Gino is a handsome 22-year-old male who loves snuggling, deep-tissue massages and going for fun wagon rides.

Gino, by the way, happens to be a dog.

In November 2022, the Chihuahua-Alaskan mix was awarded the Guinness Book of World Records title of the Oldest Living Dog in the World. (Two months later, a 23-year-old Chihuahua named Spike took over the title, which was again taken in February by Bobi, a 30-year-old dog in Portugal.)

Gino's owner, Alex Wolf of Mar Vista, California, realized last year that Gino might be a world record holder when he saw the news that the previous oldest living dog, Pebbles, passed away at the age of 22. Alex had adopted two-year-old Gino from the Humane Society of Boulder Valley way back in 2002. The shelter still has Gino's records and confirmed he was born on September 24, 2000.

Back then, Alex had just begun his sophomore year at the University of Colorado in Boulder when he and his two roommates decided to get a big dog. While visiting the Humane Society of Boulder Valley they walked right past Gino, who was then called PeeWee.

"He was cute and calm, but not the type of big, mountainous dog I thought we would end up with," Alex recalls. However, the roommates decided to vote on which dog to adopt—and Gino was the lucky winner. They figured the little dog would be easier to manage.

It was Alex who ended up doing most of that managing. "As college sophomores, everyone was distracted and having fun," he says. "I'm a big animal lover, so I made sure Gino was taken care of. The next thing you know, I was pretty much taking full responsibility for him."

After his sophomore year, Alex brought Gino to his parents' house in Manhattan Beach, California, where the dog stayed until Alex graduated from college. Gino and Alex have been together ever since.

"For a small dog, Gino has a lot of confidence," Alex says. "I call it BDE—big dog energy. My brother says it best: Gino is like the most interesting man on the planet. Gino has never seemed like a very doglike dog. He's always had almost human traits."

'Surprisingly Good' Health for a (Very) Senior Dog

Gino has been a VCA patient for years, most recently at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital. "He’s by far the oldest dog I've ever treated,” says his veterinarian, Dr. Bridget Harvey. She says his health is surprisingly good, considering his advanced age. “He sees me for an adrenal tumor that he's had for a little while, but it's been very stable in size,” she says. “Otherwise, he is a quick and active dog. We always comment that he looks far younger than he is. We’re very impressed by him.”

Dr. Harvey “has been phenomenal since day one,” Alex says. “I’ve had nothing but good things to say and good experiences. Everyone at VCA has been so caring of Gino and his health.”

And Dr. Harvey has equal praise for Alex “Gino is lucky to have his dad, who’s so dedicated to him,” she says. “Alex has always been good about keeping up with Gino’s medical care and following up as recommended.”

When Do Dogs Become Seniors?

Dogs are generally considered to be seniors after the age of seven or eight, but it really depends on their size, Dr. Harvey says. Smaller breeds like Chihuahuas do tend to have more longevity. “Gino is a small guy, and so I would say the average lifespan for a dog his size is between 10 to 14 years,” she says. “He’s definitely outdone himself.”

So what about the old adage about dogs aging seven years per one human year—in which case Gino would be considered 154 human years old? “I think it's a fun rule of thumb, but otherwise I don't think it's completely accurate,” Dr. Harvey says.

Tips for Caring for an Older Dog

When your dog becomes a senior, Dr. Harvey recommends increasing wellness exams from once to at least twice a year. “Especially as an internal medicine specialist, I see older patients that develop issues quite quickly,” she explains. “It’s very important to catch any issues early so we can treat them the best way possible and keep pets around for as long as possible—like Gino.”

It's also important to keep an eye out for any changes in an older dog. Sometimes pet owners may think their older dogs’ symptoms are simply due to aging, but Dr. Harvey warns that this may not always be the case. These are some of the symptoms she says to watch for in an older dog: 

  • lethargy
  • increased thirst
  • increased urination
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • decrease in appetite

“It might be that they're developing something treatable,” Dr. Harvey says. “If anything is different from before, mention it to your doctor.”

Along with watching out for health issues, Alex encourages the owners of older dogs to show their pets a lot of love and compassion. “Try to be in tune with them and anticipate their needs,” he advises. One of the ways Alex does this is by regularly giving Gino deep-tissue massages. “I imagine what it must be like being a dog and having someone give you a back rub,” he says. “I feel like this has helped keep his blood flowing, which helps him stay healthy.”

The Oldest Living Dog Ever?

Thirty-year-old Bobi, who as of February 2023 holds the title for the world’s oldest living dog, is also the oldest living dog ever recorded, according to Guinness World Records.

Could Gino break that record, too?

“I can only hope so,” Alex says. He regularly confers with Dr. Harvey and ensures she has the information she needs to determine Gino’s quality of life. “Gino still eats, likes going on his wagon walks, loves being in the car and spends a lot of time sleeping and snuggling,” Alex says. “I would say he still has a good quality of life, and that’s what we're focused on.”

For anyone considering getting a dog, Alex offers some advice. “Consider going to an animal shelter and giving a chance to a dog who might otherwise not get that chance,” he says. “It can really turn into an amazing adventure together.”

Routine check-ups are essential to helping your pet live a long and happy life. Visit our website to find a VCA hospital near you.