How old is my dog?
How old is your dog? I was reading an article the other day that said dogs age 7 years for every one year that we age and I am sure that you have heard the same saying in the past. I never really thought of how quickly that age change occurred but the article went on to break that down a little more. It stated that a dog ages one year every 52 calendar days. That means your dog ages one year in less than two actual months. Think of all the things that change for you in one year. Some of those same changes occur in your pet in only 2 months.
I started thinking about the article and what it said about aging in pets. The idea that a pets' body ages seven years for each actual year is based on the long held belief that the average lifespan for a dog was 10 and the average human life span was 70 so for every 1 year we age a dog will age seven years. Dogs actually age at a much different rate than people do.
Puppies come in to the clinic all the time. Their first visit they may be a few weeks old but they are aging very quickly. It is not uncommon for a puppy to double its weight in a one month period when they are just 3 months old. As puppies mature they are growing and aging very quickly. A one year old dog is about the same age as a fifteen year old teen. A dog's second year also goes by very quickly as they age about another 9 years in their second year and are the equivalent in age of a young adult of 24 after just 2 years.
Dog aging starts to slow down once they reach about three years of age. Dogs tend to age about four years for every one human year for ages three to five so at age three they are about the same as a 28 year old, age 4 is close to about 32 and age 5 is around 36 years old. After about this time the aging starts to vary based on breed and size. Smaller breeds age more slowly than large and giant breeds at this time which is why we see a significant difference in life spans depending on the size of a dog. Small breeds of dogs can live to 14 years or more while unfortunately some giant breeds only have a life expectancy of 8 years or less. Small breeds tend to continue on average of aging about 4 years for every one calendar year while medium breeds are closer to 5 years and larger breeds can age 6 or more years each year.
When is a dog considered a senior dog? This also depends on the size and breed of dog. A small or toy breed may be considered senior around 7-8 years old while a giant breed would be considered senior at closer to 5 years old. Aging and body changes that come with age changes can have a large impact on activity level, organ function, dietary needs and overall health.
So dogs don't exactly age seven years for every one physical year but they do age at a much more rapid pace than humans. Your dog may not be 1 year older every 52 days but adult and senior dogs do age about one year every 60-90 days depending on breed and size. This is why preventative care is important, to help keep our pets healthy to enjoy longer, healthier lives.