Why do dogs age so fast? You may find it difficult to accept that dogs age so fast, especially when their aging process is much faster compared to us humans. You may have heard years ago about converting a dog’s years into human years by simply multiplying a dog’s age by seven. So if say Princess the poodle was 1 year old, you would multiply her age by 7 and assume she would be the equivalent of a 7 year old child. This has been conventional wisdom for quite some time, but how accurate is this method? Turns out, not much, especially if you consider that a one-year old female dog is already mature enough to give birth; whereas, a 7 year old child is still playing with dolls!
A Matter of Various Factors
Fortunately, nowadays, a better understanding of how dogs age reveals that the over simplistic rule of multiplying the dog’s age by seven to obtain the human age equivalent, is very inaccurate. Consider for instance that small dogs tend to live much longer than larger dogs. More than a matter of size, longevity seems to be a matter of weight. Indeed, it was found that dogs weighing under 30 pounds are the ones blessed with some of the longest lifespans. A pint-sized Chihuahua can easily live up to 17 years; whereas, an Irish wolfhound lives barely up to 10! Different breeds of dogs also have a quite different lifespan, not to mention individual factors such as weight, diet and the overall role of genetics which may have quite an impact on longevity. Sex, plays also a role considering that female dogs seem to tend to live a little longer than male dogs.
A Matter of Genetic Potential
Each animal has a genetic potential for living for a certain timeframe. Consider that elephants may live up to 70 years; whereas, a giant tortoise can easily live over 100! If we look at humans and other species , dogs unfortunately aren’t blessed with the longest life span. We know for a fact that the average lifespan for humans is generally around 78; whereas the average lifespan of dogs is only about 13 years. Yet, we can’t really complain as a mouse is known for living no more than 5 years!
What can be done to increase a dog’s lifespan? Sure a healthy diet, exercise and care can do a whole lot, but even with these, a dog is unlikely to outlive its genetic potential. Scientists at the University of Washington are trying to see if there’s something that can be done to increase the lifespan of dogs. This interesting field of study is known as “geroscience” and it focuses on the biology of aging. If you are interested in learning more, you can visit the The Dog Aging Project website.
Did you know? The first place prize for the longest living dog goes to Max, a beagle/dachshund terrier mix who lived to the ripe age of 29 years and 282 days. Max was born on August 9th 1983 and died on May 19th 2013.