I just celebrated my dog, Siao Chu’s, 8th birthday! We had a wonderful nautical-themed birthday party and it was the best paw-ty ever! He is now, officially…geriatric.
That said, Chu is technically only 50 in human years! This shocks my friends and family because they all assume he’s 56 in human years. It’s all because of that old adage which assumes that one dog year is equivalent to seven human years.
You’re probably thinking: so how old is my dog? You’re probably wondering why it matters. Read on.
- Ditch the “1 dog year equals 7 humans years” rule
This rule makes broad generalisations about both human and< dog lifespans. This “rule” is based on the assumption that humans live 70-80 years old and dogs live up to around 10-12 years. However, that’s a little skewed, given that dogs can live anywhere between 7 to 18 years, depending on their breed. It doesn’t make a true estimate of biological age either because it’s not a linear equation.
- It’s not a linear equation
Dogs and cats grow very, very quickly, especially in their first 2 years of life.
- The first year of a dog’s life is roughly equivalent to 15 years for a human
- By the time they’re two years old, they’re roughly 24 years old in human years
- Every year after that, add on 3-5 years
This formula works for the general dog population. However, some breeds have shorter life expectancies and break these rules. A 4-year-old Great Dane is roughly 40 years old in human years.
- Take breed/size into account
We all know that smaller breed dogs tend to have longer life expectancies than larger breed dogs. We don’t understand much about this yet, but this observation has generally held through in the canine world.
Cornelia Kraus, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Göttingen in Germany, suggests that largercdogs age at an accelerated pace, saying: “Their lives seem to unwind in fast motion”. In her paper, she explores the hypothesis that the accelerated growth of large dogs is linked to accelerated biological ageing. Statistically, it is estimated that every 2 kg increase in body mass reduces a dog’s life expectancy by about a month.
As such, smaller dogs are considered “senior” age patients when they reach 7 years of age. Since larger breed dogs have a shorter life span, they are considered senior when they are 5-6 years old. Knowing this is important because older dogs need special care and lifestyle changes when they cross that line into being “senior”.
- Purebreds vs Crossbreds
Breed matters. And, interestingly, crossbreed dogs outlive their purebred counterparts by an average of 1.2 years.
On a side note: If you have a mixed breed dog and you’d like to know his/her breed, you can choose to take a genetic test and send it off to the lab to unpack the secrets in his/her DNA.
- Age matters
Every paw-rent wants their furbaby to live forever. It’s difficult to come to grips with the fact that your furbaby is ageing more quickly than you are! (I still don’t like to think about it.)
However, understanding age helps you understand your furbabies needs at different life stages. The main difference in lifespan is largely due to health issues your furbaby may be predisposed to. By understanding the interaction between age and breed (i.e., genetic background), you and your vet will be able to stay on top of things!
Age itself is not the villain. Regular veterinary examinations can detect problems and, very often, these examinations help us get ahead of disease before it is too late.
If you have an older furbaby, what are your concerns? Share them with us in comments! Or, if you’re in the area, come say hi and have a chat!