When they first come home, they look as though they’ll stay young forever. And even as dogs age, their little bursts of puppy energy keep you thinking they’re drinking from the dog bowl of youth. But the aging process for dogs is unique leaving you to ask, “Why do dogs age so fast?”
The aging process does vary based on your dog breeds, your dog’s health, and various other factors. But whether you’re talking about small dogs or large dogs, your pet’s life expectancy matters. So, dog parents who want to explore how long dogs live have come to the right page.
Why do dogs age so fast? Your pup’s aging process can vary depending on the dog’s breed and some other important factors in their care and quality of life.
Info for Dog Parents: Why Do Dogs Age so Fast? And How Old is Your Pup in Dog vs Human Years?
You’ve heard it before: 1 year of a dog’s life equates to seven human years. This rumored calculation has been around for decades. But have you ever stopped to research if the calculation is valid?
Many people think this formula got its start because when it was formed, the life expectancy of people was about 70 years and the life expectancy for dogs averages out to around 10 years.
Hence, someone somewhere theorized that 1 dog year would be equivalent to 7 human years. However, science doesn’t actually support this theory. Not only do different dog breeds experience the aging process in different ways, but humans often live longer than 70 years of age.
Should The Dog Years To Human Years Life Expectancy Ratio Be Updated?
A very recent study suggests that a newer formula, based on changes in dogs’ DNA through time, should be explored.1 As a guideline, the American Veterinary Medical Association suggests breaking down how dogs live like this:
- The first year of a mid-size dog’s life should equate to approximately 15 human years.
- The second year of a medium-sized dog’s life should equal about nine human years.
- The third year (and each subsequent year that follows) for medium dog breeds, should equal approximately five human years.2
So, how can you support healthy aging for your pet? Are there ways to improve your dog’s health and ensure they live longer?
Average Life Expectancy Depends Heavily on Your Dog’s Breed and Size
As mentioned, certain dog breeds have longer lifespans than other dog breeds. In most cases, small dogs mature faster and live longer than larger dogs. Larger dogs age at an accelerated rate and their lives seem to be lived in fast motion. In fact, researchers conclude every 4.4 pounds of a dog’s body mass reduces their life expectancy by a month or so.3
Research reveals that larger dogs have shorter life expectancies than small dogs. For instance, an Irish Wolfhound averaging about 115 lbs in weight has an average lifespan of 7 human years. At the smaller side of the spectrum, the Jack Russell Terrier, weighing in around 15 lbs, can live up to 16 human years.4
For example, take a peek at this chart of life expectancy as it relates to dog breed.
Breed (Median Life Expectancy in Years)
- American cocker spaniel (10 years)
- Australian Shepherd (9 years)
- Beagle (12 years)
- Bernese mountain dog (8 years)
- Bichon Frise (13 years)
- Border collie (12 years)
- Boston terrier (11 years)
- Bulldog (6 years)
- Chihuahua (12 years)
- Dachshund (12 years)
- Dalmatian (12 years)
- Golden retriever (12 years)
- Great Dane (6 years)
- Havanese (10 years)
- Labrador retriever (12 years)
- Miniature poodle (14 years)
- Old English sheepdog (11 years)
- Shih-tzu (14 years)
- Siberian husky (12 years)
- Soft-coated wheaten terrier (12 years)
- Weimaraner (11 years)
- Yorkshire terrier (13 years)5
Your Dog’s Diet and Veterinary Care Are Critical Factors for Life Expectancy
Now, just like you, what a dog eats can contribute to their health and the length of their life. Now there are certain variables — like a dog’s weight and breed — that can sometimes change your dog’s behavior when it comes to feeding them palatable foods. These variables come down to things like differences in their detection, metabolisms, or the ways in which your pup learns nutritive food cues.6
Also, as your dog gets on in the aging process, be aware of their needs. You may need to change your dog’s diet as their dietary requirement will change as they get older. When your pooch is a puppy, a diet that promotes growth and bone formation is recommended. But your dog won’t have the same needs as they age. The best thing you can do is to visit your vet regularly. They will be able to give dietary advice based on your dog’s unique and changing needs.7,8
Keep Your Dog Fit and Healthy
Aging pets can develop many of the same health issues seen in older people, such as:
- Heart health issues
- Kidney disease
- Urinary tract concerns
- Compromised liver health
- Insulin regulation concerns
- Joint health issues
- Bone health concerns
- General weakness9
So, how do you help your pup stay happy and healthy for the long haul? Again, you’ll want to keep your vet in the loop. Start by talking to your veterinarian about how to take good care of your older pet. Senior pets require more attention than pets in their prime. But upping the frequency of vet visits, staying on top of your dog’s diet, and making home life easier and more comfortable could benefit your pup in the long run.10
Another big way you can help your dog live a long and healthy life is by making sure they get plenty of mental stimulation and exercise. Whatever your dog’s breed and size are, you have to make sure they exercise every day.
Some great dog exercises include —
- Playing fetch
- Playing at the dog park with other dogs
If you run regularly or go for a walk every night, you should take your agile dog companion with you. They’ll get a kick out of exercising with you and it will keep them from feeling abandoned or bored.
Dog toys are another good way to engage your pup’s mind. Toys can help engage your dog mentally and physically. But in the end, walking your dog is the best exercise because your dog can practice socialization and stay familiar with their environment.
Finally, you want to make sure your dog gets good sleep. The sleep-wake cycles consisted of an average of 16 min asleep and 5 min awake.11 On average, your dog should get at least 10 hours of sleep each day for optimal health.12
How To Ensure Your Pup Has The Longest And Happiest Life
Every living creature grows old. But you can ensure your dogs live a healthy, long and happy life by taking good care of them. Walk them regularly. Pay close attention to their diet. Treat them to engaging pet toys to keep their minds and bodies activated.
Though dogs may not live as long as humans, they can still live wonderful, long lives. Maybe the companionship will even help you live longer, too.
Disclosure: The Ultimate Pet Nutrition team creates these articles as a way to provide you with the latest information on health and nutrition. Unfortunately, we cannot make specific product recommendations for our website visitors, such as “Nutra Thrive Dog” or “Canine Boost” Please consult with your healthcare provider to determine the best products for you.