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How old are dogs REALLY?

23 January 2023

Written by Dr. David Tweedle, BVetMed MRCVS Clinical Director

Reviewed by Dr Jill McMaster BVM&S MBA MRCVS, Veterinary Surgeon and in-house expert at BorrowMyDoggy on 5 Jun 2023

A new study has revealed that traditional ways of calculating our dogs’ age are incorrect. Dave Tweedle, My Family Pet Vet and Clinical Director at Natures Vet in Somerset, tells us more…

It’s a point of endless fascination, trying to figure out exactly how old our dogs are – or more to the point, how old they’d be if they were humans.

Research conducted by the University of California means we’re one step closer to understanding this.

So, 1 dog year no longer equals 7 human years?

This serves as an estimate, based on the average life expectancy of a human being 70 years, and the average life expectancy of a dog being 10 years.

This measurement is not completely wrong. In fact, it becomes more accurate as dogs get older, so it still serves as a helpful guide.

Thanks to this research, we’re able to understand the correlation between the age of a dog and the age of a human even more accurately than before.

What happened during the experiment?

According to Science Magazine, a research team at the University of California scanned the DNA methylation patterns of 104 Labradors. The results were quite different to what you might predict.

The results

Dogs age at a hugely rapid rate when they’re puppies. They reach middle-age quickly, meaning that in terms of their DNA, a 3-year-old dog is as mature as a 50-year-old human!

Once a dog approaches middle age, their aging process begins to slow. A 10-year old dog, according to the study, equates to a 68-year-old human.

Has anything changed?

The way we think about our dogs’ age may change but in terms of looking after them, there’s no change whatsoever. They still need their exercise, a healthy diet and all of their preventative healthcare treatments – regardless of their stage of life.

Thinking of their 3-year-old dog as the equivalent to middle-aged human may even help owners understand their dog’s need for regular care and check-ups even better. We humans might be invincible in our young age but as we now know, ours lasts a lot longer!”

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