The life span of dogs

What is the life expectancy of dogs? How old is my dog in equivalent human years? This is a question that many dog owners often wonder. Although it is often said that one human year is equivalent to seven dog years, this is an inaccurate but popular misconception.

There are a number of factors to take into consideration when trying to work out a dogs age in equivalent human years.

The first is that different breeds of dogs age at different rates of time. The life span of dogs is dependent upon the adult size and weight of the dog. Large dogs like a Rottweiler usually have a shorter life span than smaller dogs like a Yorkshire Terrier. This could be because the bodies of larger dogs must work harder which puts them under more stress than the bodies of smaller dogs.

However, not all dogs of a similar weight have the same life span as there are other factors to be taken into consideration, such as breed, which can make a difference to the life span of dogs. An example of this is in the 60-70lb (27-31kg) category. A Boxer has a life span of 8-9 years but a Rough Collie of a similar weight has a life span of 12-13 years.

Mixed breed dogs tend to have longer life spans than pedigree or pure breed dogs. This is due to greater genetic diversity and the fact that they can suffer from less health problems - a fact recognised by the reduced health insurance premiums.

The gender of a dog, in common with human beings, is a factor in the life span of dogs. On average female dogs can live one to two years longer (dependent on breed) than male dogs of the same breed.

Old boxer dog Whether your dog is neutered or not makes a difference to the life span of your dog.

This is particularly the case for female dogs. Evolution did not intend for dogs to live as long as they do now, so in a sense it has been left behind. The result of this is that unneutered female dogs do not have a menopause when they become an elderly dog. This results in a very high risk for infections and cancer of the female reproductive organs which can affect life span.

With older male dogs, cancer of the testicles is quite common. My other old dog called Ben, a Jack Russell terrier, died aged 8 from testicular cancer which had spread to his lungs. At the time I did not know then what I know now regarding the risks. I also personally think that with male dogs when they are not neutered they can suffer from more stress, frustration and aggression than an neutered dog which can also have a knock on effect on their health.

The stresses your dog is exposed to throughout its life can have affect your dog. Just like humans, the physical and psychological stresses which your dog is exposed to will affect its life span.

Exercise can play a big part too. Like humans, the benefits of regular exercise cannot be understated. By exercise I do not just mean a gentle stroll but some form of exercise that gets your dogs heart pumping whether it be a brisk walk or playing fetch with a toy. Granted, your old dog will not be as lively as they use to be and care has to be taken not to over exercise; but gentle exercise will benefit them greatly. Regular exercise is healthy for their whole body and mind and will keep them at their best. Like humans, it helps to manage your senior dogs weight, keeps their joints mobile, combats stress and might help to prevent cancer.

My old dog Pippa still loves to run and play. She is a bit stiff to get going and nowhere near as quick as she use to be but she still really enjoys it! Sometimes the joint stiffness the next day can outweigh any benefits so I do not let her exert herself too much. She is still affected by the mad collie gene as any border collie owner will understand! It is a balancing act but I believe the positive still outweighs the negative.

My old dog Pippa in a playful mood. There is plenty of life in the old dog yet even at 14 years old!

The care a dog receives plays a big role in how long they live. Prompt medical care, regular vaccinations and veterinary health checks has a big part to play.

Good quality nutrition is also very important throughout their life. As your dog becomes an older dog then their nutritional needs change and a good quality senior dog food is a wise investment in their health

The above shows a life expectancy chart for dogs. It is a conversion chart showing dog years to eqivalent human years based on the healthy optimal weight of your dog. As I have stated previously this is just an average guide as there are many other factors to take into consideration.

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