If you’re here, chances are that you love your dog more than anything in the world.
You want to know everything about them so you can help them live their best life and show them the love they deserve.
Knowing what stage of life your dog is in can help you help them more than you probably realize.
In order to know what stage of life your dog is in, you first have to understand how dog years work!
Busting the Dog Years Myth
You’ve probably heard that 1 dog year equals 7 human years.
However, this is a myth and, as you will learn, very inaccurate.
For instance, dogs can have puppies before they’ve reached one year old.
The same obviously cannot be said for 7 year old humans.
This myth most likely originated from a person taking the average lifespan of a dog, 10 to 13 years, and comparing it to the average human lifespan, 70 to 75 years.
However, it’s not as simple as that.
Dogs and humans are both very unique beings and, as a result, develop in unique ways!
Consequently, there isn’t a perfect way to compare dog age to human age, but we can get close.
The Real Way to Calculate Dog Age
Simply put, dog years can be compared to human years in three developmental categories.
The first year of a dog’s life is roughly equal to a human’s first 15 years.
A dog’s second year represents approximately ages 16 to 25 for a human.
Every year after that for a dog is considered to be equal to around 5 years for a human.
However, these are all approximations and things vary depending on a dog’s breed and size.
Why Different Dog Breeds Age Differently
A dog’s life expectancy is dependent on a number of factors.
A study found in The American Naturalist suggests that, in general, smaller dogs tend to live longer.
They also found that larger dogs, sadly, tend to stay with us for a bit less time.
While scientists aren’t completely certain as to why this is, they have a few suspicions.
Larger dogs seem to age faster because they grow faster.
This accelerated growth also seems to explain why larger dogs tend to develop cancer more than smaller dogs.
Another study, found in Canine Medicine and Genetics, indicates that the breeding pool for a specific breed has an effect on life expectancy.
Breeds that are more widespread have a lower chance of inbreeding, and consequently a lower chance of birth defects that may lower life expectancy.
However, they did not find any significant difference in life expectancy between purebred and mixed breed dogs.
That being said, breed and size are not the only indicators of canine life expectancy.
Signs of Aging
Similar to humans, dogs show signs of aging that can happen earlier or later in their lives depending on their breed and how well they are treated.
As with anything health related, your vet is the most qualified person to be determining the age of your dog, and if they may be exhibiting premature signs of aging.
If you want to know how old your dog is, or have any questions about their aging, you should consult your vet first!
In the meantime, here are a few things you can look out for to see how old your dog may be.
How Teeth Show a Dog’s Age
You can learn so much about a dog from their teeth, including their age.
Puppies’ teeth generally aren’t visible until they are about four weeks old.
At about 4 months old, a dog’s puppy teeth will begin to fall out, and their adult teeth will come in.
Most dogs have all their adult teeth by the time they are 7 months old.
By the end of their second year, a dog’s teeth may be slightly worn down and appear less white than when they were a puppy.
Between years 3 and 5, tartar and plaque will build up and their teeth will start to yellow.
From 5 to 10 years, a dog’s teeth will show increased signs of wear and you may start to see signs of decay and disease.
A dog between 10 and 15 years old may even have missing teeth.
But, even younger dogs can experience tooth decay if their humans don’t help them out, which is why every dog owner should know how to keep their dog’s teeth clean.
Not only can keeping your dog’s teeth clean help you gauge how fast they are aging, it can also add literal years to their life!
How Muscle Tone Shows a Dog’s Age
Similar to humans, dogs tend to lose muscle mass as they age.
If a dog suffers from arthritis, hip dysplasia, or just a general lack of energy, their muscles will atrophy.
A dog will decrease their activity levels as they get older, which naturally will decrease their muscle definition.
An older dog may also have more loose skin and appear generally less spry.
How Fur Quality Shows Age
According to the American Kennel Club, puppies are born with a soft, fluffy coat.
Eventually, they shed this coat and grow into their adult fur.
With this transformation, the dog’s fur will often change color and become more thick and stiff.
When a dog enters their senior years, you may start to see calluses or slightly bald patches on their elbows or areas that rub against surfaces often.
They also may start to grow gray patches around their eyes and nose.
Lastly, you may find small bumps under their skin around their torso.
These are typically benign tumors, but you should have your vet check them out anyway.
How a Dog’s Energy Level Shows Age
A puppy wants to interact with everything in their world all at once.
They have seemingly endless energy, so much so that you’ll probably have to teach your puppy how to rest.
An adult dog may still have similar energy levels, but they’re much better at controlling it and remembering to rest when they need to.
When a dog gets up there in age, they may still want to play, but the lack the endurance they once had.
Older dogs more often than not are content with observing through a window or from their bed.
How a Dog’s Eyes Show Age
When a dog is young, their eyes will appear clear, vibrant, and alert.
As they age, their eyes may start to appear more cloudy, and their eyelids may droop more.
Some dogs will also develop cataracts as they age.
However, the eyes are very tender organs and you should leave examining them up to your vet.
Aging With Grace
Every dog, and every human for that matter, will show signs of aging eventually.
However, when a dog doesn’t live in a loving home, they will show signs of aging prematurely.
If you give your dog the love and care they deserve, they will be prepared to reach their golden years with grace.
Now that you know what a dog experiences as they age, you are that much closer to making each of their days better than the last, even as they get older.