A new canine biological clock
Just about everyone uses the ‘7 dog years to 1 human year’ when trying to figure out how old their dog is if they were a human. But this is not the most accurate way to do it.
Genetic researchers have developed a new calculation that more accurately converts dog years to people years. [Wang 2020] Their research and the calculation is based on assessing molecules called methyl groups that naturally circulate in the body and are added to specific parts of dogs’ DNA over the course of their lifetimes. This addition of methyl groups to DNA (called DNA methylation) throughout life also occurs in people and in species other than dogs. DNA methylation gives researchers an accurate way to estimate age and is known as an epigenetic clock.The new calculation shows that:
- an 8-week-old puppy is similar in age to a 9-month-old human baby,
- a 1-year-old dog is roughly 31 human years old (remember, most dogs can have puppies starting at around 6 months of age),
- a 4-year-old dog is about 53 in human years,
- a 7-year-old dog is around 62 human years old, and
- a 12-year-old dog is about 70 in human years. [Wang 2020]
As you can see, the canine epigenetic clock “ticks” faster at first than our human epigenetic clock does—a 2-year-old dog is 42 in human years! Then the canine clock slows later in life—a 15-year-old dog is similar in age to a 74-year-old person. (Morrell 2019)
You can calculate your dog’s age in human years by typing in their age below!
The new calculation was developed based on Labrador retriever data, but one of the study’s lead researchers thinks the epigenetic clock can work for all dog breeds and says that the calculation will continue to be evaluated in other breeds. [Gen Eng Biotech News 2020] And as we well know, some dog breeds live longer than others. So once this research is applied to other dog breeds, it may tell us more about why different breeds have different lifespans. [Morrell 2019]
Beyond the numbers: no matter our pets’ ages in human years, most of us agree that they do not live long enough.
Wang T, Ma J, Hogan AN, Fong S, Licon K, Tsui B, Kreisberg JF, Adams PD, Carvunis AR, Bannasch DL, Ostrander EA, Ideker T. Quantitative Translation of Dog-to-Human Aging by Conserved Remodeling of the DNA Methylome. Cell Syst. 2020;11(2):176-185.e6. doi:10.1016/j.cels.2020.06.006
Morrell V. Here’s a better way to convert dog years to human years, scientists say. Science. Nov. 15, 2019. doi:10.1126/science.aba2340 Accessed October 1, 2020.
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. Epigenetic Clock More Accurately Aligns Dog Age to Human Years. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News Website. July 3, 2020. Accessed October 1, 2020.