Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dog Years

Have you ever heard the old adage “one year of a dog’s life is equal to seven years of a human’s life”? Well, this is no longer considered an accurate calculation. When determining your dog’s age in human years you must take into account all of the contributing factors: size of dog, gender, diet and exercise, weight of dog, breed of dog, and the list goes on.

A dog’s size and breed are two of the stronger contributing factors when it comes to the life expectancy of a dog, and how dog years are converted into people years. A fairly accurate stereotype is that small dogs have much greater life expectancies than large dogs, because of this, in many instances, small dogs mature at a slower rate than large dogs. Therefore, taking this into account, a small dog that has a life expectancy of 15+ years (like many toy breeds) would need a different calculation when determining human age, than a large dog such as the Mastiff with a life expectancy closer to eight years. The breed of a dog is also a strong indicator of the average life span of a dog, and often times will discredit the above rule. For instance, the Doberman Pinscher, a very large dog, regularly averages a life span of 15+ years, an age one would associate with a very small dog. On the flip side, some small dogs have shorter life expectancies, which would also turn the above rule on its head.

The size and breed of a dog are good indicators about age, but there are other things a responsible dog owner can do to help ensure their dog walks with a youthful step, and remains young (in human and dog years). Providing your dog with a healthy, balanced diet, throughout the dog’s life will help extend the life expectancy. I am a strong advocate of holistic pet diets. Another way to extend your dog’s life expectancy, and ensure good quality of those years, is to make sure your dog has the appropriate amount of exercise for his/her breed, age, and health. Keeping a dog fit throughout its life can work wonders in extending life and lessening the effects of joint problems. Finally, what I find to be the easiest and hardest to control is weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is critical for life expectancy. A consistently overweight dog can lose two or more human years from its life expectancy, and hamper your dog’s quality of life, because for each pound that your dog is overweight that equates to three to five added pounds of pressure on their joints. Dog obesity has become a large problem in this country, but it can be easily managed by measuring your dog’s food at each meal, feeding a nutritious diet (particularly one lacking fillers like corn), following an exercise routine and going easy on those treats. To calculate your dog’s age at a fairly basic level use this calculator. To accurately calculate your dog’s age in people years, taking into account many of the contributing factors, use the DogAge Test at

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