This Is What Dog and Cat Years Really Mean

Is the common belief that one dog year equals seven human years actually true?

Dog and cat yearsPhoto: Shutterstock

Dog and cat years: explained

If you’re a pet owner, then you’ve probably heard (or said) the phrase, “my dog is __ years old in dog years!” We create close bonds with our pets –– it’s only natural that we want to make them seem more human. But what was the genesis of “dog years” and “cat years,” and is it even factual? The American Animal Hospital Association found out.

The common belief among pet owners is that one dog year is equivalent to seven human years. Surprisingly, this old wives tale actually has some logic behind it. This equation originated when a few people observed that a healthy, average-size medium dog lived one-seventh as long as its owner. But in today’s world with hoards of dog breeds, what is “average-sized”? Depending on the size of your pup, it could live a shorter or longer life. For example, big dogs like German shepherds have shorter lifespans than Shih-Tzus. Plus, with modern veterinary medicine, dogs are able to receive better care and live longer than when the “dog years” concept emerged. (Don’t miss these secrets your pet won’t tell you.)

A more accurate method to measure aging in dogs

Today, veterinarians use the Canine Life Stage Guidelines, which was developed by the AAHA, to gauge the age of your dog. Dogs have six life stages: puppy, junior, adult, mature, senior, and geriatric.

  • Puppy: Birth to sexual maturity
  • Junior: Reproductively mature, still growing
  • Adult: Finished growing, sexually and structurally mature
  • Mature: From middle to last 25 per cent of expected lifespan
  • Senior: Last 25 per cent of life expectancy
  • Geriatric: Beyond lifespan expectation

The ages for each life stage vary for the size of your pup. In order to actually estimate the “human” age that corresponds with their life stage, you can line it up with typical human developmental stages. Here’s an example: You have a six-month-old, medium-sized cocker spaniel. Based on his age and size, he falls into the “junior” category. If he was a human, he’d likely be in primary school, between 5-10 years old.

What about cats?

Cat people, it’s your turn. The joint American Association of Feline Practitioners-The American Animal Hospital Association created Feline Life Stage Guidelines, which, similarly to their canine counterparts, divides cats into six categories: kitten, junior, prime, mature, senior and geriatric.

Cats don’t have as much size variability as dogs, so the age ranges for each life stage stay almost the same for each breed, reports The Conversation. They also live longer than dogs on average, so each of their life stages is extended.

Now, we know what you’re thinking: all of these calculations just for owners to know whether their pets graduated college yet? Not quite. Veterinarians use this data for real-world situations. As your pet gets older, different health concerns become more or less relevant (think: premature birth in puppies/kittens and arthritis in seniors), so vets need to know their life stage to give them proper care. To truly make these life stage guidelines accurate, your pet needs to be healthy; make sure you’re keeping up with all of the needs of your animals so they can live a long and happy life––with you!

This is what six dog breeds looked like 100 years ago.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest