You’ve all heard the old axiom: one human year equals seven for a pet. That number’s based loosely on the average ten to fifteen year lifespan of our canine and feline pets. If we’re to stick to that digit, then most pets live to be 70 to 105—in human terms.

Truth is, I’m loath to grant much credence to this magic number seven. After all, how many cats do you hear about who live to see 20? I know plenty personally. That’s 140 years-old to you and me. How about all those 17 year-old poodles and the preponderance of 15 year-old Labs among us? They shatter our human-lifespan upper limits pretty commonly, too.

Still, I think the quip has its merits—if only just to point out that pets are living ever-longer in our increasingly effective care (and by that I mean you, mostly, us vets, secondarily).

Disparage a more restricted indoor life, commercial pet foods, pricey dental care and NSAIDs (like Rimadyl) all you want, but it’s practices like these—dubious benefits and side-effects notwithstanding—that have begun to allow pets increasing access to the velvet-rope ranks of the ides-plus crowd.

Sure, we all know some pets that never received a minute’s vet care, lived outdoors and scavenged table scraps all its life yet still managed a rarefied seventeen. Cats, especially, seem to fare best on their genetics alone. Presenting for the first time in my office for geriatric euthanasia isn’t unheard of. In fact, it’s surprisingly common.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean I’d recommend this practice. How many teeth have just rotted out of her skull? How long has he lived with his unrelenting arthritic pain? What unmanifested diseases have lurked under the surface all these years?

When you take your pet to the vet every year, consider that you do so, effectively, every six to eight human years. I know you’re not the audience to preach such wisdom to. In fact, you’re the ultimate choir on this front. If only all my clients were so motivated. Sigh.