We all know that different dog breeds can have very different lifespans. Here are the best figures we have from three recent English studies. Please read this first to help you understand the figures. Continue reading “How Long Do Dog Breeds Live?”
Recently I saw a very unfortunate case. The dog was barely 12 months old and had already had LOTS of vet visits. The owners were at their wits end both emotionally and financially. It didn’t help when I said; ” That’s not uncommon for the breed”.
Most people can tell if a dog or cat is sick. It’s not too hard with ferrets either. All of these are predator species and have no reason to hide their illnesses.
Then there are the prey species, like rabbits, guinea pigs and birds. They deliberately hide signs of illness. They even pretend to eat! Most of the time what looks like ‘sudden death’ or a ‘heart attack’ is really the end of a long, slow illness we couldn’t see.
The good news is that you can tell. Here’s what to look for:
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 to Human Years 1 is equivalent to 15 2 is equivalent to 23 3 is equivalent to 28 4 is equivalent to 33 5 is equivalent to 38 6 is equivalent to 43 7 is equivalent to 48 8 is equivalent to 53 9 is equivalent to 57 10 is equivalent to 61 11 is equivalent to 65 12 is equivalent to 69 13 is equivalent to 73 14 is equivalent to 77 15 is equivalent to 81 16 is equivalent to 85 17 is equivalent to 89 18 is equivalent to 93 19 is equivalent to 97 20 is equivalent to 101
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.
The two methods only agree around middle age, as you can see by the graph.
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.
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?
British is an Airedale terrier who inspired this blog. By the old method, he’s 63 years old and even the new way says he’s 57. Most importantly, in his head, he’ll always be a teenager.
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.
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.