Tag: American Animal Hospital Association

So go on, how old is your dog?

An explanation of how old is that pet of yours.

One of the most frequent questions dog and cat owners get asked is how old is he or she. The pet that is!

And one of the most frequent concerns we have for our pets is how long will they live, as in what is their natural life span. Certainly, most of us realise that the larger dogs live slightly shorter lives but is that borne out in practice.

Well a recent professional article on The Conversation blogsite answered those questions.

ooOOoo

How old is my pet in dog years or cat years? A veterinarian explains

By

Clinical Instructor of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi State University

July 23rd, 2019

“Just how old do you think my dog is in dog years?” is a question I hear on a regular basis. People love to anthropomorphize pets, attributing human characteristics to them. And most of us want to extend our animal friends’ healthy lives for as long as possible.

It may seem like sort of a silly thing to ponder, born out of owners’ love for their pets and the human-animal bond between them. But determining a pet’s “real” age is actually important because it helps veterinarians like me recommend life-stage specific healthcare for our animal patients.

There’s an old myth that one regular year is like seven years for dogs and cats. There’s a bit of logic behind it. People observed that with optimal healthcare, an average-sized, medium dog would on average live one-seventh as long as its human owner – and so the seven “dog years” for every “human year” equation was born.

Not every dog is “average-sized” though so this seven-year rule was an oversimplification from the start. Dogs and cats age differently not just from people but also from each other, based partly on breed characteristics and size. Bigger animals tend to have shorter life spans than smaller ones do. While cats vary little in size, the size and life expectancy of dogs can vary greatly – think a Chihuahua versus a Great Dane.

Human life expectancy has changed over the years. And vets are now able to provide far superior medical care to pets than we could even a decade ago. So now we use a better methodology to define just how old rule of thumb that counted every calendar year as seven “animal years.”

Based on the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Life Stages Guidelines, today’s vets divide dogs into six categories: puppy, junior, adult, mature, senior and geriatric. Life stages are a more practical way to think about age than assigning a single number; even human health recommendations are based on developmental stage rather than exactly how old you are in years.

Canine life stages

Veterinarians divide a dog’s expected life span into six life stages based on developmental milestones. These age ranges are for a medium-sized dog; smaller dogs tend to live longer, while larger dogs tend to have shorter life expectancies.

STAGE
AGE (YEARS)
CHARACTERISTICS
Puppy 0 – 0.5 Birth to sexual maturity
Junior 0.5 – 0.75 Reproductively mature, still growing
Adult 0.75 – 6.5 Finished growing, sexually and structurally mature
Mature 6.5 – 9.75 From middle to last 25% of expected lifespan
Senior 9.75 -13 Last 25% of life expectancy
Geriatric over 13 Beyond life span expectation

The book! Embracing death

Not forgetting:

And shows us the way to embrace death

I’m sure that the human psyche lives in a bubble of delusion. Not always and not extremely so; of course. Clearly, if the level of delusion were abnormal then we couldn’t function properly as social animals. However, just take a quiet moment of self-reflection to muse over the ways that you ‘shelter’ from reality. In directing that last point to you, dear reader, trust me I don’t exclude myself!

There are times when going beyond the self, going out of oneself, is the only way to see the reality of who we are and the world around us; to be able to brush away our delusions. Perfectly expressed by the author, Aldous Huxley: “Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.” Wise words, indeed!

But these fine expressions representing the peak of common sense have one grinding, searing fault. They do not assume the end of a person’s life. I am speaking of death, of the inevitability of our death! That largely unspoken truth no better expressed than through the words[1] of Sharon Salzberg in her book Faith.

What does it mean to be born in a human body, vulnerable and helpless, then to grow old, get sick and die, whether we like it or not?

Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that it is tough; incredibly tough. It is full of pain and anguish amidst a great churning of emotions, all in a very deep-seated and personal manner. That’s the perspective from the loved ones left behind with more life ahead of them. But if one thinks of it in reverse, turns it on its head, what are our fundamental wishes with respect to those we love; what we would want to leave behind when we die?

Fond memories, naturally, but they wouldn’t be our fundamental wishes. This is what those fundamental wishes would be. That our death does not leave pain and anguish in the hearts and souls of those left behind. That it doesn’t leave a pain that cannot be dealt with in a healthy way. Our wishes would be that those whom we loved and who loved us may embrace their loss and move on.

Anyone who has loved a dog has most likely been intimately involved in the end of that dog’s life. It is, to my mind, the ultimate lesson that dogs offer us: how to be at peace when we die and how to leave that peace blowing through the hearts of all the people who loved us.

Our beloved dogs have much shorter life spans than we do, thus almost everyone who has loved a dog will have had to say goodbye to that gorgeous friend at some point in their lives. Very sadly, perhaps, saying goodbye to more than one loved dog.

I see the most precious of parallels in the tragic death of a loved dog and our own death. The parallel between coping with our grief for the loss of a loved dog and reaching out to our loved ones so that they may cope with their grief at losing us.
In other words, knowing what to expect in emotional terms at the loss of our loved dog is helpful, very much so, to us helping our loved ones when comes our time to die.

There are five stages of mourning[2], of dealing with our grief, when we lose our beloved dog: Denial; Anger; Guilt; Depression and Acceptance.

Compare those stages to the five stages of mourning[3], perhaps of dealing with the knowledge that oneself is dying, or a person is dying who is very emotionally close to us. Those five stages are: Denial and Isolation; Anger; Bargaining; Depression and Acceptance.

The parallels are almost perfect.

Whether it is the impending or actual death of a loved dog, a loved person, or ourselves, the similarities between embracing the loss of the loved dog, or the loved person, are powerfully obvious. So, too, are the many different ways each of us embraces the death of a loved dog or a loved person. Let me expand on this last point.

Namely, that each of us will experience each stage of mourning at varying levels of intensity, for varying lengths of time, and sometimes in a different order. Some of the stages may converge and overlap each other. But however you experience the mourning, it is incredibly important to remember that your feelings are completely normal.

As the website of the American Animal Hospital Association points out, on their webpage entitled Life after Dog[4], “… we almost always outlive our beloved companions. Learning to live with loss is an essential part of life.”

That webpage imploring us to honour our emotions, to honour the memory of our dog, and critically, when a child is involved, to help that child cope with the loss of their loved dog. For all, young and old, helping to ease the pain through learning to cope with the loss. Easing the pain through changing one’s schedule, moving furnishings around to help distance the memory of your dog’s favourite sleeping spots, or creating a memorial in one form or another, even writing a letter (or blog post!) to your dog in which one describes all the feelings you have for your recently departed, loved dog.

I was born in 1944. I am therefore the ‘wrong’ side of seventy years old. I was born an Englishman and, according to life expectancy tables from 2012, a male Englishman’s life expectancy is 79.5 years. I am living happily in the USA and, according to those same tables, a male American’s life expectancy is 77.4 years. My mother is alive and an amazingly fit and healthy ninety-five-year-old, at the time of writing this book. My father died at the age of 56 just 5 days before Christmas in 1956. I do not believe in any form of spiritual life after death.

So take your pick!

All that I do know is that loving our dogs, welcoming all the wonderful qualities that our dogs possess, striving always to live peacefully ‘in the present’, just as our dogs do, and, ultimately, as with our faithful companions, taking that last breath in the knowledge that ours was a beautiful life, is what learning from dogs is all about.

Thank you.

1,059 words. Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover

[1] page 34.
[2] http://dogtime.com/dealing-with-grief-of-loss-aaha.html#
[3] http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/000617
[4] http://www.aahanet.org/blog/petsmatter/post/2014/05/20/929363/Life-after-dog-Support-and-resources-on-pet-loss.aspx