New research suggests that one year of your dog is not worth seven years. Researchers at the University of California have developed a new formula, starting from a basic premise that humans and dogs – do not age at the same pace. Their research suggests that dogs grow at a much faster rate than humans, but this is only true for the beginning of their lives, and when they reach adulthood, their rate of maturation slows.
The study leaders Geneticists Tina Wang and Trey Ideker and their teams used a process called methylation to find the answer. They say that as animals grow old, DNA becomes lumbered with chains of atoms called methyl groups, which alter DNA activity. Scientists call this the epigenetic clock and have found the process to be a reliable measure of age.
Dog’s lifespans vary widely by both size and breed, yet all canine present a similar evolutionary pattern. Therefore the researchers thought they could concentrate on a single dog breed – the Labrador retriever- and still derive an accurate method of age measurement.
Based on this study, a 1-year-old dog is basically equivalent to a 30-year-old man and a 4-year-old dog to a 52-year-old man. The rate of aging decreases after dogs are seven years old. For example, if your dog is 12 years old, the formula would be 16 x ln(12) + 31 = 71. So your 12-year-old dog is about 71 in human years.
Researchers have developed the new formula based on the Golden Retriever breed, but they are already planning to test the findings on other breeds, all to help owners and veterinarians understand a little more about the man’s best friend.