How to Properly Determine the Age of your Shelter Dog

You really want me to eat THAT?
Good for you, you've decided that you're going to get an older dog.

When you're talking to folks that are adopting dogs, you're going to get a wide variety of answers on their age based upon the adopters feelings and experience.

I've heard rescue organizations claim that a dog was younger than it probably was by several years in order to get the dog adopted to someone averse to taking on older pets. I've also heard them estimate higher to get the sympathy vote.

I've had the most luck in getting a more accurate age on dogs I've adopted or worked on adopting, by talking with folks with some veterinary experience. I've consistently heard a several age indicators, time and again:

  • Grey muzzle - The most easily identifiable indication of old age is the grey or silver muzzle that some dogs take on as they age. You might also find that at more advanced ages, the entire dog starts turning progressively more white.
  • Tooth wear - You've heard the old saying about looking a gift horse in the mouth. If you're interested in learning how old your dog really is, check out their choppers. I once adopted a dog that I was told was six, however after a visit to the vet and examination of his teeth, he was probably closer to ten given the extensive wear that they had seen. Several year later his (the dog's, not the vet's) teeth had worn down even further from regular use to the point that I had to get him softer treats.
  • Aches and pains - There are some dogs that are genetically predisposed to being more achy earlier in life, however a good indication that your dog's puppy days are behind her is that she's getting along a little slower, exhibit tremors after walking, or run with the infamous "bunny hop" (i.e., running with both rear legs together for better support.)
Your pooch's mileage may vary with any of these, and in general larger dogs age faster than smaller dogs, but knowing what to look for will help you better prepare for making your dog comfortable through its golden years.

Related Links

How to calculate your dog's age
Calculate Dog Age in Dog Years 

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