How Old Is My Dog In Human Years?
We’ve all heard the saying: “multiply your dog’s age by seven to get the human age.” Like most simple rules, there’s a lot wrong with that:
- Dogs age at different rates to people depending on how old they are. They age much faster when young and slower when old.
- The number ‘seven’ has been chosen to match our lifespan to an arbitrary dog age of eleven. No vet would consider 11 an accurate dog lifespan any more.
Here is a more modern and less simplistic view:
|Dog Years||Human Years|
after this add 3 human years for each dog year. This approach is an amalgamation of several modern theories first proposed by Lebeau (1953). The wikipedia page on dog ageing gives a good summary.
Even if more accurate, the new approach brings up two questions:
Do Large Dogs Age Faster?
Everyone says it, but what is the evidence? There isn’t much. All people are doing is observing that certain large breeds have shorter lifespans. That’s not the same thing.
Later I’ll show you the best data we have on how long individual dog breeds live. It’s correct that the larger breeds are known for shorter lives. I want to show you some good news from our clinic that changes what we think.
The dog breeds famous for short lifespans are the giant breeds like Great Danes and Wolfhounds. I think that the diseases they are known for (bone cancer and dilated cardiomyopathy) take them while they are still in the prime of life. If we look at the large breeds, like Golden Retrievers for example, it’s not at all clear that they live any shorter lives than small dogs.
When Is A Dog Considered Old?
Dogs are only as old as they feel. I don’t think we should talk about ‘old age’ in dogs the way we do about people being retired or pensioners. True, knowing the equivalent human age is helpful in thinking about healthcare but it says nothing about their state of mind.
When I wrote about how to know when to go to the vet I said all change is meaningful. Old age is just the sum total of separate diseases. If we keep them under control our dogs can feel and act young right up to their senior years. We don’t see much sign of dementia in most dogs until they reach around 15.
How Long Will My Dog Live?
We all know that different dog breeds can have very different lifespans. At the end is a table showing the best data we have from two recent English studies. Please read this first to help you understand the figures.
Problems with breed lifespan data
- The figures quoted are median lifespans. Juvenile deaths are included which lower the median. For example, a six year old dog having already survived that long will therefore expect a higher median lifespan than these figures suggest for all dogs from puppyhood. The ages should still be valid as a comparison between breeds.
- Studies use self-reported data and often get response rates of only one in four. This will tend to create reporting bias where people are more likely to send back data for atypical results such as early deaths. The data below doesn’t include breeds with very low numbers or response rates.
These studies use old data. All three studies use data for dogs who died before the study date and therefore didn’t have access to many recent advances in veterinary care. This may mean modern lifespans are generally older but it may also explain the idea (myth?) that large dogs die sooner. Look at this recent data from our clinic on 800 living patients. If you can see any difference between large and small dog lifespans you’re doing better than me. Read why I think old dogs now live longer than they used to.
Lifespans Of Dog Breeds
Dog breed longevity in the table below comes from three UK studies, which are the most recent and probably most similar to Australian dogs. Also visit our page on the genetic diseases of different dog breeds.
Next week: How to help your dog live longer.
|Dog Breed||Adams et al|
|O’Neill et al|
|Afghan Hound||11 y , 11 m||12|
|Airedale Terrier||10 y , 9 m||11.2|
|Akita||9 y , 11 m|
|Alaskan Malamute||10 v , 8 m|
|American Cocker Spaniel||10 y , 4 m||12.5|
|Australian Cattle Dog||11 y , 8 m|
|Australian Shepherd||9 y|
|Australian Silky Terrier||14 y , 3 m|
|Basenji||13 y , 7 m|
|Basset Hound||11 y , 4 m||12.8|
|Beagle||12 y , 8 m||13.3|
|Bearded Collie||13 y , 6 m||12.3||13.7|
|Bedlington Terrier||13 y , 5 m||14.3|
|Belgian Shepherd||12 y , 6 m|
|Bernese Mountain Dog||8 y||7|
|Bichon Frise||12 y , 11 m||12.7|
|Border Collie||12 y , 3 m||13||13.5|
|Border Terrier||14 y||13.8||12|
|Borzoi||9 y , 1 m|
|Boston Terrier||10 y , 11 m|
|Bouvier Des Flandres||11 y , 4 m|
|Boxer||10 y , 3 m||10.4||10|
|Briard||11 y , 2 m|
|British Bulldog||6 y , 3 m||6.7||8.4|
|Brittany||12 y , 11 m|
|Bull Terrier||10 y||12.9||11.2|
|Bullmastiff||7 y , 6 m||8.6|
|Cairn Terrier||14 y||13.2||13.4|
|Cavalier King Charles Spaniel||11 y , 5 m||10.7||9.9|
|Chinese Crested||10 y , 1 m|
|Cocker Spaniel||11 y , 2 m||11.8||11.5|
|Dachshund||12 y , 8 m||12.2|
|Dalmatian||12 y , 6 m||13||13.3|
|Dobermann||10 y , 6 m||9.8||9.2|
|Dogue de Bordeaux||3 y, 10 m*||5.5|
|English Setter||11 y , 7 m||11.2|
|English Springer Spaniel||12 y||13||13.3|
|Finnish Lapphund||7 y , 4 m|
|Finnish Spitz||11 y , 2 m|
|Flatcoated Retriever||9 y , 10 m||9.5|
|Fox Terrier||13 y , 2 m|
|French Bulldog||9 y|
|German Shepherd Dog||10.3||11|
|German Shorthaired Pointer||12.3|
|German Pinscher||11 y , 5 m|
|Golden Retriever||12 y , 3 m||12||12.5|
|Gordon Setter||11 y , 1 m||11.3|
|Great Dane||6 y , 6 m||8.4||6|
|Greyhound||9 y , 1 m||13.2||10.8|
|Griffon Bruxellois||12 y|
|Havanese||10 y, 3 m*|
|Irish Setter||12 y||11.8|
|Irish Wolfhound||7 y||6.2|
|Italian Greyhound||13 y , 6 m|
|Italian Spinone||9 y|
|Jack Russell Terrier||13.6||13.4|
|Japanese Chin||9 y , 3 m|
|Keeshond||12 y , 2 m|
|King Charles Spaniel||10.1||12|
|Labrador Retriever||12 y , 3 m||12.6||12.5|
|Lhasa Apso||14 y , 4 m||9||13|
|Maltese||12 y , 3 m|
|Manchester Terrier||12 y , 10 m|
|Maremma Sheepdog||10 y|
|Miniature Poodle||13 y , 11 m||14.8||14.2|
|Miniature Schnauzer||12 y , 1 m||8.5|
|Newfoundland||9 y , 8 m|
|Old English Sheepdog||10 y , 9 m||11.8|
|Pekingese||11 y , 5 m||13.3|
|Polish Lowland Sheepdog||9 y , 7 m|
|Pomeranian||9 y , 8 m|
|Portuguese Water Dog||11 y , 5 m|
|Pug Dog||11 y|
|Rhodesian Ridgeback||11 y||9.1|
|Rottweiler||8 y , 11 m||9.8||8|
|Samoyed||12 y , 6 m||11|
|Scottish Terrier||10 y , 3 m||12||12|
|Shetland Sheepdog||12 y , 6 m||13.3||12.5|
|Shih Tzu||13 y , 2 m||13.4||13.3|
|Siberian Husky||12 y , 7 m|
|Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier||12 y , 6 m|
|Staffordshire Bull Terrier||12 y , 9 m||10||10.7|
|Standard Poodle||12 y||12|
|Swedish Vallhund||14 y , 2 m|
|Tibetan Spaniel||14 y , 5 m|
|Toy Poodle||14 y , 8 m||14.4|
|Weimaraner||11 y , 2 m||10||12.6|
|Welsh Corgi Cardigan||12 y , 2 m||11.3*|
|Welsh Corgi Pembroke||12 y , 3 m||11.3*|
|Welsh Springer Spaniel||12 y , 7 m||11.5|
|West Highland White Terrier||12.8||13.5|
|Whippet||12 y , 10 m||14.3|
|Wire-haired Fox Terrier||13|
|* very low numbers||*Corgis merged|
References & Comments
Adams, V. J., Evans, K. M., Sampson, J., & Wood, J. L. N. (2010). Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 51(10), 512-524. This study used data from questionnaires sent to members of breed clubs in the UK. Breeds were only included when the response rate was at least 15%. Cross breeds were not included.
Michell, A. R. “Longevity of British breeds of dog and its relationships with sex, size, cardiovascular variables and disease.” The Veterinary Record 145.22 (1999): 625-629. Data came from questionnaires sent to owners of UK dogs insured with a large pet insurance company.
O’Neill, D. G., Church, D. B., McGreevy, P. D., Thomson, P. C., & Brodbelt, D. C. (2013). Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England. The Veterinary Journal, 198(3), 638-643. This study accessed UK veterinary clinic databases.
Lebeau, A. (1953). L’âge du chien et celui de l’homme. Essai de statistique sur la mortalité canine. Bulletin de l’Academie Veterinaire de France, 26, 229-232. The matching of human and dog ages in this visionary study from 1953 has stood the test of time and become the basis for modern approaches to assessing dog age.
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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Like or follow our page or subscribe via email to read the latest.