Aging in dogs: Wikis


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Aging in dogs covers the impact of aging in the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris), common medical and clinical issues arising, and life expectancy.

Older dogs, like this 10-year-old Neapolitan Mastiff, often grow grey hairs on their muzzles; some dogs go grey all over.

Canine conditions such as temperature, change, hearing, and skin condition often degrade with geriatric age, and medical conditions such as cancer, renal failure, arthritis and joint conditions, and other signs of old age may appear.

The aging profile of dogs varies according to their adult size (often determined by their breed): smaller dogs often live over 15–16 years, medium and large size dogs typically 10 to 13 years, and some giant dog breeds such as mastiffs, often only 7 to 8 years. The latter also mature slightly older than smaller breeds - giant breeds becoming adult around two years old compared to the norm of around 12–15 months for other breeds. The urban legend of a human year being equivalent to seven dog years is a misconception, as evidenced by the different life spans of different breeds and sizes of dogs.



The terms "dog years" and "human years" are frequently used when describing the age of a dog. However, there are various ways that this is calculated:

  • One common nomenclature uses "human years" to represent a strict calendar basis (365 days) and a "dog year" to be the equivalent portion of a dog's lifetime, as a calendar year would be for a human being. Under this system, a 6-year-old dog would be described as having an age of 6 human years or 40–50 (depending on the breed) dog years.
  • The other common system defines "dog years" to be the actual calendar years (365 days each) of a dog's life, and "human years" to be the equivalent age of a human being. By this terminology, the age of a 6-year-old dog is described as 6 dog years or 40–50 human years, a reversal from the previous definition.

However, regardless of which set of terminology is used, the relationship between dog years and human years is not linear, as the following section explains.

Aging profile

Approximate graph of dog years and human years (defined as how much each species ages in a year), allowing for differing sizes of dog. Click here for larger view, and for data sources.[1]

They can be summarized into three types:

  • "Popular myth" - popular myth suggests that "one human year equals seven dog years" or the like. This is inaccurate on two scores, since the first year or two years represent some 18–25 years, and the ratio varies with size and breed.
  • "One size fits all" - suggests that the first two years equal 10.5 years each, with subsequent years equaling four human years. This is more accurate but still fails to allow for size/breed, which is a significant factor.
  • Size/breed specific calculators - which try to factor in the size or breed as well. These are the most accurate types. They typically either work by expected adult weight,[2] or by categorizing the dog as "small, medium, large".

No one formula for dog to human age conversion is scientifically agreed, although within fairly close limits they show great similarities.

As a rough approximation, the human equivalent of a one-year-old dog is between about 10 and 15 years—a one-year-old dog or cat has generally reached its full growth and is sexually mature, although it might still be lanky and need to fill in a more mature musculature, similar to human teenagers. The second year is equivalent to about another 3 to 8 years in terms of physical and mental maturity, and each year thereafter is equivalent to only about 4 or 5 human years.[3]

Emotional maturity occurs, as with humans, over an extended period of time and in stages. As in other areas, development of giant breeds is slightly delayed compared to other breeds, and, as with humans, there is a difference between adulthood and full maturity (compare humans age 20 and age 40 for example). In all but large breeds, socio-sexual interest arises around 6–9 months, becoming emotionally adult around 15–18 months, and full maturity around 3–4 years, although as with humans learning and refinement continues thereafter.

According to the UC Davis Book of Dogs, small-breed dogs (such as small terriers) then become geriatric at about 11 years; medium-breed dogs (such as larger spaniels) at 10 years; large-breed dogs (such as German Shepherd Dogs) at 8 years; and giant-breed dogs (such as Great Danes) at 7 years.[4]

Life expectancy by breed

Accidents aside, life expectancy usually varies within a range. For example, a Beagle (average life expectancy 13.3 years) usually lives to around 12–15 years, and a Scottish Terrier (average life expectancy 12 years) usually lives to around 10–16 years.[5]

A random-bred dog (also known as a mongrel) has an average life expectancy of 13.2 years in the USA and much of Europe.


Sorted by breed

These data are from Michell (1999).[6] The total sample size for his study was about 3,000 dogs, but the sample size for each breed varied widely. For most breeds, the sample size was low. For a more comprehensive compilation of results of longevity surveys, see the breed data tables at the Dog Longevity web site.

Sorted by expectancy

6 Bulldog, Irish Wolfhound
7 Bernese Mountain Dog
8 Bullmastiff, Great Dane
9 Doberman Pinscher, Flat-Coated Retriever, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Scottish Deerhound
10 Boxer, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, English Toy Spaniel, German Shepherd, Norfolk Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Weimaraner
11 Airedale Terrier, Corgi, English Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, Gordon Setter, Irish Setter, Old English Sheepdog, Samoyed, Welsh Springer Spaniel
12 Afghan Hound, American Staffordshire Terrier, Basset Hound, Bearded Collie, Bull Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Dachshund, German Shorthaired Pointer, Golden Retrievers, Irish Red and White Setter, Labrador Retriever, Lurcher, Rough Collie, Scottish Terrier, Standard Poodle, Vizsla, West Highland White Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier
13 Beagle, Border Collie, Border Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Chihuahua, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, English Springer Spaniel, Greyhound, Jack Russell Terrier, Pekingese, Random-bred/Mongrel, Shetland Sheepdog, Shih Tzu, Wire Fox Terrier, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
14 Bedlington Terrier, Miniature Dachshund, Miniature Poodle, Pomeranian, Tibetan Terrier, Toy Poodle, Whippet,

Factors affecting life expectancy

Apart from breed, several factors influence life expectancy:

  • Diet - There is some disagreement as to the ideal diet. The oldest dog on record was Bluey, an Australian Cattle Dog, who died at 29 in 1939. In the 2000s, at least two dogs were still living at 27 or 28 years old, but one was fed a purely vegetarian diet[7] and one fed primarily on kangaroo and emu meat.[8]
  • Spaying and neutering - according to a study by the British Veterinary Association (author AR Michell is the president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons), "Neutered bitches lived longest of dogs dying of all causes, though entire bitches lived longest of dogs dying of natural causes, with neutered males having the shortest lifespan in each category."[6] Neutering reduces or eliminates the risk of some causes of early death, for example pyometra in bitches, and testicular cancer in males, as well as indirect causes of early death such as accident and euthanasia (intact dogs may roam more and be more aggressive), but also raises the risk of death from other conditions (castration favors prostate cancer in males, and neutered males have the highest rate for this condition[9]).

For more information, see Health effects of neutering.

A major study of dog longevity, that considered both natural and other factors affecting life expectancy, concluded that:

"The mean age at death (all breeds, all causes) was 11 years one month, but in dogs dying of natural causes it was 12 years eight months. Only 8 per cent of dogs lived beyond 15, and 64 per cent of dogs died of disease or were euthanased as a result of disease. Nearly 16 per cent of deaths were attributed to cancer, twice as many as to heart disease. [...] In neutered males the importance of cancer as a cause of death was similar to heart disease. [...] The results also include breed differences in lifespan, susceptibility to cancer, road accidents and behavioural problems as a cause of euthanasia."[6]

Effects of aging

In general, dogs age in a manner similar to humans. Their bodies begin to develop problems which are less common at younger ages, they are more prone to serious or fatal conditions such as cancer, stroke, and the like, they become less mobile and may develop joint problems such as arthritis, and in old age often become less physically active. Additionally, they become less able to handle change, including wide climatic or temperature variation, and may develop dietary or skin problems or go deaf. In some cases incontinence may develop.

"Aging begins at birth, but its manifestations are not noticeable for several years. The first sign of aging is a general decrease in activity level, including a tendency to sleep longer and more soundly, a waning of enthusiasm for long walks and games of catch, and a loss of interest in the goings on in the home."[10]

The most common effects of aging are:[11]

  • Loss of hearing
  • Loss of vision (cataracts)
  • Decreased activity, more sleeping, and reduced energy (in part due to reduced lung function)
  • Weight gain (calorie needs can be 30–40% lower in older dogs)
  • Weakening of immune system leading to infections
  • Skin changes (thickening or darkening of skin, dryness leading to reduced elasticity, loss or whitening of hair)
  • Change in feet and nails (thicker and more brittle nails makes trimming harder)
  • Arthritis and other joint problems
  • Loss of teeth
  • Gastrointestinal upset (stomach lining, diseases of the pancreas, constipation)
  • Urinary issues (incontinence in both genders, and prostatitis/straining to urinate in males)
  • Mammary cysts and tumors in females
  • Senility
  • Heart murmurs
  • Diabetes.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Data sources: Note that there is no one authoritative chart; this chart follows best information presently available.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Spadafori, Gina (1996). Dogs for Jews. IDG Books. ISBN 1-56884-861-7
  4. ^ Siegal, Mordecai (Ed.; 1995). UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Book of the Dogs; Chapter 5, "Geriatrics", by Aldrich, Janet. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-270136-3.
  5. ^ Life Expectancies of Pets
  6. ^ a b c Michell AR (November 1999). "Longevity of British breeds of dog and its relationships with sex, size, cardiovascular variables and disease". Vet. Rec. 145 (22): 625–9. PMID 10619607. 
  7. ^ Vegetable-Eating Dog Lives to Ripe Old Age of 29; Also: Who is the Oldest Dog in the World; And: How to Make Your Dog Live 1.8 Years Longer
  8. ^ 'Oldest' Dog Heads for 27th Birthday
  9. ^ Canine prostate carcinoma: epidemiological evidence of an increased risk in castrated dogs, Teske E, Naan EC, van Dijk EM, Van Garderen E, Schalken JA, Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.
  10. ^ Dog Owner's Guide: The older dog
  11. ^ What to Expect as Your Dog Ages
  12. ^ Commonly Asked Questions About Senior Dogs

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