By Marcia Mayeda
Director, Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control
Some dogs and cats have lived remarkably long lives. In March, Guinness World Records named Chihuahua “TobyKeith” the oldest living dog at 21 years, 66 days old. The oldest dog ever recorded was an Australian Cattle Dog that passed in 1939 at the age of 29 years, five months. The world’s oldest cat, Crème Puff, lived to be 38 years and three days.
TobyKeith was adopted as a puppy from an animal shelter in Florida.
DACC is proud to report that one of its own alumni is right behind him in longevity. Lucky was adopted from DACC by former LA County employee Judy Hammond and her daughter Sara Conklin in 2001 as a puppy, making her 21 years old as well, and about five months younger than the record holder. Lucky is a cocker spaniel/chihuahua/miniature pinscher mix that has brought immense joy to her family, sharing her home lovingly with several cats and rabbits over the years. Perhaps these friendships contributed to her longevity. Certainly, the loving care she has received has made a great impact on her life span. Now, Lucky is experiencing the various impacts of old age on hearing, vision, and other physical issues but she is comfortable and receives special feedings and medicine to keep her going. As Judy remarked, “She is a member of the family and we love her dearly. Even through these hard times, she continues to bring us much joy and happiness. Every day spent with her is a blessing.”
So, how old would Lucky be if she were a human? The old rule of thumb was seven dog years for every human year. However, science has shown us that this measure is no longer accurate. We now know more about dog genetics and aging as well as how the size of the dog plays a factor in longevity. For example, giant breed dogs mature more slowly than smaller ones during their first year, then age faster than smaller dogs in subsequent years. The old age guidelines don’t take this into consideration. Additionally, cats age quite rapidly up until two years of age, then their aging process levels off at about four human years for every cat year. Size does not factor into cat aging. But they do get nine lives!
New age charts for dogs and cats have been created to better align their aging status with human years. While they don’t go as high in years as Lucky, Crème Puff, and TobyKeith have achieved, they do show the nuances in dog and cat aging. You can view the dog chart here, and the cat chart here.
Every day we have with our pets is a gift, and we all want them to live their best and longest life possible. Their genetics and size will always be a factor in their lifespan. However, we can stack the deck in their favor by providing regular veterinary exams and treatments, good nutrition, regular exercise, a safe environment, and making sure they are spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering prevent many types of cancers and make pets less likely to roam and become injured or prematurely killed. Microchips and pet identification tags help lost pets get home more quickly and safely.
I hope you and your pets have long, full lives of love and companionship!
About the author: Marcia Mayeda has been the Director of Animal Care and Control for the County of Los Angeles since July 2001. Subscribe to her blog at: https://animalcare.lacounty.gov/directors_blog/