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New "dog to human years" calculation more accurately determines when your beloved pet will die

Photo: JB Lacroix (Getty Images)

Pretending our pets are just like humans never works out well. The quiet dignity of a house cat undermined by seeing it dressed in people clothes; the trusting eyes of a dog in a costume peering obliviously up at those laughing at it—all of this is a betrayal of the implicit pact made with domestic animals not to anthropomorphize them in ways nature never intended. So, too, is the old “dog to human years” calculation, which tries to match the age of a pet to its human equivalent, only to force us to reflect on the inherent sadness of having to recognize that a 6 year-old Labrador is fast approaching the decline of middle age.

Still, just like a puppy eating its own vomit, we will never stop doing this sort of math, no matter how much it hurts us in the end—especially now that, thanks to a new study, we can make these morbid calculations more accurately than ever before.

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Published in the bioRxiv journal, an article with the formidable title “Quantitative translation of dog-to-human aging by conserved remodeling of epigenetic networks” looks to complicate the old “dog age times seven” guideline typically used to figure out what age a dog that still poops in the kitchen is when measured in “human years.” Not quite as easy to remember as the quick multiplication of the old method, the study suggests a better earmark requires inputting a dog’s age into a formula that goes: human_age = 16ln(dog_age) + 31.

As Science Alert’s Michelle Starr writes in a description of the study, this method is based on the ways in which canine and human DNA “changes...over time.” Though the study hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet and compensates for the disparity in life spans between dog breeds by focusing on Labrador retrievers, its results are a lot more accurate than the old method.

The most important aspect of all of this, though, is that the new formula is a lot harder to calculate on a whim than just multiplying an age by seven. This, thank god, means we can avoid thinking about the cruel reality of a universe that gives our pets lifespans far shorter than our own as often as we did before and concentrate on using our time with dogs in more valuable ways—like, say, teaching them how to do sick skateboarding tricks.

[via The Cut]

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About the author

Reid McCarter

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.