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How to Extend Your Dog's Lifespan
Six Tips to Make Your Dog Live Longer
Dogs are a source of joy for many people. Owners cherish them while they are with us, but losing a beloved family member can be heartbreaking. Is there any way to help a dog live longer? The good news is: yes! Through good practices throughout a dog's life, you can easily add years to your pup's expiration date. Below are the six biggest influences on a dog's lifespan, and how you can make them work in your favor.
Feed Your Dog Well
Feeding a dog bottom-of-the-shelf grocery store dog food is one of the biggest mistakes owners make when it comes to dog health. Just like humans, dogs are what they eat. And if you're feeding Fido ground corn and 'poultry meal,' you can't expect him to thrive. Feed a high-quality food that has at least two real meat sources in it's first five ingredients- the more the better! You will find that a top-quality food will improve everything from a dog's coat and energy level to his stool size and smell (it gets better!) Higher quality food also requires less to keep your dog running, so an initial bump up in price will not be as steep as you think.
Some of the better and most common dog food brands include:
- Blue Buffalo
- Taste of The Wild
If you are really serious about improving your dog's nutrition, switch over to a raw diet. It will require quite a bit of research, but the general idea is to rotate protein sources to give your dog a full, balanced diet. If you can find a butcher willing to sell you scraps for cheap, raw feeding can even be cheaper than kibble! Dogs on a raw diet have very small, dry stools and healthy teeth. Plus, you know exactly what is going into your dog; there's no mysterious chemicals and preservatives in that raw meaty bone!
Don't Let Your Dog Get Fat
Most dogs in the USA today are overweight, if not outright obese. You should be able to feel the ribs of your dog when you press lightly against his side, and he should have a healthy muscle tone. Overweight dogs experience a whole slew of health problems, including added wear and tear to joints and heart issues. You should not be able to see your dog's spine or the entire rib cage while standing relaxed; too skinny is a problem, too!
Keeping a dog fit can add at least two years to his life, and it won't hurt yours either! Go out and take a jog with your dog. Daily exercise goes a big way toward increasing longevity.
Take Care of Your Dog's Teeth
Probably the most overlooked aspect of dog maintenance is oral hygiene. Imagine going your whole life without brushing. Ew, right? And more importantly, you'd probably develop some sort of disease or lose a few teeth in the process. The same applies to dogs. Plaque build up can lead to gum disease, which will spread to major organs like the brain and heart. Many a dog's life has been ended years too soon because her teeth were never taken care of.
There are a few ways to look after your dog's dental health. The best is to get a teeth-cleaning from your vet done every year or two. The animal is sedated and then given a thorough cleanup- like a dental exam. This can be expensive, however, and there are other measures to help your pup's smile. Brushing every night can easily be integrated into your routine. There are also special chews designed to clean teeth as the dog works at it. Raw bones are a natural way to clean teeth and will also make your dog happy as a clam! Whatever route you choose (hopefully more than one,) this is perhaps the most important tip to take to heart. Maintaining your dog's teeth can add five years to his life.
Get an Annual Exam at the Vet
While you're in getting your dog's teeth cleaned, spring for an exam as well. Your vet will examine your dog's vital signs for anything wrong and can catch many problems before they manifest more seriously. Opt for blood work and remember to bring in a stool sample! Knowing about a condition early makes treatment much more effective and will obviously extend your dog's life. Things inevitably go wrong as a dog ages- make sure you know about it before it's too late.
During the other 364 days of the year, check your dog for any strange growths and remember to stay up to date with heart-worm medication. Pay attention to how much your dog eats, his energy levels, and any soreness or behavioral changes. Nobody knows your dog like you do, so it's your responsibility to note any changes that may require a vet's attention.
Don't Wear Out Your Dog's Joints
This may sound at odds with the tip to keep your dog fit, but is not. Dogs are active creatures who need to move and exercise, yes, but be selective about how they exercise. Constant leaping in the air for agility or fetch will take its toll sooner or later. Jumping and excessive stair climbing are the two big culprits that grind away at a dog's joints and leave them crippled later in life.
This is not to discourage playing with your dog! After all, some damage is impossible to avoid, and what's the point of a longer life if your dog doesn't enjoy it? Just remember, avoid extreme activity in excess. This will lower the odds of hip or elbow dysplasia later in life- two disorders that have been the cause of many a euthanasia.
Keep Your Dog Indoors
Nothing is more tragic than a young dog dying suddenly from poison, getting hit by a car, or losing a fight with a bigger animal. This is the most needless of deaths. Yes, accidents do happen, but certain measures can be taken to dramatically reduce the chances of your dog coming to harm. If your dog is not in a securely-fenced area, he should be on a leash at all times. If you cannot supervise the dog, he should be indoors. A pup alone is a bored pup, and bored pups get into trouble. Your dog is happiest with you, so don't leave him outside where the big wide world can get to him, and him to it.
With these simple precautions, you can maximize your dog's life potential. A few minutes every day, or a few extra dollars a month, are all it takes to spend several more years with your best friend. Sometimes, there's no helping a genetic illness or freak accident, but by following these rules, you will at least give your dog the best life possible.
Here's to many more years with our canine companions, in happiness and health!