How old is your dog? Dogs don’t age at the same pace as humans do. Instead, they have a condensed life span that causes them to age many years compared to 1 “human year.” Since many dogs have the energy of a puppy well into their senior years, it can be rather difficult to guess their age.
Everyone has heard the rule of dog years to human years that tells us that one year of a dog's life is equal to seven years of a human life, but is that accurate? Surprisingly, that figure is widely accepted among pet health experts, but there are variations in how the dog to human age ratio works, and most of them have to do with either the size or the breed of the dog.
Why Is It Important to Know My Dog’s Age in Human Years?
Your dog will have different health and nutritional needs based on the stage of life they’re currently in. For example, puppies are filled with energy, and therefore have different nutritional needs to keep them fueled than older dogs. This is why serving puppy food to your dog for their first year of life is so important: it keeps them fueled and helps puppies get the nutrients they need to grow.
As your dog ages, they will experience different health issues related to the stage of life they’re in. Whether it’s diseases that are more likely to pop up in adult dogs or the simple effects of time on joints and teeth, adult and senior dogs do not have the same needs as each other, much less puppies. Having an idea of how old your dog is compared to your own age can help you provide better care for the period of life they’re in.
Understanding Your Dog’s Life Stages
Generally, dogs have three “stages” in life: puppyhood, adulthood, and senior years. The age at which they reach these stages varies based on breed and weight. Your vet will be able to talk to you more about the stage your specific dog is in as well, as the medical needs of that age.
Puppies, or dogs under 1 year of age, will need their vaccines and boosters on a set schedule during their first year of life. You will need to go to the vet several times as they grow for wellness checks and vaccine administration. Adult dogs, however, do not have to go to the vet as frequently. Healthy adult dogs may only need their annual wellness checkup and vaccines.
Like puppies, senior dogs have more health needs than adult dogs. They may be more prone to injury or pain as they age, so go to the vet for more wellness checks or as frequently as medically necessary. Have the vet check their mobility, oral care, and vision in addition to their normal vaccine updates and wellness checks to make sure your pup is aging comfortably.
Keep an eye out for warning signs that your senior dog is experiencing health issues related to their age so you can alert your vet during your next visit. If you notice any of the below, be sure to make an appointment to have your dog looked at by your vet as quickly as possible.
- Loss of appetite
- Increased thirst
- Weight loss
- Difficulty using the bathroom
- Excessive or prolonged coughing
- Cloudy eyes
Calculating Dog Years
Dogs age differently than humans — and similarly, medium and large dogs grow differently than small dogs. In most instances, the smaller dog is expected to have a longer life expectancy, but breed and genetics come into play as well. For example, even if a larger dog lives as long as a small or medium-sized dog, they will spend more years of their life in the geriatric phase than their smaller counterparts.
How Do I Convert My Dog’s Age to Human Years?
Dogs are considered a puppy for the first year of their life. During that time, they age the equivalence of 15 human years. Your dog’s aging pace can vary based on their size. Small dogs, or those under 20 pounds, aren’t considered senior dogs until they are 8 years old, where they are estimated to be the 48 in human years. Medium dogs that weigh between 21 and 50 pounds are also considered senior dogs at age 8, but are considered to be 51 human years old.
Conversely, large dogs that weigh more than 50 pounds are considered senior at age 6. Because of their size they age faster than smaller dogs and are the equivalent of 45 human years old. Use the dog age chart below if you're wondering "How old in human years is my dog?," as well as find out how many years you can expect your dog to spend in each stage of life. Remember, one size does not fit all when it comes to canines and no age calculator for dogs is exact!
Aging in Dog Years
Whether your dog is two years old or 20, age is just a number when it comes to how spry they feel and act, regardless of whether they are a large dog or a small dog. The level of energy your dog has for exercise and their attitude toward activity in general tells you much more about your dog's aging process than any arbitrary number. Moreover, your dog’s lifestyle, weight, and the amount of exercise they get are determining factors in their health and physical appearance.
Keeping Your Dog Young: Physical and Mental Engagement
You can add years to your dog’s life by keeping them engaged in activities like walking and swimming, while also ensuring that they get the appropriate amount of socialization with other dogs and people. By caring for your dog's physical and mental health needs and providing what they need to stay healthy, you give them better odds of living longer and staying healthy.
Checking in on your dog's mental health as part of their regular physical exams can be a great way to add years to their life as well. Dogs who experience minimal stress, anxiety, fear, and separation anxiety are more likely to be physical healthy and live longer, according to Psychology Today.
A large part of where anxiety and stress come from for dogs is lack of purpose. For this reason, obedience training can be as much a gift for your dog as it is for you and your household. Well-trained dogs have a better understanding of how to behave, and understand the boundaries set by their owners. So, be sure you have your dog seen by a veterinarian who understands the connection between physical and mental health in their canine patients.
Consider Dog Pet Insurance to Maintain Canine Health
Every stage of your dog’s life is valuable and important. No matter what age they are, cherish it and take care of their medical needs. AKC Pet Insurance (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) proudly offers coverage for dogs of all ages, sizes, and breeds with pet insurance plans to meet your needs and your budget alike. Start the year off right by getting a quote on a new dog insurance policy today!