Research Says a Dog Year isn’t Always Equal to Seven Human Years

Some of the math we do sometimes does not seem to make sense, but those who come up with the formulas have their reasons and understanding. For instance, synergy in merging businesses has been described by “1+1=3,” which, of course, from a mathematical stand, is wrong. Similarly, scientists have, for a long time, told us that dog years relate to human yeas in the ratio of 1:7, such that for every one human year, a dog has lived seven. Their tune has changed, and new research says a dog year is not always equal to seven years; so, why the change of mind? Let’s tell you the reason.

It was a marketing gimmick, apparently

The ratio we have been using for over sixty years was based on the statistics that humans live for about 70 years, while dogs live for around ten years. Therefore according to American Kennel Club, this assumption was used to encourage people to get their pet dogs to attend regular vet clinics by pinpointing how faster the dog ages compared to humans. William Fortney, a veterinarian, based at the Kansas University, said that it was a selling ploy. For years, that trick has worked considering how pet owners prioritize their pets’ health and the amount of money they spend on the clinics.

All the same, ploy or not, this ratio calculation has been done away with by the University of California San Diego researchers despite Kelly M. Cassidy, a Charles Connor Museum curator, saying that we can never kill the seven-year rule. By studying the molecular changes, particularly the changing patterns of the methyl groups of 104 Labrador retrievers, ranging between young puppies to 16-year-olds, the researchers found out that dogs age much faster when they are younger, and upon reaching seven years, the rate slows down. Consequently, as per the study, the first year of a dog equates to 30 human years while a 4-year-old dog is as old as a 52-year-old human. They concluded by comparing the dogs’ methylomes to those of humans and matching them to observe the physiological age difference between the two species.

Scientists flaunt this new formula as the first that can be transferable across species; therefore, even if the research was based on findings of a Labrador retriever, they plan to test it on other dog breeds. It is not for just calculating dog years; the researchers believe that with the milestone, veterinarians could make more informed decisions when diagnosing and treating their four-legged patients. As for the dog owners, they can also know when to stop expecting too much from their aged furry friends.

Why larger dogs age faster than smaller ones

As much as the new research is still blanketing the aging rate of dogs, according to The Nest, there is no one-size-fits-all when calculating your dog’s age. Therefore even if the team at the University of California San Diego has debunked the myth of a 1:7 ratio, there are yet to tell us how the aging rate will differ across different breeds, but they plan on doing it soon. Scientists have noticed that the size of dogs matters a lot when it comes to how fast they age. However, while most studies claim that larger dogs age faster than smaller ones, some scientists have proven this to be wrong. One author, Janice Borzendowski, claims that at five human years, small dogs are 36, medium ones are 37, large dogs are 40, and giant ones are 42. After that, for every human year, smaller dogs will age by four years, larger ones by five years, while giant canines will age by seven years.

This finding is further supported by the American Society of Naturalists which according to the Smithsonian Magazine concluded that large dog breeds die earlier than their smaller-sized counterparts. The study disclosed that large dog breeds have a higher baseline hazard than smaller ones, meaning that large dogs age faster; hence their adult life unwinds at the same accelerated pace. Nevertheless, sometimes a dog’s lifespan goes beyond its size; some breeds are genetically inclined to live longer than others. For instance, while bulldogs are smaller breeds, and we expect them to live at least 14 years, most do not make it past their 10th birthday.

Is your dog aging faster than expected?

Some signs are evidence that your dog is getting a bit too old to be playing fetch or walking around the block. However, sometimes, we catch such aging signs in dogs that are at their prime of their life, which could mean that your furry friend is getting older at an accelerated rate. One sign that usually scares pet owners is when their dogs start going grey around the muzzle, yet the pup is only a year old. However, this does not mean that your dog is already a senior. According to Hills Pet, if your dog has been experiencing high anxiety levels, is impulsive or afraid of strangers, chances of his muzzle growing gray prematurely are high.

However, sometimes it is genetics at play; some breeds go gray earlier than others; therefore, you should be able to differentiate types of graying. Graying that starts around the muzzle is associated with the aging process and is called geriatric graying. Another kind is progressive graying, which causes the animal’s coat to turn silver; it is said to be caused by a chromosome 25, and surprisingly, the gene has not yet been found. However, scientists still claim that this gene is present because those breeds such as poodles whose entire coat can turn gray or silver only change in color because it is a dominant gene. Moreover, health problems could cause premature graying; Puppy Leaks explains that early graying could be due to hypothyroidism that causes premature graying around the muzzle, retarded hair growth, hair loss, and a dry coat. Therefore before you conclude that your pet at an accelerated aging rate, always consult your vet.

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