Most dog owners have heard the rule of thumb that one “human year” equals seven “dog years” when trying to figure out their pooch’s age. But just how accurate is that math, really? Jesse Grady, a clinical instructor of veterinary medicine at Mississippi State University, revealed in a blog post for The Conversation that our four-legged friends' real age actually depends on their size.
The seven-year belief is based on the observations of an “average-sized” dog and the milestones they reach as they age. Of course, not every dog is “average” sized. Our precious pooch pals can range from itty-bitty Yorkies and Chihuahuas that can weigh under seven pounds, to giant Mastiffs and Great Danes that potentially tip the scales at 250 pounds.
“Dog breed and its associated size is one of the largest contributors to life expectancy,” Grady explains. “Nutrition and associated weight is likely the next most important factors for individual dogs.” With that in mind, larger dogs who have shorter life expectancies of about 8 to 10 years can reach their 40s in “dog years” at about four years old. Smaller dogs who can make it to their teens and above, however, would enter their 40s at around eight years old.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, dog ages can be broken down into six life stages: puppy, junior, adult, mature, senior, and geriatric. Figuring the age (or stage) of your own pooch can be fun to think about while wondering what similar life events they might be hitting if they were human. For example, we’ve all met a dog who is clearly going through a "ruff" teenage angst phase at one point or another. But more importantly, knowing their actual “dog years” age can help your veterinarian better understand how to treat and prevent health issues throughout their lives.
If you’re still having trouble figuring out how old your canine buddy really is, especially if you adopted them with little information about their past, your vet can help you find the approximate answer. Then, you'll know for sure how many candles to put on their doggy birthday cake.
Now check out some cuties reacting to being told what good dogs they are in the video below!