The average life expectancy of dogs is just 10-13 years which, when compared to people, is nowhere near long enough to be man’s lifelong best friend. The lifespan of dogs is also dependent on breed, genetics, and size, and large dogs have shorter life spans than small dogs. But just like humans, there are key lifestyle factors that can help to increase your pup’s life expectancy. Let’s take a look at the ways you can help your dog live longer.
1. Feed them a healthy, balanced diet
A healthy diet is just as important for your pet as for you and your family, and it’s a proven fact that dogs who eat less, live longer. 1 On the flip side, obese dogs are at risk of life-threatening illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and cancer. Many commercially produced pet foods are high in fat, salt, and sugar and contain low-quality meat. They are often so over-processed that most of the nutrients have been removed. Freeze-dried dog food is the closest thing to providing your dog with a raw diet, and it retains all of the vitamins, nutrients, and flavors of the original raw food.
2. Involve them in daily physical activity
Dogs need plenty of exercise, and the beauty of having a dog is that you’ll also reap the benefits of exercise; exercise will keep your dog’s heart-healthy and help to prevent obesity and heart disease. It also tones muscles, aids in metabolism and, importantly, gives your pet a hearty dose of mental stimulation.
Depending on the breed and size of your dog, exercise needs will vary, but between 30 minutes of exercise for low-energy pooches to two hours for high-energy breeds of physical activity, a day is recommended.
3. Keep their minds active with food puzzles
Mental activity is also important in helping your pal live longer. In the modern world, where dogs are rarely able to run in vast open spaces or required to forage for their food, pets can become bored and destructive. Today’s dogs have food handed to them, and they rarely have a “day job” – like herding sheep – to keep them active and interested.
We can joke that they have a comfortable life, but a comfortable life is not healthy for their body or mind. Food puzzles offer your pet exercise, both physically and mentally, in order to receive a reward. These puzzles can be as simple as scattering food across a yard for them to sniff out, or more complex, like a Kong toy which is stuffed with food treats that they must work out how to access.
4. Brush their teeth
The dental health of your pup is no less important than your own, and often even more serious business. The dental tartar that builds up on your pet’s teeth is over 80% bacteria, and that bacteria have the potential to enter your pet’s bloodstream and infect the organs. It also leads to gum disease, which damages the gums, bones, and ligaments, and causes your pet immense pain.
The best deterrent to help your dog live longer is daily brushing of their teeth, or at the very least, consistent brushing. You can also take your dog to the veterinarian on a regular basis for a deep clean to help keep this in check. Using treats that are formulated for keeping teeth healthy can also be beneficial.
5. Take them for regular wellness exams
You already know that a yearly physical is important in keeping yourself healthy and disease-free, and you should treat your dog the same way. Pet diseases, like dog cancer, can sneak up on you without warning or even symptoms. A healthy dog should have a wellness exam at least once or twice a year.
Your veterinarian will examine your dog, discuss any required vaccinations, check their teeth, make sure they are on top of their heartworm, tick, and flea medications, and usually take a few tests like a fecal and urine sample.
6. Stay on top of their flea, tick, and heartworm prevention
The proverb goes that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and preventing fleas, ticks, and heartworms is essential to keeping your dog well. Once you have an infestation, it is much harder to get rid of them. In addition, fleas and ticks have the ability to infect your pet with potentially fatal conditions like tapeworm and Lyme disease, as well as spreading other blood and intestinal parasites.
Ask your vet to recommend the best product for your pet. You should also try to vacuum your house, and the dog’s sleeping area, several times a week to remove any fleas and ticks that may be hiding in the carpet or furniture.
7. Keep them safe
Fenced yards and leashes are important to keep your dog safe from harm, though of course this is defined by where you live. If you live on a farm, you’re going to have very different requirements than those living in the suburbs. Dogs have a natural instinct to run after other animals, chase cars, or express their autonomy, but they often have little awareness of the many things that could harm their life in doing so.
It may seem cruel to keep your dog on a leash, but you need to consider the immediate threats to their safety. Even hiking in a canyon can leave unleashed dogs prey to wild animals.
8. Get training
Further to that, training is just as important in protecting your pet’s welfare. In order to give your dog more freedom, you actually need to have more control over them. If you, or a professional, can teach your dog to stop on a dime and return when asked, you’ll be better able to protect your pet when they bolt out the front door towards a busy street, or find themselves in other situations that could be harmful to their life.
9. Show them you love them.
Never underestimate the power of love, affection, attention, and interaction with your pooch to add years to their life span. Dogs are pack animals that require companionship and bonding. Stress and anxiety can have a negative effect on your dog’s health and well-being, but happy dogs, just like happy people, tend to have stronger immune systems and live longer, healthier lives.
It would certainly be wonderful if our dogs lived as long as we do, but that’s just not the case. Their life spans may be shorter than ours, but there are things we can do, as owners, to not only help them live longer, but to improve their overall quality of life. And the more time we have with our four-legged friends, the better.
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