What is My Pet’s “Real” Age?
It has been a long standing rule that to calculate your dog’s or cat’s age is one human year equals seven dog and cat years. Cats and dogs do age faster than people, but veterinarians are not sure the 1 to 7 ratio is completely accurate these days. Instead of determining ages, the American Animal Hospital Association divide dog and cat years into life stages.
How to Determine a Dog’s Real Age
Puppy: Just born to six months
Junior: Six months to nine months
Adult: Nine months to six and a half years
Mature: Six and a half years to nine and three- quarter years
Senior: Nine and three quarter years to thirteen years
Geriatric: Thirteen years and older
But these stages don’t necessarily tell the whole story of age when it comes to dogs. As dogs vary in size and breed, the real age of a seven year old German Shepherd may differ than a seven year old Jack Russell Terrier. Smaller dogs may mature faster than large ones but may not become “seniors” until after their larger counterparts.
How to Determine a Cat’s Real Age
Like dogs there are six life stages for cats: kitten, junior, prime, mature, senior, and geriatric.
Kitten: Just born to six months
Junior: Six months to two years
Prime: Two years to six years
Mature: Six years to ten years
Senior: Ten years to fourteen years
Geriatric: Fourteen years and older
Unlike dogs, cats don’t differ in sizes. Therefore, two healthy seven year old cats are the same age.
How Old is My Shelter Pet?
Many times when people adopt an animal, they don’t know its history. Shelter workers do their best to determine the age, but they never know for sure. While it’s easier to tell how old a puppy or kitten is, it’s a little more difficult for adult animals. Your vet will also try to help determine your pet’s age as that will dictate the care he or she receives. The most common method is looking at the teeth especially for dogs. For example, older cats and dogs may have tartar build up and/or missing teeth.
Other factors a veterinarian may use to determine your pet’s age are fur color (some cat’s and dog’s may turn gray) or older pets may have looser skin. Many times age can be determined by a physical exam if your cat or dog shows signs of vision, hearing or mobility issues. It is important to note that these methods are based on your veterinarian’s education and experience; they are only approximate.
When it comes to veterinary care, accurately understanding your pet’s age is crucial to their care. Like people, medical needs can differ with age. As scientific and medical advancements have made it possible for people to live longer, the same is true for cats and dogs. Regardless of your pet’s “real” age, maintaining his or her weight, providing mental and physical stimulation, and annual veterinarian check ups will help keep your furry friend healthier and hopefully live longer.