The Loch Ness Monster. Bigfoot. Chupacabra.
These are all examples of Urban Myths relating to animals. They are fantastical tales, spurning many people to search to either prove or disprove their existence. Yet not all myths are extreme as these.
One such myth we find in the veterinary industry is the common belief that one year to a human equals 7 years to a dog or cat. While it is true that our furry friends age more quickly than we do, there is not one set number to go by. Species and breed play a huge factor in determining when our pets’ become senior and geriatric patients and their life expectancy. It is important to remember that twice yearly thorough physical exams, spay/neuter status, basic preventative care, monthly heartworm prevention, quality nutrition, and good dental health can increase the longevity of your pet.
All dogs and cats mature quickly in the first year of life, reaching approximately 15 human years of age at the end of 12 months. (Can you imagine going through the terrible two’s to angsty teenagers with our human children in one year??? Yikes!!!) They become sexually mature at 5-9 months of age, and are able to reproduce at this time. Year 2 brings another growth spurt, though not as large as the first year. From age 3 on, growth slows to a more steady rate, depending on breed.
A Chihuahua ages at a different rate than a Rottweiler (even though they may think they are Rotties sometimes!), and a Rottweiler ages differently than a Mastiff. Typically, small breed dogs have a longer life expectancy than large breed dogs, with small breeds averaging 16 years of life, medium breeds 14 years, large breed 10-12 years and giants 8 years. So you can have a Chihuahua and a Mastiff who are both 5 years old, but your Chihuahua is considered an adult and your Mastiff a senior.
In cats, lifestyle contributes to life expectancy as well. While it is not unheard of to have an indoor cat live to 18 years or beyond, the median life expectancy of an outdoor cat is 3-5 years.
A thorough physical exam should be performed at least twice yearly on all pets, but especially those that are of senior and geriatric age. Frequently with older pets we can see changes to lens of the eye, skin tumors, masses, skin and coat changes and arthritis. If you notice any changes to your pet’s health, behavior or habits a thorough exam could mean the difference between a long life and major health problems. Based upon the examination, bloodwork and diagnostics may be recommended.