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People have been looking for the Fountain of Youth, either literally or figuratively, probably for as long as people have been walking the earth. We want to stay young longer and have more years with our friends and family, and more time to travel and explore the world. As the closeness of our relationships with our pets has increased over time, you might find yourself wishing that if you could find the Fountain of Youth, that your dog could jump in there with you. After all, loving your dog as much as you do, the usual 10 – 12 year lifespan just doesn’t seem like enough time.
Below, you will find twelve tips that, while not the Fountain of Youth, can contribute to your dog living a happier, healthier, and hopefully longer life with you and your family. You’ll find that most of them are the same bits of advice that would be on a list of ways to lengthen your own life. In fact, you might find that you and your pup can take on some of these lifestyle changes together, or that you can adapt them to human needs. After all, your dog wants you around as long as possible too.
1) Spay or Neuter Your Pet
A neutered male dog cannot develop testicular cancer and has a much lower chance of prostate cancer. A spayed female dog has a much lower chance of developing ovarian cancer, infections of the uterus, and complications while giving birth.
2) Help Your Dog Maintain a Healthy Weight
As with humans, obesity can come with a whole host of potential health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, and joint wear and tear. Feed your dog the appropriate amount, consider switching to a lower calorie kibble, and cut out the table scraps.
3) Make Sure Your Dog Gets Plenty of Exercise
Exercise will lower your furry friend’s risk of obesity and all the health problems that come with it. It will also help your dog to fend off depression and help the two of you build a stronger bond.
4) Maintain Good Dental Hygiene
Dental health is often an indicator of one's overall physical state. An animal or a human with poor dental health is at risk for many serious issues. The most lethal are bacterial infections of the mouth that can spread through the bloodstream, causing illness and even death. Brush your dog’s teeth and have their teeth cleaned periodically at the vet.
5) Take Your Dog to the Vet for Regular Check-Ups
Although your veterinarian can’t magically make your dog live longer, regular check-ups may result in your vet catching illnesses while they are easier to treat and before they spread to other parts of the body.
6) Be Consistent with Heartworm, Tick, and Flea Prevention
Not only is heartworm very expensive and painful to treat, it can be deadly. Also, ticks and fleas can carry diseases and parasites that could shorten your dog’s life. To help your pooch live longer, never miss a dose. Doing so gives your pupper the best chance at longevity.
7) Keep Your Dog Current on Vaccinations
Check with your vet as to what immunizations are required in your state and what, if any, optional vaccinations your vet recommends. Core vaccines are for canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies. Any of these illness, if contracted, will likely shorten your dog’s life. If you ever board your four-legged friend, you may be required to have them vaccinated for Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough) as well.
8) Maintain a Comfortable, Low-Stress Environment
Persistent stress, perhaps from being treated poorly by other animals, children, or adults can have many of the same effects on your dog as it would have on you. An anxious canine is susceptible to illness. It is surprising how stress can affect the body. Make sure your pup has an area they can retreat to when they want quiet time, and be attuned to their emotional needs.
9) Keep Your Dog Company
Dogs are pack animals. They tend to be very social. Generally, a dog that is left alone for long periods of time will not be happy and may even develop depression. Spend time with your best buddy, put your pooch in doggie daycare if you can, have friends or neighbors check in on them, or have more than one dog to provide companionship. Depression can weaken the immune system, resulting in a canine that is more apt to get sick. Playing with, training, and/or challenging your furry buddy can also help their long-term mental health and abilities.
10) Make Sure Your Dog Can’t Get Loose
There are few things as sad in life as a family pet being hit by a car. Make sure your dog can’t slip out of the house or yard. Have a secure fence on your property and accompany your four-legger when they go out in the yard to stretch their legs. When out on a walk, put a high-quality leash on them to ensure they stay by your side.
11) Keep Toxic Substances in a Secure Place
There are a lot of substances around your house that, if your pup eats them, can result in tragedy. This includes foods such as dark chocolate, xylitol (a sugar-free sweetener used in many gums), and grapes or raisins, which can lead to kidney failure. You also have to be careful of insecticides, over-the-counter and prescription medications, mouse or rat poison, and household cleaners.
12) Don’t Expose Your Dog to Secondhand Smoke
Did you know that secondhand smoke has been shown to be associated with lung and nasal cancer in canines? A dog that is regularly exposed to secondhand smoke will likely have a shorter life than a dog that is not.
So many of the things that can shorten your life are the same things that can reduce your pup’s lifespan – obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, lack of good dental hygiene and quality healthcare, failure to be immunized against deadly diseases, stress, loneliness, and exposure to cigarette smoke. You and your dog can avoid these life-shortening behaviors together. There are, however, some things you can do that are more specific to dogs, such as having them altered, keeping them away from toxic substances, and being consistent with heartworm, flea, and tick preventative treatments. All of these tips can help your pooch to live a happier, healthier, and hopefully longer life. Every day with your furry friend is a gift, so do all you can to give them a long and happy life.