Our pets today have earned a VIP spot in the family, and rightly so! Numerous studies point to the positive mental and physiological benefits of interaction with animals. Our pets relieve stress, decrease our heart rate, help us sleep better, help us recover from pain faster, and help us navigate social anxiety situations. In fact, today, most dog owners report that they would take a cut in pay at their jobs if it meant that they could spend more time with their dog by bringing them to work! Which is it’s important to know how to take care of our dog, so we can enjoy our time with them.

All of this love is leading to longer lives for our dogs and cats, but even so, the average lifespan of cats is only 15 years, while in dogs the average varies greatly by breed. Some large dog breeds only live an average of 6 years, while other breeds may be longer-lived, averaging 12 years. The good news is that we can be proud that only 40 years ago, these average lifespans were half of what they are now, which bodes well for improved pet nutrition and medical care. 

Keeping pets healthy is the key, and we all strive to be able to stay “in tune” with our pet’s nutritional, emotional, and physical needs. But, statistics about their health are concerning. According to Idexx® Laboratories, 1 in 5 senior pets, and 2 in 5 geriatrics (cats over 14 and dogs over 11 years) show some type of abnormality in their preventive care testing that requires action!  This may alert us to be more diligent when it comes to our elderly pet’s health, however there is another troubling statistic: one in seven adult dogs and cats will have some type of abnormal test as well.  This means that Fido and Frisky, even if they are under 6-years old, may be hiding something.

Diet & Excercise

So, what can you do to be sure that your pets live their best life? First and foremost, be sure that your pet has a healthy, balanced diet, combined with exercise. Avoid fad diets, such as “vegan” and “grain-free”. Always consult with your veterinarian, who has more advanced training in animal nutrition than the salesperson at the ‘Pet Superstore’.

Just like people, cats and dogs that eat less, live longer! Besides feeding a good diet, be sure to plan daily exercise. Exercise can help with mental health as well as physical health, and for strong muscles, bones and brains, dogs and cats need at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. More than half of US pets are now overweight or obese. The same oxidative stresses that affect overweight humans are at work in your overweight pets. Your pet cannot open the refrigerator themselves, so do them a big favor by keeping those pounds off!

How to Take Care of Dogs Teeth

Don’t ignore your pet’s teeth. Humans brush their teeth at least twice a day and go to the dentist at least once a year. Think about that the next time you smell doggy breath! Your pet has the same dental issues with plaque and tartar build-up as you do, and yearly dental prophylaxis may be necessary. Start by brushing your pet’s teeth daily and trying some of the veterinary recommended treats and products that have been proven to prevent dental disease and reduce the accumulation of tartar. 

Veterinay Visits

And last, see your veterinarian at least once a year, for a thorough preventative care and wellness examination. Your veterinarian will use a variety of diagnostic tools to help screen for any issues that may be hiding. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendation for blood testing, diagnostic screening, parasite prevention, and vaccination. Your veterinarian is an integral part of your family and your pet’s long, healthy life is their goal. Pets that have regular wellness care have been shown to live longer and healthier lives.

We all want our furry companions to stick around as long as possible and research is ongoing to learn more about what helps them age better, not just longer. The people at the Dog Aging Project are now recruiting pet parents for help in their research. Their goal is to understand how lifestyle, genetics and environment influence aging.  Exciting times are on the horizon for pets and people. Stay healthy, and make a commitment to keep your pet healthy, too!