Burying a dog or cat is an important part of the grieving process for many people. It certainly was for me. So as someone who advises it, and has done it, I was annoyed to see “Why you shouldn’t bury your pet in the backyard” featured on my ABC.
It’s the classic case of sitting in an ivory tower making the rest of Australia feel guilty for doing what comes naturally. It also says some fairly silly things. So before I give you some simple tips for a proper home burial, let’s clear them up.
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?”
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.
Going through the grief of losing my beautiful old cat made me understand how we shouldn’t go through this alone. To avoid thinking about the death of our pets is natural but it leaves us terribly unprepared when the moment arrives. I know these discussions will be unwelcome to many and understand if they create feelings of anger or distress, for which you have my sincerest apologies.
Here are my suggestions to help you or others through this terrible time. Remember that everyone’s individual experience of grief is different and not all these will apply to each case. And it will get better.