms of deafness, including:

  • Your dog may seem less obedient (e.g. unresponsive to their name when called).
  • They may not respond to sounds they usually would (e.g. the doorbell).
  • They bark more often than usual.
  • It is difficult to wake them up from a nap.

Hearing problems are fairly common in senior dogs, but if you think your dog is in pain you should take them to the vet. They may have a more specific ear problem, such as an infection or something lodged in the ear canal, which could turn into a more serious issue if not treated.

Sight loss and cloudy eyes

One way to recognise an elderly dog is by their eyes. You will have likely seen a dog with cloudy eyes, or eyes with a blue glaze. This is called ‘nuclear sclerosis’ and it is very common in senior dogs but doesn’t normally affect a dog’s vision. This is often confused with ‘cataracts’ which is a more serious condition.

Cataracts in elderly dogs are a common sight loss problem. They will develop an opaque, milky white haze over their eyes and have problems with their vision. Other than sight loss itself, cataracts  don’t usually cause other problems but watch out for your dog’s behaviour as the condition can potentially lead to glaucoma.

Dog dementia

Dementia in dogs, which is also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is a disorder that can develop due to ageing. It is often compared to Alzheimer’s in humans as it has similar symptoms, such as memory loss, difficulty following basic commands and inability to learn something new.

As your dog gets older, it can be quite sad to see them develop these types of symptoms as it can result in behaviour you would not normally associate with your four-legged friend. For example, they may forget to greet you at the door, or forget that they have seen you already and greet you many times. They may also forget to eat, pace around the home or, in extreme cases, forget who you are. If you are worried about dog dementia, you should see your vet to make sure your dog is as comfortable as possible.

Going grey

Even before your dog is officially classed as “senior” you may start to see some grey hairs appearing. Just like humans, grey hairs can appear for reasons other than just getting old. 

Some breeds are more prone to showing their greys than others, particularly black dogs like Labradors who you will often see with little white patches around their face as they age.

Respiratory problems

As dogs get older, moving around can be more strenuous for them. Because of this, your dog may pant more often or breathe faster. 

Respiratory problems are a sign of ageing in dogs but can also be a sign of more serious diseases. Some of the more common respiratory diseases are: 

  • Tracheal collapse
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Dental issues

Signs that your dog is getting older can include some unpleasant ones, like bad breath. But this is usually a sign of dental issues and is common for older dogs. Tartar build-up and tooth decay occur in elderly dogs and should be checked if you think your dog’s teeth are causing them pain.

If you feel your dog is acting differently in old age or looks to be in discomfort, make sure to seek advice from a veterinary professional. For more information about dog behaviour, take a look at our We Talk Dog blog and explore our guide to senior dog care for support.

Remember it’s important to protect yourself from unexpected vet bills, should your pet come to any harm, with Argos Pet Insurance provided by Pinnacle Insurance plc. Explore our dog insurance policies today.

Argos Limited is an Appointed Representative of Home Retail Group Insurance Services Limited (HIS). HIS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (register number 314050). Registered office: 489-499 Avebury Boulevard, Milton Keynes, MK9 2NW (registered in England and Wales, no 04109436). HIS act as an introducer to Pinnacle Insurance plc, who sell, administer and underwrite the policy and who are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (register number 110866). Registered office: Pinnacle House, A1 Barnet Way, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 2XX (registered in England and Wales, no 01007798) . HIS and Pinnacle Insurance plc are not part of the same corporate group.

Share this with your friends Apple download app image Apple download app image