Converting Dog Years To Human Years: The New Math
Forget The "7 to 1 Rule" Regarding A Dog's Age
The rule of thumb in most pet owner circles is that 1 human year equals 7 dog years. I don’t know how that ever got started, and I’m especially curious as to why so many people blindly accept that equation.
If you give it just a little thought, you’ll quickly see how simplistic that “rule” is.
Case in point: your 7 month old baby is adorable; he smiles at you, chuckles at your goofy faces, is maybe attempting to drag himself across the floor, but other than that, he’s absolutely helpless.
Your 7 month old dog is capable of reproducing! And he has all his permanent teeth, too. That’s why new parents need to be very diligent when bringing a puppy into the home so the baby and the dog can “grow up together.”
In that first year, the dog will leave the baby in the dust developmentally, and the baby may be the only pack member the dog is able to dominate.
No matter how much the dog “loves the baby,” parents can’t become complacent.
At the other end of the spectrum, 70 year old humans aren’t frequent contributors to the world’s population, but 10 year old dogs are.
So, the 7 to 1 calculation just doesn’t seem valid, but for several other reasons as well.
Take the dog’s size, for instance. Small breeds usually live longer and may be approaching 10 years of age before they’re considered elderly.
Medium breeds might be considered elderly at 7 or 8, and large and giant breeds may be considered senior citizens at 5 or 6 years of age.
The past couple of generations have seen impressive advances in our knowledge of animal health, nutrition and behavior, and that progress has not only added to the quality of life of our “furry family folk,” it has extended their life as well.
And that’s another reason why they can’t come up with a specific mathematical formula for converting human years to dog years.
There are variations in the aging timetables I’ve seen, but most resources agree that a 1 year old dog is the equivalent of a 15 year old human, a 2 year old dog is the equivalent of a 24 year old human, and a 5 year old dog is the equivalent of a 36 year old human.
After that, the pace of aging slows, and a divergence of the aging factor develops between the size categories of dogs.
For example a 7 year old small breed may be considered the equivalent of a 44 year old human, a medium sized dog the same age may be considered the equivalent of a 47 year old human, while a large breed would be the equivalent of a 50 year old human.
In the case of adopted dogs, where the age may not be known, veterinarians use a number of factors to arrive at a “probable age” determination.
Among these are the condition of the teeth (i.e. how worn they are, plaque/tartar presence), agility, skin condition, graying haircoat, condition of the eyes, and other indicators picked up in a physical exam or medical tests.
There are "senior formulation" dog foods on the market, many of which their manufacturers recommend feeding when your dog turns 5-7 years of age.
There are no AAFCO standards for older dogs, so, in consultation with your vet, select a food based on the dog's lifestyle.
If he's a seven year old canine athlete, a food designated by manufacturers as being for older dogs may not be appropriate.
The fact remains, dogs age much faster than we do. While our doctors may not see many changes in our condition from one year to the next, there can be significant changes in your older dog’s condition in just one year.
Depending on your dog’s breed, once they hit 5 to 7 years of age is a good time to start scheduling 6 month vet checks.
One thing a dog owner doesn’t want to hear is the vet say, “If only we had caught this 6 months ago, we could have hoped for a much better outcome.”
© 2012 Bob Bamberg