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If you know a dog owner, and you’re friends with that person on social media, then you’re probably bombarded daily with pictures of their pooch.
If somehow, you miss a few, they’ll be happy to whip out their phone and catch you up next time you see them in person.
Once a year, you’ll be treated to something that seems to be gaining in popularity on the ‘gram: the dog birthday party.
The pup turns a year older, is presented with a cake that they can’t eat because too much sugar is bad for dogs, and then photographed.
The candles on that cake usually represent the dog’s age in ‘human years’. If you wanted to work their age out in ‘dog years’, standard practice is to multiply their age in years by seven.
And if you did this, you would be wrong.
Last year, researchers developed a more accurate calculator to figure out your dog’s actual age. Since then, they’ve refined the science further.
Over to The Telegraph:
As people, and animals, age, the number and placement of methyl groups in the genome change. By mapping these, scientists can tell the age of an organism.
The researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine used blood samples from 105 Labrador retrievers to accurately work out how quickly the breed ages.
The study, published in Cell Systems, found the comparison is not a 1:7 ratio over time. Especially when dogs are young, they age rapidly compared to humans.
A one-year-old dog is similar to a 30-year-old human. A four-year-old dog is similar to a 52-year-old human.
Then by seven years old, dog aging slows, and a 12-year-old dog is 70 in human years.
If all of that went over your head, this graph should help:
I’ll give you a minute to get over how cute that puppy is before moving on.
Are we good? Cool, more science.
Scientists say this new comparison between dog ageing and human could be helpful for vets, so they can work out whether illnesses in dogs are age-related.
The formula provides a new “epigenetic clock,” a method for determining the age of a cell, tissue or organism based on a readout of its epigenetics, which are chemical modifications like methylation, which influence which genes are “off” or “on” without altering the inherited genetic code.
There’s a limitation to this study in that they only used blood from labradors, and other studies have shown that different breeds have different lifespans.
Dogs are interesting to study because they live so closely with us, perhaps more than any other animal, so a dog’s environmental and chemical exposures are very similar to humans, and they receive nearly the same levels of health care.
The research could be useful for humans, not just their pets. The scientists believe the epigenetic clock could be used to test anti-ageing treatments, to see if they had made any difference to the methylation patterns in the genome and therefore altered the ‘age’ of human cells.
And now you know, so all that’s left to do is post that daily picture of Rover.
Go on, you know you want to.
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