Skip to Content

Is My Dog Depressed or Just Old?

Irish Setter with a graying face laying in grass outdoors

This is an important issue, especially for novice pet owners, to answer because unlike people, dogs cannot communicate their emotions. There are numerous parallels between the symptoms of depression and those of old age in dogs. For example, disinterest in everyday tasks and low energy levels. However, there are distinctions to be made between depression and old age. Keep reading to learn how you can differentiate whether your dog is depressed or just old.

Why is My Dog Depressed All of a Sudden? Click here to learn more.

At What Age Do Dogs Start Slowing Down?

While breeds differ, a dog is usually considered a senior at the age of eight years. Large dogs may age more quickly, becoming seniors as young as 6 or 7. When dogs reach their senior years, they, like people, are more prone to show indications of sickness or health concerns such as arthritis. You may feel your dog slowing down, becoming less lively, and maybe growing irritable with younger canines.

They will also most likely begin to grey around the muzzle. Many of these symptoms are similar to real aging symptoms. Understanding when your pet has reached its senior years is a vital component of being a pet parent. This is because it will serve as your signal to look for changes in habits or behaviors that you may need to address. The exact age at which dogs start getting older depends on the breed size.

Small Dogs

Close up of an old Chihuahua's face with cloudy eyes

Dogs weighing less than 20 pounds mature faster than larger breeds, as they are generally fully developed by 6 to 8 months of age. However, they age more slowly after that. A small-breed dog’s lifetime is often greater than that of a large-breed dog, lasting up to 16 years. As a result, a tiny, healthy dog may not be labeled a senior until they are 12 years old.

Is My Dog Depressed or Lazy? Click here to learn more.

Large Dogs

Close up of the face of a older, large multicolor dog laying down.

Large dog breeds have shorter lifespans, which means they reach their golden years sooner than smaller ones. Labradors are an excellent indicator of the average big-breed dog. Their average lifetime is around 12 years; therefore, they would reach their senior years at the age of 8 to 9 years. Giant breeds, such as the Bernese Mountain Dog, have much shorter lifespans, and live to an average of 6 to 8 years old, making them seniors at the age of 4 to 5.

How Do I Know If My Dog Is Suffering from Old Age?

Long haired brown and tan dog with a white face laying down on a white background.

Our pets’ functionality typically deteriorates as they age. Their memory, learning capacity, consciousness, and senses of sight and hearing might all decline. Their social ties with you and other pets in your home might also vary as they age. Understanding the changes your dog is going through will help you deal with behavior issues. The following are some signs that can help you realize that your pooch getting old

Changes in Breathing

While doggy breath is typical at any age, if your dog suddenly develops bad breath, it might be a sign of gum disease, tooth decay, or infection. As dogs age, their immune systems weaken, and they are unable to fight diseases as readily as they did when they were younger. In addition to a thorough tooth cleaning, your veterinarian may decide to perform blood tests to rule out infection.

Difficulty in Getting Around

Yellow Lab sitting on the banks of a lake

An elderly dog may struggle with stairs, getting into the car, or just getting up after a nap. Her back legs may show signs of weakness. While we all slow down as we become older, your dog’s movement problems might be due to arthritis or another degenerative condition. Along with any medicine or supplements your veterinarian suggests, you will need to change your dog’s activity schedule to slower, shorter walks or a new exercise program.

Why is My Dog Depressed After Getting a New Puppy? Click here to find out.

Weight Loss

It’s not unexpected that older, less active dogs acquire weight, and you may need to change your dog’s food and activity routine to keep him at a healthy weight. However, if your elderly dog loses weight, you should be concerned. That might be due to decreased muscular mass, which is normal in senior dogs, or it could be due to decreased appetite, poor food absorption, or a digestive ailment.

Cloudy Eyes

Close up of an old dog with cataracts

Eye cloudiness (nuclear sclerosis) might develop slowly enough that you may not notice it straight away. While it is a typical occurrence in older dogs and has no effect on eyesight, it might be an indication of cataracts or other eye illnesses, the majority of which are readily curable. Your dog may also begin to stumble into things or have difficulty finding a toy on the floor or other familiar objects. That might indicate eyesight loss.


You may also discover that your dog shows nervous behavior that you believed he has shed after puppyhood as he grows. When you leave, he may grow progressively afraid of storms and loud noises, or he may display discomfort. This shift in behavior may be a normal component of aging.

Increased Sleep

Old black and white dog laying in a dog bed,

You may notice your dog napping more during the day as he gets older. Because older dogs require longer periods of undisturbed sleep, it is better not to wake them. It’s also conceivable that your senior dog is napping during the day because he doesn’t get enough sleep at night. Some Senior dogs can overreact to noises that did not upset them previously.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.