There’s a lot of folklore around how we should calculate our pet’s age in human years, but what is considered the best way to calculate their age? Is it calculated differently in different life stages? Do size and breed matter? Is there a difference between calculating a dog’s age versus a cat’s age in human years? Read on for answers to these burning questions and more.
Why Calculate Our Pet’s Age In Human Years?
It may seem like a frivolous exercise to care about the human age equivalent of our cats or canines, but there is a point beyond simple curiosity. Both cats and dogs can procreate only months after being born. What else can they do that changes their overall maturity and development compared to humans?
Scientists have been testing animals of all shapes and sizes, cats and dogs included, across the hard and soft sciences. We test things like how fast their physical bodies develop, how fast their emotional IQ builds, and their psychological development. We look at their ability to solve puzzles, communicate, how fast they grow, how diseases develop and progress, and more.
One big reason it’s important that we understand their human age is to compare their maturity level to our own human maturity at different ages. There are similarities in our understanding of the world and how we learn at different ages. Our canine and kitty companions have very similar learning abilities at their human-equivalent age. This is a key to understanding the ways we can train our pets – what complexities they can work with and how much they can process. It also gives us tremendous insight into the tools and techniques we can use to train them at different life stages.
What Factors Do We Consider When Calculating The Age Of Our Pet?
We used to think of the human age-equivalency as a simple calculation. We would multiply the number age of our dog or cat in years, by the number seven. It turns out, it’s much more complicated than that. Breed, life stage, species, and environment and lifestyle need to be taken into account.
For example, cats mature a little faster than dogs in when they are younger. Dogs age quickly in their young years, but their total life expectancy plays a bigger role in calculating their age in people years. We also have to consider that one out of ten pets has an underlying disease such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease.
In general, the best ways to calculate dog’s and cat’s ages in human years, is to use veterinarian supported formulas.
How to Calculate Our Dog’s Age In Human Years
As dog guardians, we understand that large breeds live shorter lives than small ones. It turns out that also means they mature faster. A large breed is considered a senior dog in human years by the time he or she is five years old. Breeds that fall into the medium-size category are in the senior life-stage by the time they are seven years old. Small breeds become seniors when they are around ten years old. Female dogs tend to live just a little longer than male dogs.
In general, veterinarians agree on a common formula. It’s not as simple as the seven-year multiplier, but it’s easy and more accurate.
If we agree a 1-year old dog is 12 years old in human years and a 2-year old dog is 24 years old in human years, then we add four human years to each dog-year after that. For example, a three-year-old dog would be 28 years old. A six-year-old dog would be 40 years old in human years.
Veterinarians agree on this method because it takes into account the maturity rate of a dog’s early years, as well as the slowdown in the aging process.
Other factors our vet will use to determine age, beyond the standard calculation. A physical exam would include looking at our pup’s teeth, eyes, hair, skin, and joints. As they age, dog’s eyes may begin to cloud over. Their gray hair tends to begin at the muzzle and spread along the face to the body. Unless they are a Shar-pei or similar breed, their skin will become more loose with age. And the joint so of our fur-babies will typically stiffen with age.
Teeth are often the biggest giveaway:
- 8-weeks: all their baby teeth will have come in.
- 7-months: all their permanent teeth will have come in and will look clean and pearly white.
- 1-2 years: their teeth become dull, and their back teeth will usually develop a yellow tint.
- 3-5 years: tartar buildup is common, and we’ll see wear on their teeth.
- 5-10 years: teeth will show wear, but will also begin to show more prevalent signs of disease.
- 10-15 years: we’ll see wear and heavy tartar buildup on their teeth. Some teeth may be missing. If dental work has been done, we’ll see evidence of that and still be able to make some educated guesses about their age.
There are plenty of factors that can tell us how old our pup is, such as stress, nutrition, and coping with disease. One important way to ensure a long and healthy life is to feed them a whole food diet. However, most of us don’t have time for that. The best alternative is EcoEats. It’s dehydrated whole foods, so it’s as close to a fresh whole food diet as we can get. Just add warm water and their protein of choice and you have a nutritious, vet-approved meal, free-from commercial fillers and additives that are hard to digest and often deprive our pups of good nutrition. Try EcoEats now and you’ll see the difference.
No matter what age they are, we love our cats and dogs. For cats, check back next week for part two of this article that will discuss cat age in human years and what we look for to determine their maturity and development level.