“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day…” – John Grogan, author of Marley and Me.

When put into perspective (considering the popular belief that one human year is approximately equivalent to seven dog years), at the end of a working day your pet may have spent the doggie equivalent of three days waiting for you to come home, and still felt exuberant about your return. Puts the situation with the spouse in a whole different light doesn’t it! In addition to the well-documented health benefits of owning a dog, this is one more reason to keep your canine companion around for as long as possible. Read the list below for four ways to contribute to your dog’s longevity.

1. Diet

Your dog isn’t for eating, so don’t fatten it up.

In a 14-year, life-span study on dogs, PURINA found that dogs that consumed 25% fewer calories than their littermates during their lifetime had a life span 15% longer than those who had no restriction on their diet. That translated to an average life extension of 1.8 years! As with humans, obesity remains the number one nutritional problem among dogs, and what you can do about it is to evaluate your pet’s physique and adjust its diet accordingly.

As a general guide to healthy form:

  • Underfed. Ribs highly visible.
  • Ideal Body Condition. Outline of ribs is visible and can be felt. Dog’s waist is visible from above, and belly is tucked up when viewed from the side.
  • Overfed. Dog’s waist is indistinguishable from chest when viewed from above, and rounded belly is seen from the side.

Remember that obesity in your pet could put unnecessary strain on its organs and eventually shorten the dog’s life!

2. Stress

Relax your dog.

Dogs are highly excitable creatures and can react visibly to any new stimuli. While this isn’t necessarily bad stress, being consistently excited can cause your pet to have increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline—hormones naturally produced by stressful situations. This could eventually manifest itself in a physical symptom such as diarrhea.

Other situations that can present psychological stress to your dog are confinement, loneliness, insufficient exercise, and excessive noise. Considering their shorter life spans, the impact of stress is more evident on them than on humans, and can translate to a decreased life span.

Ways to decrease your dog’s stress levels, then, are to engage with them regularly, bring them on walks, and to be aware of how excitable they are. Enforcing commands to relax on them such as, “Sit!” can also help them desist in their excitable state.

relax

3. Oral Health

Recognize the early signs of tooth decay.

While oral hygiene doesn’t necessarily seem to be a factor for prolonging your dog’s life, the importance of what goes on in their mouth cannot be emphasized enough. Periodontal disease affects almost 90% of adult pets and can produce bacteria that spread infection to the rest of the body.

It is therefore important to recognize oral disease in dogs when you see—or more likely, smell it!

Perform a breath test. If your pet’s breath is extremely offensive and accompanied by symptoms such as vomiting or loss of appetite, it would be prudent to consult a vet. Your dog might have periodontal disease, that is, infection and swelling between the teeth and gums, symptoms of which may be loose teeth, sneezing, and a nasal discharge.

Chew toys and regular brushing can also assist in keeping teeth clean by scraping away soft tartar.

4. Drugs

Pay attention to the drugs your dog ingests.

Dogs are prone to poisoning too. When considering the toxicity of the cleaning products that you use, also consider that their mouth is closer to the floor than yours. A good guide is that substances that are not safe for children are also not safe for your dog.

Don’t be too hasty about vaccinations.

Vaccines are not harmless, and unnecessary side effects can be minimized by avoiding unnecessary vaccinations. Consult your vet and do some research, but in the same way you don’t get vaccinated every year, your dog probably doesn’t need a vaccine every year too. Excessive vaccination can cause an increased risk of autoimmune disease and allergies in your dog, which may be troublesome as it gets older.

Hopefully, by addressing these details in your dog’s life you may have a faithful companion for a long time yet.

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger A. Caras.

Featured photo credit: Anthony Willettvia Flickr

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