Scientists discover new precise way to calculate dog's age in human years / new research in DNA methylation and genetics / how old is my dog in human years / Perfect cocker spaniel blog / breed and puppy guide, grooming tips, diet and nutrition, cocker spaniel puppy training / canine nutritionist, dog dietician, pet nutrition coach / (C) Natalia Ashton

Science discovers a more precise way to convert dog’s age into human equivalent

Remember being told that you can convert your dog’s age into human years by multiplying the former by 7?

Well, the latest research published in the Cell Systems magazine tells us that it’s not as straight forward and our dogs may, in fact, be older in human years than we previously thought…

This time the scientists took blood samples from 104 labs spanning a 16-year age range to follow the changes that occur within the dog’s DNA sequences over lifetime. They then compared them to 320 human samples taken from people aged between birth and 103.

The aim of the study wasn’t simply finding out the most perfect age conversion. Instead, the researched wanted to compare the changes that occur in dogs’ and humans’ genes as we age, see how these changes can be utilised to improve the quality of life, and learn whether or not “the methylome* can be used to quantitatively translate the age-related physiology experienced by one organism (i.e., a model species like dog) to the age at which physiology in a second organism is most similar (i.e., a second model or humans)”.

These changes tend to occur at certain milestones of our lives showing as new attachments of the DNA structure (called DNA methylation), thus allowing the researches to use the DNA and these alterations (also referred to as the “epigenetic clock”) as a reliable estimate of a person’s age.

The dogs were chosen for the study because they are the species we tend to share our lives, diet, chemical exposure and environment more than any other animals.

The highest similarities in sequence changes were noted in young dogs and young adults, as well as senior dogs and older people. The results of the analysis also showed that an 8-week old puppy is likely to be equal to a 9-month old baby, will be similar to a 31-year old by the time he turns one, and the 12-year old lab can be compared to a 70-year old adult. The adolescent stage was less predictable, possibly due to the fact that dogs have a shorter lifespan.

For me, another fascinating discovery was the dramatic age jump during the first year of dog’s life (from birth to being 31!) yet how the process slowed down once the dog celebrated his third birthday.

The geneticists did come with an algorithm for calculating the age, which was a bit more challenging than multiplying our dog’s age by 7.

human_age = 16 ln(dog_age) + 31

If you fancy doing it yourself, you first need to multiply your dog’s natural logarithm by 16, then add 31.

However, I did the maths for you to keep things simple…

Dog’s age = 1 years old / Human age = 31 years old

Dog’s age = 2 years old / Human age = 42.1 years old

Dog’s age = 3 years old / Human age = 48.6 years old

Dog’s age = 4 years old / Human age = 53.2 years old

Dog’s age = 5 years old / Human age = 56.8 years old

Dog’s age = 6 years old / Human age = 59.7 years old

Dog’s age = 7 years old / Human age = 62.1 years old

Dog’s age = 8 years old / Human age = 64.3 years old

Dog’s age = 9 years old / Human age = 66.2 years old

Dog’s age = 10 years old / Human age = 67.8 years old

Dog’s age = 11 years old / Human age = 69.4 years old

Dog’s age = 12 years old / Human age = 70.8 years old

Dog’s age = 13 years old / Human age = 72 years old

Dog’s age = 14 years old / Human age = 73.2 years old

Dog’s age = 15 years old / Human age = 74.3 years old

Dog’s age = 16 years old / Human age = 75.4 years old

So how old is your cocker in human years? I am still struggling to process the fact that Coop is already over 50 and my little Fred is same age as me, if not a bit older. Quite a shock to the system, mainly mine, of course.

* the activity within the DNA that changes during our lifetime

 

Photo source: image by athree23 from Pixabay

Can household chemicals be harming your dog's health / link and risk between pesticides, herbicides, phthalates, common toxic substances in cleaners, cosmetics, make-up and risk of cancer, dermatitis, skin problems, behavioural issues, aggression, obesity, allergies in dogs / Perfect cocker spaniel pet blog / puppy tips, advice, grooming, health, diet, training tip / (C) Natalia Ashton

Is your home making your dog sick?

Dogs can help us discover the link between common household chemicals and several types of human cancers, but they can get sick, too. According to the latest study published in the Journal of Environmental Science & Technology, dogs that share their living space with humans, are essentially inhaling, absorbing and retaining the same chemicals as their family.

The scientists collected the data from exposure to pesticides, OPEs (organophosphate esters), phthalates, BFRs (flame retardants), and PCBs (polychlorinated bisphenyls). These are usually found in garden products, disinfectants, pest poisons, cosmetics, plastic and vinyl toys, vinyl and certain wood flooring, plastic food wraps, detergents, baby products, mattresses and foam furniture, just to name a few. Many substances have already been linked to disease in humans, but the problem has often been about the length between the exposure to chemicals and the onset of symptoms. With their smaller bodies, the dogs do not only absorb the potentially carcinogenic agents, but can develop the disease at a much faster rate.

Whilst it is certainly a welcomed discovery in terms of our health, the research, in my view, is a very valid factor and reminder for every dog parent to be incredibly vigilant when choosing their household products, cosmetics, food items, containers, dog toys and bowls.

I have talked about this link in my book through so many pages, you could have easily mistaken me for a mad woman obsessed with “clean living”. In reality, my ideas have always been based on my nutrition background, experience and all the evidence-based scientific research that has been conducted over the years (and something I had to be aware of due to my job and simply because I love science).

There hasn’t been many studies that focused specifically on canine healths, but the ones I would like to mention here are the link between herbicides and increased risk of bladder cancer in dogs (some of them have also been shown to increase the risk of hormonal problems, liver disease and breast cancer in people, and I do believe they may have the same effect on dogs), dog’s exposure to pesticides in garden products and risk of canine malignant lymphomaBPA lining in cans of many pet foods and potential endocrine issues in dogs (in women BPA is associated with increased risk of endometriosis), increased infertility and reduced sperm quality in both dogs and humans after exposure to phthalates, increased occurrences of dermatitis and allergic reactions in dogs living in urban environment, and potential link between air fresheners and respiratory disease in dogs. And since the exposure to daily household chemicals has also been found to lead to obesity, behavioural and learning issues in humans, I would not be surprised if the dogs turned out to be at risk, too. On the other hand (and to put your mind at rest) the common flea treatments have not shown to be linked to cancers in dogs even though they do contain pesticides.

Fortunately, this part of our lives can be altered relatively easy because we now have such a fantastic choice of cleaner and more natural products to suit every need, from cleaning our homes to prettifying faces. Not only it will be good for us and the planet, but it will keep our dogs safe and healthy. It’s a win-win for everyone.

 

Photo credit: Angelo Rosa from Pixabay

Effect of environment and geographical location on dog's reactivity, fearfulness and behaviour / reactivity in english cocker spaniels / Perfect cocker spaniel guide to breed, grooming, puppy tips, health, training and nutrition / dog dietitian / Natalia Ashton, Cooper & Fred by Pinkfeet Photography (C)

Country dogs are happier, study finds

Country dogs are happier than their urban relatives, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Helsinki and published in Scientific Reports. The scientists looked into fearfulness (reactivity to us, the simple folks) and the factors that can have a lasting impact on this trait among dogs.

The study involved 13700 dogs aged between 2 months to 17 years old that exhibited fearfulness caused by a variety of reasons, from breeding, genetics and size to  daily activity levels, demographic and environmental elements.

Whilst many factors have already been noted previously it was the living environment that caught particular attention as yet another cause that may have an impact on reactivity.

Even through more research will be needed, it looks like the country dogs are happier and more content when compared to their city counterparts. The researches believe that this relation is not simply related to the dog’s access to nature, but may also be affected by our own stress levels (which dogs can smell and mirror) as well as density, hectic lifestyle and noises of the urban areas, amount of exercise and interactions between the pooches and their owners, and diet.

So if your spaniel is often on edge, consider taking him to the countryside as often as you can, or better still, make a big move like we did here. Admittedly, we relocated for various reasons, but one of them was definitely to make Cooper live a better and happier life. In our case, it made a big difference. That’s why this study resonated with me so much.

And I am very curious what you think about it, especially if you also escaped to the country for the love of dogs and in search of contentment. Or, perhaps, had to do the opposite and give up on rural pleasures and settle in a city instead.

 

Photo credit: me and the boys photographed by Pink Feet Photography