The old rule of thumb for calculating a pet’s age in “human years” is simple: Just multiply by 7. By that common guideline, a 3-year-old cat is a young adult, equivalent to a human 21-year-old. And a 10-year-old dog is akin to a human retiree.
Unfortunately, this explanation doesn’t quite paint the full picture of how pets age.
In fact, a dog’s aging process is accelerated during the first few years of maturation and then slows down after that. After one year, a dog is actually considered to be 15 in human years.
Further, the specific breed of dog plays a factor in lifespan. Smaller dogs tend to live longer than medium-size dogs, who in turn live longer than large dogs.
“Although smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger dogs, they may mature more quickly in the first few years of life,” says the Lawrence Vet Hospital in Lawrence, Kan. “A large dog may mature more slowly at first but already be considered elderly at age 5. Small and toy breeds don’t become ‘seniors’ until around age 10. Medium-size breeds are somewhere in the middle in terms of maturation and lifespan.”
This Pet Health Network chart, courtesy of Fred L. Metzger, DVM, DABVP, offers a handy guide.
(Chart courtesy of Fred L. Metzger, DVM, DABVP)
The Pedigree website provides an automatic dog age calculator for those who don’t want to bother with the chart. Simply select your dog’s age and breed from the drop-down menu and the site will give you your dog’s age in “human years.” Of course, these charts and calculators are just guidelines. Owners should ask their vet about their pets’ specific aging issues.
What about our feline friends? Like dogs, cats mature more quickly during the first couple of years and reach adulthood relatively soon, but then age at a slower rate as time goes on.
By its second birthday, a cat has matured to about the same point as a human in his or her mid-20s. But from then on, you can add four “cat” years for each subsequent human year.
On average, Siamese and Manx breeds are said to live the longest, according to Purina. Some rare felines live past the age of 30 — which is pushing 150 in human years.
Accidents can happen at any time, but if you are prepared, serious crisis can be averted. This is an excellent time to familiarize oneself with the basic principles of dog first aid.
Always be prepared! Make a dog first aid kit and have it on hand wherever you go. Consider having multiple kits, such as a large fully stocked kit for home and a smaller kit for the car or family outings. See a check list for your dog’s first aid kit.
For bandaging material, you should keep a roll of gauze (can also be used to create a makeshift muzzle if needed), square gauze, non-stick pads, first aid tape and/or Vetwrap. For medications, be sure to have multi-purpose product like Vetericyn on hand, which it cleans, treats and heals the wounds at once. It can be used for the eyes, ears, nose and other places, and kills viruses, bacteria and fungi, and is safe even if licked after application. It does not sting when applied to open wounds, is non-toxic and environmentally safe for the canine and for disposal. You can also include cortisol cream for itchy bug bites, eye wash solution in case you need to flush your dog’s eye and hydrogen peroxide in case your dog ingests something potentially toxic and you need to induce vomiting. Keep in mind that vomiting should only be induced after consulting your veterinarian or poison control. Keep an eye on the expiration dates on medications and replace them whenever they expire.
When an emergency occurs, take a moment to look around and fully assess the situation. For example, if your dog was hit by a car, don’t immediately rush out in traffic. You won’t do him any good if you end up in the hospital yourself. Carefully approach your pet and assess his condition. Is he breathing? If not, start CPR. Is he bleeding? Apply direct pressure to the wound and so on.
Remember to handle your injured or sick dog gently and carefully. Even the gentlest dog may bite when scared or in pain. Keep your face away from the mouth and resist the urge to hug your dog to comfort him as this may scare him more or worsen his injuries. Use a calm soothing voice to reassure your dog and if possible pet him in area away from the injury. If you need to transport him and his wounds are painful you should place a muzzle on, either have one handy in your first aid kit or make one out of a roll of gauze. If your dog is small, wrap him in a blanket or towel and carry him. Larger dogs can be transported on makeshift stretchers such as a board, a sled or toboggan or even a large blanket to make a hammock-style sling.
Keep a list of important dog first aid phone numbers handy in case of an emergency. These numbers should include your regular veterinarian, the local animal emergency clinic, and the number for the ASPCA animal poison control center which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can be reached at (888) 426-4435.
Get a decal for your window in the event an emergency occurs while you are not at home. This decal will allow rescue personnel to know you have pets inside that may need attention.
Consider taking a class in dog first aid and learn animal CPR. Classes are readily available online and through community educational centers, libraries, pet stores and sometimes even your local veterinarian. Check out American Red Cross classes in your area.
Finally, remember that dog first aid is not intended to be a substitute for veterinary care, it is meant to stabilize the animal until proper veterinary care can be given. Any first aid care given to your dog should be followed by immediate veterinary attention, either by your regular veterinarian or your local animal emergency clinic. Be safe!