Q: Do dogs really age seven years for every one year their humans do? Or is that a myth?
Answer: The notion that a year of a dog’s life translates to seven in human years is not accurate, said Dr. Tyler Gallaher from Hopkins Road Animal Hospital in Kernersville, who is a member of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association.
“In recent years, researchers have started to put some real science behind this myth to see just how accurate the 7:1 ratio is, and this theory is just that — a theory,” he said in an email when we wrote about this previously. That ratio, he said, is most commonly linked to lifespan statistics that are now considered outdated, and do not accurately reflect science. “But the good news is that we do have some insight into how pets' lifespans can be calculated,” he said.
Among other factors, breed can impact aging, with larger breeds tending to have shorter lifespans, he said. Cats and small dogs are typically considered "senior" after seven years. “Age is not a disease, but senior pets can develop age-related problems,” he said.
“Although pet ages cannot be measured against that of a human, it’s important to know the rough estimate of your pet’s age so that you can provide them with proper care. The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) provides additional information on pet lifespans and how to calculate your pet’s age here.”
According to the AVMA, according to the latest research, the comparisons of pet ages to human years are:
• Age 7 is equivalent to human age 44 for small dogs to 56 for very large dogs (and 54 for cats);
• Age 10: 56 to 78 (63 for cats);
• Age 15: 76 to 115 (78 for cats);
• Age 20: 96 to 120 (97 for cats).
“Although senior pets may develop age-related problems, good care allows them to live happy, healthy and active lives in their senior years,” according to the AMVA. Older pets are more likely to develop conditions such as heart, kidney and liver disease, cancer, or arthritis.
“Cancer accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age. Dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans, while cats have a somewhat lower rate.”
It is also normal for pets to lose some of their sight and hearing as they age. Older pets may develop cataracts and may not respond to voice commands as well.
If a pet’s eyesight is failing, AVMA recommends you avoid rearranging or adding furniture that could become an unexpected obstacle to them, since pets with poor sight or even blindness can still often get around well in familiar environments.
“Thanks to better care, pets are living longer now than they ever have before — but as pets get older, they need extra care and attention,” according to the AVMA. “Regular veterinary examinations can detect problems in older pets before they become advanced or life-threatening, and improve the chances of a longer and healthier life for your pet.”
The AVMA has more tips on caring for aging pets and signs to watch out for such as changes in activity, behavior or weight. You can read the full report at www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/senior-pets.
— Tim Clodfelter, Winston-Salem Journal
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