The geniuses at UC San Diego have done it again: Researchers on aging took a look at the conventional wisdom of multiplying your dog's age by seven to see how old it is in human years.
First off, let’s all admit we love the concession the scientists made prior to getting started.
“We always look at humans, but humans are kind of boring," said UC San Diego School of Medicine professor Trey Ideker, who is a senior author of the study. "So she convinced me we should study dog aging in a comparative way."
“She” is Tina Wang, now “Tina Wang, Ph.D.,” who, when the study started, was just a lowly grad student working in Ideker’s lab. To be fair, Ideker has a Ph.D., as well.
There’s a lot of extremely complicated science going on here, of course. Insert professor's voice: “The formula is based on the changing patterns of methyl groups in dog and human genomes — how many of these chemical tags and where they’re located — as they age” (anyone wanting to nerd out should go here). The takeaway is that young canines mature VERY early, then aging slows down. For example, by the time a dog reaches its 1st birthday, it’s much closer to where a human is at around 30.
“This makes sense when you think about it — after all, a 9-month-old dog can have puppies, so we already knew that the 1:7 ratio wasn’t an accurate measure of age,” Ideker said.
Here’s a hilarious graph UCSD accompanied its news release with. Apologies to Tom Hanks, who, frankly, we’re struggling to think of as a “senior,” but that white hair don’t lie:
So by the time Ruckus (sorry, that’s our favorite dog name ever) reaches his next birthday, he’s closer to 40 in human years. A 3-year-old doggo? Now you’re talking about 48 years. And by the time Tom Hanks reaches his current ripe old age of 65 (a big happy birthday to Tom, btw. He’ll be blowing out candles next Thursday), a pooch is somewhere in the 9-year-old range. Getting close to 7:1, you may have noticed. In fact, when a dog hits 10, he’s about 70 years old in comparable human aging.
Ideker and Wang teamed up on the study with dog genetics experts Danika Bannasch, the first person to sequence a dog genome, and she provided blood samples from 105 Labrador retrievers for the study. Another reason mutts made for an interesting species to examine: “Given how closely they live with us, perhaps more than any other animal, a dog’s environmental and chemical exposures are very similar to humans, and they receive nearly the same levels of health care,” UC San Diego School of Medicine officials stated in a news release about the study.
UC San Diego School of Medicine scientists admit that one concern they have with the study is that some dog breeds may go to heaven faster than others. More study will be needed for a Tom Hanks graph on how old your teacup Yorkie is when it turns 1, for example. Researchers said they plan to study other breeds in the future.