Ask Dr. Tory: How Does Dog Aging Differ From Humans?

by Sundays

Everyone has heard of dog years, but how do you calculate them and how does a dog’s accelerated life span impact them every day?

Dogs are very much like people. They have emotions, interests, preferences and their own unique personalities. They’re a part of our families in so many meaningful and practical ways. So, it can be easy to forget that our four-legged friends’ needs might differ a bit from our own. 

How Does Dog Aging Differ From Humans?

For starters, dog aging is a process that occurs unfortunately much faster and earlier  than human aging. This makes their daily nutrition and attention to overall healthcare super important. The good news: “Today’s enhanced health care means our dogs are living longer, better lives,” says Dr. Tory Waxman

Still, while we are making strides with canine internal health, we have a limited understanding of how lived experiences might affect health and aging in dogs. That’s one reason why the Dog Aging Project has conducted a new study to learn more about how we can help our animal companions live longer, healthier lives.

Researchers analyzed over 24,000 dogs between the ages of 2 and 25.5 years old and identified components of the social environment that were associated with health, mobility, and disease. The results: more social companions–both human and canine– and better household stability predicted better health outcomes for the pets in the study. 

Dogs who lived with other dogs and/or other pets in their house were rated as significantly healthier than dogs with fewer household companions. This goes to show that there could be more similarities between dog and human health than we previously acknowledged. 

So, What Are Dog Years?

But no matter how many parallels we can draw between ourselves and our pups, the reality of their accelerated life span remains.  Everyone has heard of dog years, but how do you calculate them and how does a dog’s accelerated life span impact them every day?

There’s not really as much of a science to it as people tend to think–or might want there to be. People want to figure out their dog’s age in human years, maybe so that they feel closer to them and better understand how they are feeling in a physical way. But dogs age differently than us. 

How they age will mostly depend on the size and breed of the dog. In general, smaller dogs have longer life spans and vice versa. That being said, there are always exceptions to the rule-especially as we continue to make improvements in the vet care and nutrition we provide our animals. 

How to Calculate Dog Years

Still, there is an equation for calculating an average human-equivalent age for your dog. For medium sized dogs you can calculate their age like this: 

  • 15 human years equals the 1st year of their life. 
  • Year 2 will be equivalent to about 9 years for a human. 
  • And after that, each human year would be approximately 5 years for a dog. 

So if you know your dog is 7 years old, you could imagine them to have lived about 49 human years. 

Also note that this algorithm can vary for small or large breed dogs. Most small to medium-sized dogs will graduate from puppyhood into their adult years after year one. However, some large breed dogs are considered puppies for up to two years. Some really tiny dogs will mature by 8 months old and may gain too much weight on puppy formulas and need to switch to an adult food before their first birthday. In general, dogs become seniors by 7 years-old,  but some larger breeds could reach seniorhood by 4 or 5 years-old. 

Remember that we’re continuing to make strides with dog health and in turn, their longevity. High quality diets, in addition to feeding appropriate amounts for their body weight will only help enhance their overall quality of life. 

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