Forget ‘Dog Years’: Scientists Say We’ve Been Calculating Our Pups’ Ages Wrong

Clear the Shelters

Here’s some news that may make you “paws” and reflect.

new study from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine published in the Cell Systems journal has found that one “dog year” is not necessarily equivalent to seven “human years,” as has been commonly thought.

Researchers have created a better way of determining how to compare the ages of people and their four-legged friends.

“Since the two species don’t age at the same rate over their lifespans, it turns out it’s not a perfectly linear comparison, as the 1:7 years rule-of-thumb would suggest,” reads a press release on the study.

The scientists say they have a formula that provides a new “epigenetic clock,” or a method that determines an organism’s age, that takes into account those differing patterns in aging. “Epigenetic changes,” they write, can offer clues to a genome’s age, much like wrinkles on a person.

The research, which focused on more than 100 Labrador retrievers over a 16-year age range, found the animals age quickly when they’re young, only for it to slow down as they get older.

“The comparison is not a 1:7 ratio over time,” the release said. “Especially when dogs are young, they age rapidly compared to humans. A one-year-old dog is similar to a 30-year-old human. A four-year-old dog is similar to a 52-year-old human. Then by seven years old, dog aging slows.”

“This makes sense when you think about it — after all, a nine-month-old dog can have puppies, so we already knew that the 1:7 ratio wasn’t an accurate measure of age,” said Trey Ideker, a senior author on the study and a professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center.

While only one breed was analyzed in the study and more research needs to be done, Ideker believes this new method will apply to all breeds. In the meantime, Ideker says he has a new way of looking at his own pet.

“I have a six-year-old dog — she still runs with me, but I’m now realizing that she’s not as ‘young’ as I thought she was,” Ideker said.


This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY:

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) - Thousands of pets are looking for their forever homes and News Channel 8 is On Your Side helping to make that happen in the Tampa Bay area.

We are teaming up with hundreds of shelters across the country to host Clear the Shelters, a nationwide pet adoption drive from Aug. 1 through Aug. 31, featuring virtual pet adoptions to make it easy for people to donate online to participating shelters and rescues.

More than 150,000 pets found their forever homes since 2015 and we want to add to the number.

Find a shelter near you:

  • Pasco County Animal Services, 19640 Dogpatch Lane, Land O'Lakes
  • Paw Warriors, Inc., 355 Spring Time Street, Spring Hill
  • Pinellas County Animal Services, 12450 Ulmerton Road, Largo
  • Cat Haven Rescue, Inc, 1231 Bruce B. Downs Blvd, Wesley Chapel
  • Cat Haven Rescue, Inc - Pasco, 8529 Little Road, New Port Richey
  • SPCA Tampa Bay, 9099 130th Ave N, Largo
  • Bishop Animal Shelter SPCA of Manatee County, 5718 21st Ave West, Bradenton
  • Hernando County Animal Services, 19450 Oliver Street, Brooksville
  • SPCA Florida, 5850 Brannen Rd S, Lakeland
  • Barking Out Loud Rescues, Inc, 300 N Lake Drive, Lorida
  • Precious Paws Rescue, Inc., Citrus County Florida, 5164 S. Florida Avenue, Inverness
  • Humane Society of Pinellas, 3040 State Road 590, Clearwater
  • Hernando County SPCA, 9075 Grant St, Brooksville
  • St Francis Society, PO Box 261614, Tampa
  • Humane Society of Tampa Bay, 3607 N Armenia Avenue, Tampa
  • Rebels Rescue, Petco 136 S. West shore Blvd, Tampa
  • SPCA Suncoast, 7734 Congress Street, New Port Richey
  • Friends of Strays Animal Shelter, 2911 47th Avenue North, St. Petersburg
  • Florida English Bulldog Rescue, P.O. Box 754, Odessa
  • The Humane Society of Polk County, Inc, 3195 Dundee Rd, Winter Haven
  • The Humane Society of Sarasota County, 2331 15th Street, Sarasota
  • Hands Helping Paws Rescue Inc., 53 W Bay Blvd S, Lake Wales
  • Humane Society of Manatee County, 2515 14th Avenue W, Bradenton
  • Highlands County Sheriffs Animal Services, 7300 Haywood Taylor Blvd, Sebring
  • Manatee County Animal Services, 305 25th St W, Palmetto
  • SPCA Suncoast, 7734 Congress Street, New Port Richey
  • Citrus County Animal Services, 4030 S. Airport Rd, Inverness
  • St Francis Society, PO Box 261614, Tampa
  • FLUFF Animal Rescue, 9400 SEMINOLE BOULEVARD, SEMINOLE
  • SPCA Tampa Bay, 9099 130th Ave N, Largo
  • Polk County Sheriff's Office Animal Control, 7115 De Castro Rd, Winter Haven
  • The Greener Side Haven, Inc., 3892 N Lecanto Hwy, Beverly Hills
  • Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch, 26920 Gopher Hill Road, Myakka City

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