There are some things that are just rude to ask somebody that you don’t know very well, and that includes age. If the dog that joins your family has a mysterious past, you might not know how old she is. For example, it is sometimes difficult to know a rescue dog’s age.
Finding your dog’s age is important not just for your curiosity. Knowing the age of your dog will also help you understand what to feed her, and what medical conditions to look out for.
How old is my dog: the tooth test
Vets will often recommend checking your dog’s teeth to find out her age. You can never be 100% sure what the dog’s teeth are telling you, because she might have had particularly bad or good dental care before you found her. But it’s a good place to start.
A puppy with no teeth yet showing is probably up to four weeks old. After three to four weeks, she will start to show sharp little temporary teeth: first her baby ‘canines,’ and then her premolars.
A puppy with all of her baby teeth showing is likely somewhere between two and four-five months old. Around this time, her permanent gnashers will start to poke through. By the time she’s seven months old, all her permanent teeth should just about be in place. They should still be clean by the time of her birthday, so a puppy with all her adult teeth looking shiny is probably seven to fifteen months old.
Once her teeth are fully grown, they will start to become yellow as tartar accumulates. This will show between one and two years of age, while her teeth will otherwise look new.
But between the ages of three and five, those teeth will start to show some wear as well as becoming more yellow.
A dog whose teeth show increased wear and the first signs of gum disease is probably between the age of five and ten. Gum disease shows a swelling and a dark redness that begins to appear above the teeth.
An older dog with yellow gnashers, gum disease, and cracked or missing teeth is likely to be ten years old or more. However, it is possible that a dog in this condition is younger, but was not well treated before she joined your family.
How old is my dog: the grey hair test
Grey hair in dogs is much like grey hair in humans. It is often a sign of ageing, but can also occur in response to a shock or stress. A dog with the beginnings of grey hair on her back or chest is probably between seven and ten years of age, while a dog who lays claim to the title ‘silver fox’ is probably a bit older.
How old is my dog: the eye test
A young dog tends to have clearer, more piercing eyes and a brighter eye colour. As she ages, particularly past the six or seven years mark, her eyes may get cloudier.
An older dog’s eyes also tend to generate more discharge. If you notice this starting to happen to your dog, you can guess that she is around six years old; if she already has this appearance, she may be a bit older.
But these affects can also be symptoms of eye trouble, so consider taking her to the vet.
How old is my dog: other considerations
Just like people, your dog’s hearing can start to falter as she ages. If your dog tends not to hear you opening food cans from one room away, it may be because she’s a bit older and her hearing’s not as sharp as it once was.
You might also consider her build. Puppies tend to be a bit pudgy and soft. Only as they reach their first couple of years of age do they start to look and feel more muscled and spry. An older dog may be bony or start to put on a bit of weight, and altogether look less sporty.
And don’t forget that different breeds, and different backgrounds, can affect the rate at which a dog ages. They say it’s seven human years for every dog year, but that is a big generalisation: you might try this age calculator to get a better idea of how long your dog has until she collects her pension.