Bringing Murphy Home From The Shelter

Adopting a dog at the shelter is almost as exciting as bringing a new baby home from the hospital, almost. Murphy is one of those dogs. Your eyes met, and boom, you were hooked! Falling in love with her is easy. Finding out how old she is going to be more difficult because the shelter wasn’t able to keep record of her exact age. Unlike babies where age becomes apparent immediately, dogs have a unique way of hiding their age behind layers of fluffy fur. While Murphy looks full-grown and middle-aged to you, who knows? What if she turns out to be more of the puppy persuasion? This is where the Vet comes in.

Murphy’s First Trip to the Vet
You quickly pack Murphy in the car for that tail wagging, head out the window ride to the Vet’s office. The Vet performs several noninvasive tests on Murphy’s physique to try and pinpoint her age.

These tests include examinations of her:
• Coat
• Teeth
• Eyes
• Muscle Quality

The Quality of the Coat and Overall Tone
A dog’s coat can prove difficult when determining age because different breeds come with all sorts of furry exteriors, each with different textures, lengths and degrees of fluff. A good rule of thumb is that younger dogs generally have soft, fine downy-like fluff that proves irresistible to snuggle against one’s face. As a dog ages into adulthood, they lose that baby softness and their coat becomes bushy and coarser, like that of a Jack Russell. Along with a thicker coat comes a higher degree of oiliness in the layers of fur.

Examining Your Canine’s Canines
Examining Murphy’s teeth is one of the best ways to determine just how old she is. Like people, Murphy is not fond of having their teeth examined. The following is a pretty good run-down that can help determine Murphy’s age.

6 Weeks
At six weeks of age dogs have all their baby teeth. These appear to be small, sharp and brilliantly white.

3 to 7 Months
Somewhere between three to seven months of age, dogs start getting their adult teeth. This set of teeth will appear larger and have more of a grayish tone. By seven months all their adult teeth will have erupted.

1 to 2 Years
As a dog matures, yellowing and wearing of the bottom middle incisors sets in. A cardinal sign that a dog has reached age one or two is a yellowing of the front teeth and signs of tartar buildup on the front teeth will also appear.

3 to 4 Years
In order to determine if a dog is older, the Vet examines the dog’s level of tartar buildup. A dog that is three to four years old will have tartar buildup on most of their teeth. (After all dogs don’t actually remember to brush after every meal). In addition to the yellowing, the Vet looks that the top middle incisors and may notice that they have begun to wear and become more rounded. By this age a dogs eyes might also have lost the brightness they once had. A healthy middle-aged dog has defined muscle sharpness in the leg and shoulder area. Once ages set in they tend to become bony and frail.

5 to 7 Years
By age five, a dog has considerable tartar buildup on all teeth, including those in the very back. Tooth color appears to be dark yellow or brown. The canine teeth now look rounded and the incisors appear smooth and worn. By this age many dogs have also lost several of their teeth (must be all those missed trips to the dentist). Older dogs usually develop cataracts, which appears as foggy clouds in the iris of the eye, making it hard for them to see clearly, or at all. Like people, older dogs also develop a graying beard around their muzzle, which continues to engulf their face as they age.

Murphy’s Age
After examining her teeth, coat and general tone the Vet tell you that due to Murphy’s strong muscle definition, yellowing of the front teeth, mild wear and on her bottom adult sized teeth coupled with her thick dark coat that Murphy is around two to two and half years old. Now the fun of training comes in!

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