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How to guess a dog's age? What elements to take into account?

The age of a dog is not always known by its owner when it has been found on the side of the road after being abandoned for example. As the animal's size and weight are not always reliable indicators, it is better to examine its teeth, eyes, musculature and coat. This is what we will see here, knowing however that to know the exact age of his dog, it is better to rely on the opinion of the veterinarian.

Knowing a puppy's age by looking at his teeth

A puppy that doesn't have a single baby tooth yet is no more than 15 days old. The incisors in the upper jaw and the two canines appear in the third week of life, but this happens a little later in small breeds. Generally, by the end of his first month, he has all his incisors and canines in his lower jaw.

The first milk teeth start to fall out in the 4th or 5th week and the permanent incisors gradually take their place. Their shape is more rounded than the milk teeth, and they are also less wide. At 4 months of age, the permanent central incisors and the claws start to appear, while the middle ones appear at about 4 ½ months. The claws and canines appear at 5 months, and the molars appear between 6 and 7 months.

Finally, at the age of 8 months the animal has lost all its milk teeth, and it is at 12 months on average that it has all its permanent teeth. At this stage, their color is white.

Evaluating the age of an adult dog by its teeth

In principle, in a dog between 18 and 30 months old, the incisors show some signs of wear. This wear is not yet too noticeable, but it is enough to give the central incisors of the lower jaw a square shape.

By the time the dog is 3 years old and about 4 ½ years old, the other incisors are well worn. Their square shape is much more pronounced than it was before.

Between 5 and 6 years of age, the incisors show signs of deterioration while the canines, then pointed, also become square. From the age of 6, tartar is clearly visible. The color of the enamel turns yellow. Plaque leads to reddening of the gums and even gum inflammation, which can be deplored in dogs of 6 years and older.

The incisors start to fall out between 10 and 12 years of age, depending on the dog, and the canines around 15 or 16 years of age.

If it is quite reliable to evaluate the age of a puppy, it is less reliable for an adult dog. Indeed, it should be noted that the deterioration of a dog's teeth can be more or less premature if the animal has not had the benefit of a balanced diet that perfectly meets its needs. Also, if he has never been followed by a veterinarian specialized in animal dentistry, his teeth can be very scaled. He is therefore likely to have broken teeth, or even to have already lost some before the age of 7.

Examining a dog's eyes to assess his age

A puppy's eyes do not open until the 12th day after birth. In the vast majority of cases, until the age of 7, there is no tearing or discharge and the eyes do not show signs of aging.

From the age of 7 onwards, an opacification of the crystalline lens can be detected, suggesting a cataract. Later on, the pupil may appear whitish, and in older dogs, the decrease in visual acuity leads to a less confident gait when the light decreases.

Guessing a dog's age by its musculature

As with humans, a dog's musculature changes over the years. If he's active and gets exercise every day, his well-maintained muscles will stay firm for a long time. On the other hand, in a sedentary dog, we can very quickly notice a slackening of his muscles.

A reduced muscle mass and overweight indicate that the dog is not quite young anymore. If, in addition, he shows some hesitation (or difficulty) in walking, if his movements are stiff and if the animal is slow or lacks drive, then we can deduce that he is an old dog.

Although excess body fat is common in older dogs, it should not be the only criterion for guessing the age of the dog. He can be thin and old if he has had health problems.

The coat, a good indicator of a dog's age

A young dog's coat is shiny, silky and fine. Over time, it thickens, becomes rougher to the touch and loses its shine. You can also notice that older dogs lose their skin elasticity, and their muzzle becomes covered with small whitish spots.

When taking in a dog of unknown age, you can start by brushing him thoroughly or, if he accepts it, by giving him a good bath with a dog shampoo. Once his coat is clean and dry, it's easier to judge his texture and check the condition of his skin.

Guessing a dog's age by its measurements

Finally, in order to use height and weight to try to estimate a dog's age, it is necessary to know what breed it is. We can at least know if he is adult or not. Small dogs are small at 12 months and their weight is less than 10 kg. At 1 year old, as soon as they have completed their development, medium size dogs weigh between 10 and 23 kg depending on their breed. The definitive stature is acquired around 14 to 16 months for large breed dogs whose adult weight can be from 23 to 45 kg. As for giant breed dogs, they reach their final size between 20 and 24 months and weigh more than 45 kg.

It is of course essential that the dog you have just adopted without knowing anything about him be examined by a veterinarian. This will allow to know if he is in good health but also to identify him, and thanks to a thorough examination, the practitioner will be able to estimate the age of the dog in a reliable way.

If the owner wants to insure his new companion with a dog health insurance to be reimbursed for expenses incurred, he should first ask the veterinarian for a certificate, because many companies will only grant a contract if they know the age of the animal to be insured. Once the waiting period is over, the owner can make sure that the vaccination is up to date and also have the dog sterilized if he wishes. To be reimbursed immediately after the subscription, it is better to opt for a contract without waiting period.