The standard measurement most people use to translate dog years into human years is to multiply a dog's age by 7. But it turns out that this method is both overgeneralized and largely inaccurate. The speed with which a dog ages can vary significantly depending on its breed and, perhaps most importantly, its size.

Large dogs can age must faster than small dogs, and thus typically have shorter lifespans. Even so, taking a dog's size into consideration can be misleading as well, because every pooch is an individual.

Knowing a pet's "human" age is important, however, and not just because it's amusing to imagine our furry family members aging along with us. It helps us to provide them with age-appropriate foods and activities, and helps us monitor their health and development.

Luckily, there's a more accurate way of translating dog years into human years, but it's a bit more complicated than simple multiplication. This method, developed by veterinarians to better recommend life-stage specific healthcare for their animal patients, looks far more closely at signs of what "life stage" your pooch is in, rather than just looking at its age, reports The Conversation.

dog life stages What stage of life is your pet in? (Photo: American Animal Hospital Organization)

Veterinarians can then take into consideration things like the size of your dog to further refine the translation into human years. Here's a general guide that you might use depending on whether you'd rate your dog as being small, medium, large or giant:

dog years Translating dog years into human years. (Photo: American Animal Hospital Organization)

These charts are far more useful guides for figuring out Fido's age in human years than just multiplying its age by 7, but remember: Every dog is unique, and might be on its own scale. For the most accurate measurement for your dog, monitor its progress through the various life stages and work with your veterinarian to pin down some of the subtler measurements like weight gain, vital signs, development of health abnormalities, etc.

If you know your pet's breed, there might be breed-specific things to look for as well.

And don't fret if your dog seems to be entering its geriatric years. If you've taken the effort to monitor your dog's development over the years and provided it with the care and attention it needs as it ages, chances are you've also given your dog its best chance to beat the odds and stretch those dog years out as far as possible.

Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

The way we're translating dog years into human years is all wrong
Here's how you should be calculating your pet's age in human years.