Posted on July 16, 2017
Seven Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Dog’s Longevity
I recently addressed common age-related changes in dogs. Thinking about such changes begs the question, what can we do enhance the longevity of our canine companions. Here is a list of my top seven recommendations all of which I think are quite reasonable and doable. See what you think!
- Keep your dog at a slim trim body weight. Obesity dramatically contributes to ever so many age-related debilitating issues such as arthritis (a huge problem for way too many dogs), diabetes, and heart disease. Feed your dog as little as it takes to maintain an ideal body condition score. Remember, in general, older dogs require approximately 30 percent fewer calories to maintain a healthy body weight. If your dog is overweight, ask your veterinarian to help you devise a plan to tackle this problem.
- Speaking of feeding your dog, be sure to choose diets that are nutritionally complete, of very high quality, and appropriate for your dog’s stage of life. Once you have a senior citizen on your hands, a diet that is higher in fiber and less calorically dense is usually the best choice. Multiple small meals may be better suited to your dog than feeding a larger meal once daily.
- Get out there and exercise with your dog! Not only will exercise help burn calories, it will strengthen muscles, enhance circulation and improve your dog’s heart and brain function. The activity you choose should be appropriate for your dog’s level of strength and stamina. No weekend warriors allowed. Shorter more frequent walks may be better than going for a five mile run. Gradually build up the duration and exertion of your dog’s activity level.
- Speaking of exercise, be sure to take the steps necessary to allow your dog to be active. If arthritis pain is getting in the way, work with your veterinarian to find the right combination of remedies to allow your dog to be comfortable enough to exercise. There are a myriad of treatment modalities to choose from- acupuncture, massage, underwater treadmill therapy, supplements, anti-inflammatory medications, and the list goes on and on. Inactivity promotes a downhill cascade of events that is just about guaranteed to negatively impact your dog’s longevity. Do what it takes to prevent your favorite pooch from becoming a couch potato.
- Prevent your canine senior citizen from encountering physical harm. As your aged dog experiences loss of hearing and/or vision, leash walks and closer supervision become a necessity. Teaching hand signals at an early age will pay off as your dog begins to experience age-related hearing loss. Double check the whereabouts of your older dog before pulling into or backing out of your driveway. Older dogs are less agile. Add to this deeper sleep and diminished hearing or vision and, without extra caution a driveway tragedy can happen. (Unfortunately, such tragic accidents occur all too often.) Whereas youngsters can recover from broken body parts lickety split, such is not the case for older dogs.
- Act sooner rather than later when your dog isn’t feeling well. Compared to young and middle-aged dogs, seniors have less physical reserve and are more prone to becoming compromised following a spate of symptoms such as lethargy, not eating, vomiting, or diarrhea. Whereas a 24-hour “wait and watch” approach might be reasonable for the youngster with such symptoms, waiting this long with an older dog before contacting your veterinarian may have dire consequences.
- Schedule regular checkups with your veterinarian even if you think your dog is perfectly healthy. Once a year is ideal for young and middle aged dogs. Switch to twice yearly exams for seniors. A head to toe physical examination, discussing how your dog is faring, and blood and urine testing (particularly if your dog is elderly) will allow your veterinarian to detect abnormalities early, prevent minor issues from becoming major issues, and outline a preventive health care plan for your beloved best friend.
What are you doing to keep your older dog fit as a fiddle?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at http://www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.