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Life stage definitions

For practical purposes, rather than attempt to calculate age equivalents to humans, this task force suggests that life stage should be defined not just by age, but also by characteristic (e.g., puppy, senior, geriatric).

The individualized approach

Encourage clients to acclimate dogs to safe travel prior to the veterinary visit. Plan appointments to minimize wait and create a quiet, calm environment. Train the veterinary team in low-stress handling techniques. 

Checklists for each life stage

In addition to standard body systems review, a thorough history includes asking about a variety of items, including the daily routine and using open-ended questioning techniques when appropriate.

RACE-approved Web Conference

As these guidelines emphasize, no two dogs are alike, and their veterinary care should be as individualized as they are. Each dog’s age and lifestyle factors should be considered by the veterinary team when making recommendations—including those related to spaying and neutering. This web conference delves further into this aspect of the guidelines. Available at no charge, this course is facilitated by Phil Bushby, DVM, MS, DACVS, who will provide in-depth direction on the ideal age to spay or neuter dogs and puppies to ensure their highest level of care.

Resource Center

Resources  from the 2019 AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines   for both pet owners and veterinary teams.

Canine Life Stage - Home

The guidelines are an update and extension of the AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines published in 2012. A noteworthy change from the earlier guidelines is the division of the dog’s lifespan into five stages (puppy, young adult, mature adult, senior, and end of life) instead of the previous six. This simplified grouping is consistent with how pet owners generally perceive their dog’s maturation and aging process and provides a readily understood basis for an evolving, lifelong healthcare strategy.

Lifestyle-based Vaccine Calculator

This tool is designed to stimulate conversation between veterinary teams and pet owners, as they work together to create individualized vaccine protocol for each cat.


References for the 2019 AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines .

2010 Feline Life Stage Guidelines

Cats have become the most popular pet in the United States, yet statistics about veterinary care for cats remain troubling. Although most owners consider their cats to be family members, cats are substantially underserved, compared with dogs.

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