By Michael Landa
The average life span of our dog companions is between 13 and 14 years, while our cats’ average life span now falls between 16 and 17 years. Yet, many pets have the potential to live a much longer life. While breed type and genetics can play an important role, there are a number of factors within your own control that can add years to your best friend’s life and keep them forever young. Between running with your pooch, swimming with them or participating in other activities, your choices will not only affect how long they will be by your side, but also the quality of life that they lead. That’s a big responsibility!
They are what you feed them. And as carnivores what they don’t need is corn (in any form), wheat, white potatoes, or soy. Look for foods that lead with fresh deboned meats followed by 2-3 named meat meals (e.g., turkey meal). These are simply the fresh meat version with the moisture and fat removed allowing more animal-source protein to be used in the recipes. Premium nutrition is the single biggest investment you can provide your loved one. Not only will they live longer, they’ll feel better while they’re living.
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP)’s 2017 annual survey estimates that over 56 percent of dogs and 60 percent of cats are classified as overweight or obese! The addition of even a pound or two of additional fat on a dog or cat can place significant stress on their body. Excess weight can affect body systems, joints, organs, and even the happiness and mental state of the animal. Giving excessive amounts of treats and food can literally kill your pet with kindness. So watch the portions and give them plenty of exercise.
Dogs and cats are happier and healthier if they receive mental stimulation on a daily basis. It has been said that pets have the mental age of children between 3 and 5 years of age and, like children thrive on fun and games. Deprive them of this need, and a host of behavioral issues may begin to crop up. Be sure to provide them with plenty of exercise, social opportunities, toys, games and one-on-one time to keep their minds sharp and their lives interesting and fulfilling.
Grooming is an important part of your pet’s health, with regular brushing and combing helping to remove dead hair and dirt and to prevent matting. Dogs and cats that are regularly groomed tend to have a healthier and shinier coat because it stimulates the blood supply to the skin. Pet parents have to keep in mind that their pet’s eyes, ears, and nails also require frequent attention as well in order for their companions to be comfortable and happy.
Training is especially important for our canine friends – it is about making the bond between you and your dog stronger. Proper training nurtures a healthy human-animal relationship and creates a socially compatible pet. Consider seeking the help of an APDT-certified dog trainer. If private training seems too steep, enroll in a community obedience class and stick to the schedule. Well-mannered pets are more likely to spend time with their parents going to picnics, ballparks and other public places, and will spend less time alone at home.
Spayed and neutered pets tend to have fewer health problems. Without the ovaries and uterus, ovarian cysts, uterine infections and cancer of the reproductive tract are no longer a concern. Without the testicles, testicular cancer is no longer a concern and the risk of prostate problems is reduced. In addition, the desire to “wander” is diminished, which lowers the chance of your dog running away (and suffering trauma, such as being hit by a car).
We see our doctor from time to time for physicals and yearly checkups – and our pets need this type of preventative screening as well. Routine vet exams should include a history and physical examination with evaluation of the teeth, listening to the heart and lungs (by stethoscope), abdominal palpation (feeling of the abdomen) and inspection of the ear and eyes. Weight monitoring, parasite check (fecal examination) and blood work and urine tests are also often recommended.
It’s important that we keep close tabs on our furry friends. In general, “outdoor” free roaming pets have shorter lives than indoor animals – infectious diseases, poisonings and trauma are common culprits. Also remember that senior pets have decreased reflexes and may not see and hear as well as they once used to. Keep a watchful eye and help them make the right choices for their safety – and they’ll be around a lot longer for us to enjoy!
At Nulo, it’s our mission to inspire you and your pets to make healthier lifestyle choices, beginning with better nutrition. Optimal nutrition gives your pets the fuel they need to live long, active, and healthy lives.