“My dogs are part of my family” says Samantha, a pet owner. As a matter of fact, this is what 9 out of 10 pet owners think. We love them as part of our family or as our closest friends, we often even celebrate their birthday. But, do we really know how old our pet is in dog years? To figure their biological age it´s not as easy as multiplying by seven or eight. According to the BBC, not all dog breeds age the same and not at a constant speed. Thus, our pet´s age depends on the breed and the stage in life they´re at.

In dogs particularly, the larger the breed, the shorter their life expectancy. The largest breeds have an average lifespan of 10-12 years, and the smallest dogs can live beyond 16 human years. Small breeds tend to grow faster and remain in adulthood longer, whereas large dogs remain pups longer, but have a shorter adult life.

In cats it´s more complicated to calculate their age. In general, a cat remains a kitten until they reach six months, after this they go into adolescence, where they become sexually active. They become adults more or less when they reach two years of age, and geriatric when they turn ten. Cats can live up to twenty years, if well looked after.

Besides size, there are other time-dependant changes that occur in a dog´s life. Old dogs start getting grey hairs around their muzzle and paws, and their fur turns less dense. Undesirable age-related changes include illness, the loss of teeth (especially small breeds such as the Maltese), muscle weakness and joint pain. These deteriorative changes are known as “senescence” and they seem to be influenced by genetics, and both internal and external factors. It is these environmental factors that we can control with a proper diet for their size/breed and age, nutritional supplements, hygiene, exercise, and, of course, regular visits to the vet.

As many pet owners will agree, living with a healthy older dog is a wonderful experience. They are well behaved, tend to be calmer than young dogs, they are used to their routine and seldom misbehave.

It is important that we care for our pets so that when they reach this stage, they are strong and healthy and we need to provide them with a proper lifestyle and care, after all, they give us the best that´s in them, and so should we.