For many pet owners, working out the ‘real’ age of their pet is a simple bit of mathematics – you just multiply by seven, right?
But that figure is actually misleading, a veterinary expert has revealed.
The ‘seven years’ idea is based on an observation of average-sized dogs – which tend to live around one-seventh of the time humans do.
But life expectancy actually varies widely by size and breed in dogs – and it’s best to focus instead on what ‘life stage’ your animal is at.
You can ask a vet, or examine your own animal’s behaviour to work out which stage they are at.
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Veterinary expert Jesse Grady of Mississippi State University says in an essay for The Conversation, ‘Life stages are a more practical way to think about age than assigning a single number; even human health recommendations are based on developmental stage rather than exactly how old you are in years.
‘Dog breed and its associated size is one of the largest contributors to life expectancy, with nutrition and associated weight likely being the next most important factors for individual dogs.
‘These guidelines are augmented based on a physician’s or veterinarian’s examination of the human or animal patient.
‘So next time you take your pet to the veterinarian, talk about your animal’s life stage and find out what health recommendations come with it.’