The Star-Herald

Dog years

We all would like our dogs or cats to live forever, but we know that is not possible. When we lose our beloved pet, it is truly devastating for the family members. 

I have lost some wonderful dogs over the years; the oldest one was Lucy, a sweet terrier mix that lived to be 19 years old. The youngest was a shepherd mix named Snoopy, and he was 10 years old. They were special pets that certainly captured our hearts.

Have you ever wondered how a dog’s age compares with human age? I have always thought that taking the dog’s age and multiplying it by seven would give you the age of your dog in human years. I was reading an article the other day on CNN Breaking US & World News that said there is new research published in the Cell Systems journal that debunks that method. And that is because the scientists behind a new study say dogs and humans don’t age at the same rate.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have developed a new formula that takes into account that variance. Tracking molecular changes in the DNA of Labrador retrievers and, in particular, “the changing patterns of methyl groups” in their genome, according to a press release, the study shows how dogs age at a much faster rate than humans early in their lives, then slow down after reaching maturity.

This makes sense when you think about it. After all, a 9-month-old dog can have puppies, so we already knew that the 1-7 ratios weren’t an accurate measure of age. Based on the study, a one-year old dog compares to a 30- year old human, and a 4-year-old dog to a 52-year old human. The rate of aging decreases after dogs turn 7.

The new formula is the first that is transferable across species. Scientists plan to test their findings on other dog breeds to study the impact of longevity on their findings. 

Although breed, size, life circumstances, and plain old luck all play a role in pet longevity, there is still plenty that a pet owner can do to prolong the life of his or her best pal. Keeping your pet at a healthy weight, exercise, spaying and neutering, regular wellness exams and making sure your pet is up to date on all vaccines are just a few things to keep in mind.

Please check out the Central Aroostook Humane Society’s Facebook page for pets that are available for adoption. Please call ahead for an appointment at 764-3441. 

Please be responsible — spay and neuter your pets.

“Dogs’ lives are too short, their only fault, really!” — Agnes Sligh Turnbull

Gail Weider is a member of the board of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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