5 Easy Ways To Help Your Dog Live a Longer, Healthier Life
Let's start with their diet.
Nearly 90 million Americans share their home with a dog. For most of those people, their pup isn’t just a pet that idly stands by, but rather a full-fledged member of the family. Humans' relationship with dogs dates back for millennia. For an estimated 14,000 years, we’ve depended on dogs for love, companionship, and protection, and they’ve depended on us for the same. This then, makes it unsurprising that people are willing to spend thousands of dollars a year on pet products to make their dogs happier, healthier, and potentially live longer. But really, helping Fido (or Max, or Molly, or Tucker) live longer comes down to just a few simple steps that almost everyone can implement. Here are a few ways to hopefully get a few extra years with your very best friend.
“A pet’s diet is the foundation of health, so it’s incredibly important to provide a complete and balanced food for your dog or cat to give him or her all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients needed to thrive,” Dr. Kurt Venator, Chief Veterinary Officer at Purina, shared with Real Simple. “Do your research and select a food that fits your pet’s lifestyle, life stage, and preferences from a trusted manufacturer with a record of quality and safety.”
As Dr. Venator added that each pet will likely need unique feeding guidelines that are determined by their weight, height, and age. Feeding your pet too much or too little could both negatively impact their health.
But, as any pet owner can attest to, it’s easy to go overboard when feeding your beloved pet because it’s so dang cute. However, Purina’s team of scientists and nutritionists performed a 14-year life span study on dogs that showed that reducing the amount of food you feed your dogs and keeping them lean can add years to their lives. Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to give your dog a second helping.
To make food choices easier, Purina—which employs hundreds of scientists to research different ingredients, combinations of ingredients, and the nutritional needs—recently introduced an easy-to-follow new breakthrough formula known as Bright Mind. The food was created after a decade’s worth of work and research that found a dog’s glucose metabolism begins to change around age seven. This new food, created with “enhanced botanical oils,” can help stave off those changes and acts as a quick energy source for your pup’s brain to keep him or her acting younger for longer.
Of course, Dr. Venator noted, if your pet has any special dietary needs or a medical condition, consult a veterinarian to help you find the right food for your pet.
“Pets need regular exercise just like us,” Dr. Venator astutely noted. “Also like us, our pets can have different energy levels as they age and their metabolism changes. A good rule to follow is all adult dogs and cats should get at least 30 minutes of activity a day, as long as there are no preexisting conditions.”
Specific breeds, though, may need a bit more time on the treadmill than others. According to PetMD, dogs in the hunting, working, or herding breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, hounds, collies, and shepherds, could need up to one or two hours a day.
This exercise doesn’t need to be performed all at once. Try breaking up your pet’s workout like you would your own, like with 10-minute walks three times a day. This way, you also get the added bonus of spending just a bit more time throughout the day with your best friend.
We get it, you want to keep your best bud all to yourself, but it’s crucial for dogs to get a bit of socialization every now and then with other pups. Not only will this help with their behavior, it will also enhance their happiness levels, which could add on years to their lives.
“Once puppies have all of their vaccines, they can begin playing at dog parks and on play dates,” Dr. Venator said.
This playtime is most important for dogs ages seven weeks to four months as it introduces them to new sights, smells, sounds, and behaviors they may not have ever encountered before. It could also help new pet owners identify and correct any behavioral issues before they get out of hand.
“Just like you make sure to take care of your teeth every day, brushing your dog's teeth on a daily basis is important for maintaining both oral and overall health,” Dr. Venator said. Yes, he means every single day, like you do. But, don’t worry: You don’t need to break out the floss and mouthwash just yet.
“If you can’t brush daily, consider adding a dental treat like Purina DentaLife to your pet’s daily routine, which have been scientifically tested to reduce tartar buildup for both dogs and cats.” he said. Not sure how to go about brushing your dog’s teeth? Here’s a handy slideshow with a step-by-step process.
Again, just like the humans in your family, pets need to be seen by a doctor for checkups, too.
“Regular vet checkups are very important to ensure your beloved pet is healthy and thriving. Prevention is a key component of regular vet visits; the earlier a potential problem is identified, the easier it is to treat and the greater the chance of success,” Dr. Venator said. “The physical examination, routine diagnostics, vaccinations, heartworm prevention, and parasite control will help keep your pet in tip-top shape.” For anything—from food to care, to socialization and more—it’s best to turn to the experts.
“When in doubt, consult your veterinarian to better understand the specific needs of your pet,” Dr. Venator noted. “They can tell you when to feed, how much to feed, and which formula is best suited to keep your pet as healthy as possible.”