How old is your dog?
(Photo: iStock)

All mammals, whether humans, dogs, or cats, go through similar stages in life: birth, childhood, youth, maturity, and old age. However, for a long time, people believed that you only had to multiply a dog’s age by seven to know its equivalent in human years. Now, one study suggests something different.

The document published by Cell Systems, a scientific journal, shows that not even the age of all dogs can be calculated in the same way, due to differences between breeds. However, it did find that dogs spend less time in youth and more time in old age than humans.

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Canine molecules

The research team, led by bioengineer Trey Ideker, found that the most accurate method of calculation is based on the analysis of molecules called methyl groups. These accumulate over time in certain areas of the human genome. So, they were compared with the way they accumulate in dogs, although this varies depending on each breed.

“It makes sense if you think about it carefully. A nine-month-old dog can have puppies. So, we already knew that the 1:7 ratio was not an accurate measure of age,” says the bioengineer.

He states that changes in our pets provide clues to scientists. They could also help veterinarians get a clearer idea of the age of our pets, which could help them with decisions on diagnosis and treatment.

How old is your dog?
(Photo: Cell Press)

How was the test performed?

This group of researchers collaborated with the Danika Bannasch School of Veterinary Medicine. The academy provided blood samples from 105 Labrador dogs.

According to the results, when young, dogs can have an age similar to that of a 30-year-old human. A four-year-old dog is similar to a 52-year-old human. However, after seven years, aging slows down, and the curve becomes stable.

 

Here’s what the study showed (including a comparison with actor Tom Hanks):

How old is your dog?
(Photo: Cell Press)

According to the table shown above, dogs reach maturity when they turn two. Between the ages of two and four, our pets (in human years) go from 30 years to just a little over 50. Between the ages of four and nine, they will go from 50 to 65 years old. The rest of their lives are spent in the “senior” stage.


Diverse beings

However, due to differences between breeds and sizes, the calculation is not so simple. Dogs are some of the most diverse living things. Their life expectancy is related to their weight, care, and activities.

Due to these changes, the researchers plan to test other breeds of dogs. They seek to determine whether the trend continues.

“One limitation of this measurement is that it was developed using a single breed of dog. Some races are known to live longer than others. Further research will be needed. However, since this measurement is accurate for humans, mice, and Labradors, we can predict that the clock will apply to all breeds,” added Ideker.

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