If you could wave a magic wand at your dog allowing it to answer one question in English, what would be your question?
Mine would be, “Hey you big sweetie, good girl, yes you are, yes you are! How old are you in human years?”
I realize that in non-magic wand conversations, all the dog hears is “good girl.” The rest is blah blah blah. The pet will respond based on whether it is a low information pet or is doggedly media-savvy.
But be careful. If the dog answers, “Well I’ve been alive for five years so five times seven is 35, so I’m 35. Now what’s my treat?” your dog has not kept up with current dog year-human year knowhow.
Or if your dog is female, she might tell a little white doggie fib.
The latest thing I’ve found in dog-year academe is by Dr. William Fortney DVM, at Kansas State University. He produced a “Human/Pet Age Analogy chart.” It says a 5-year-old dog weighing 51 to 120 pounds is about the same age as a 45-year old human. That dog, same weight, at age ten, would be 80 in our years.
Other fun facts:
“Studies show geriatric pets are often too thin. A decreased or picky appetite needs to be investigated.”
The vet says causes could include “normal loss of taste buds, masticatory muscle atrophy and insufficient saliva.”
Dr. Fortney says we can encourage pets to eat with more frequent meals, hand feeding, adding water to dry food, feeding canned food, warming the food and mild exercise prior to mealtime.
He says the four most common causes of older dogs’ death are cancer, heart disease, kidney failure, epilepsy and liver diseases.
“Gene splicing may someday let our pets live longer,” Dr. Fortney says. “Until then, exercise, senior diets and antioxidant supplements are...valuable anti-aging strategies.”
Dr. Beth Steward, a friend and an experienced veterinarian, says some pet owners mistakenly downplay dogs’ need for dental care.
“Many dogs would be 10 times healthier if owners would just keep up with their dental care. We see dog jaws that literally are rotting. Owners don’t’ want to bring in the dog for teeth cleaning because we might pull a tooth. Imagine having this level of abscess in your mouth and having to swallow it.
“They say ‘Oh, he’s too old for anesthesia.‘ But it’s much safer than it used to be.
“I see small dogs, say 12 years old, that should be healthy and living to 18, but their bones are being eaten up by infections. You wouldn’t say ‘Oh my grandma’s 80; she’s too old to clean her teeth.’
”People should look into their dogs’ mouths and ask, ‘What if my teeth looked like that?’
It’s unhealthy for their heart. Mouth bacteria tend to stick in heart valves, the same as with humans.
“People say ‘I just had my dog’s teeth cleaned a year ago.’ That’s like saying, ‘I had my teen cleaned seven years ago.’
“Same with exercise. We see so many dogs over fed and under-exercised, like most Americans. For a dog age 60 in people years, there’s 60 and there’s 60. You can help make it an active, good shape sixty with good dental care, exercise, that sort of thing. Age is not a disease.”
For Dr. Fortney’s dog-year chart, Google “Geriatrics William Fortney DVM” or go to this link: delawarevalleyacademyvm.org/pdfs/nov07/DelawareGeriatrics.pdf