Anyone who has lived with a dog before knows that it often feels like we don’t have enough time with our furry friends. Most dogs only live about ten to 14 years on average – although some maylive longer of coursewhile others can bepredisposed tocertain diseases that can limit their lifespan.
What many don’t know, however, is that humans and dogs share many genetic similarities – including a predisposition to age-related cancer. This means that many of the things that people can do to become healthier and longer lived can work for dogs too.
Here are just a few ways you can help your dog live longer, healthier lives.
Watch your waistline
One factor that has been repeatedly linked to longevity in a number of species is maintaining a healthy weight. This means that dogs are not overweight and carefully manage their caloric intake. A lean, healthy weight is not only better for your dog in the long run, but it can also help limit the effects of certain health conditions such as osteoarthritis.
Carefully monitor and control your dog’s body weight through regular weighing or physical condition assessments – looking at your dog’s physical condition and “rating” him on a scale to see if he is overweight or a healthy weight. Using these two methods together can help you identify changes in weight and change your diet as needed.
Use feeding guidelines as a starting point for how much to feed your dog, but you may need to change the type or amount of food to keep a healthy weight as your dog gets older or how much activity he gets. Knowing exactly how much you are feeding your dog is also an important weight management tool – so weigh his food instead of scooping it up by eye.
More generally, good nutrition can be linked to a healthy aging process, suggesting that what you feed may be just as important as the amount you feed. A “good” diet is different for every dog, but make sure that there are safe, tasty foods that contain all of the nutrients your dog needs.
Lots of walks
Exercise has many physiological and psychological benefits, both for our dogs (and for us). Exercise can help control a dog’s body weight and has also been linked to antiaging effects in other genetically similar species.
While exercise alone won’t extend your dog’s lifespan, it can protect both of you from carrying excessive body weight. Indeed, research suggests that “happy” dog walks result in happy dogs as well as happy people.
Teach them new tricks
Aging isn’t just physical. Keeping your dog’s mind active is also helpful. Contrary to popular belief, old dogs can be taught new tricks – and that may just keep their brains and bodies younger.
Even if physical activity may be restricted, explore alternative, gentle games and pursuits, such as playing. B. Scent work that you and your dog can do together. Using the nose is inherently rewarding and fun for dogs. So when you train dogs to find objects by smell, they are trained both mentally and physically.
Other exercises, such as hydrotherapy – a type of swimming exercise – can be a good option – especially for dogs suffering from conditions that affect their normal ability to move around.
Like many pets, dogs develop a clear bond with their caregivers. The human-dog bond is likely to offer companionship – and dog lovers often describe it as a family member.
A stable caregiver-dog relationship can help maintain a happy and mutually beneficial partnership between you and your dog. It can also help you spot subtle changes in your dog’s behavior or movements that could signal potential concerns.
In terms of carer-dog compatibility, this translates into a better relationship – and even benefits for the owner, including stress relief and exercise. Sharing positive, fun experiences with your dog, including playing, is great for building your bond.
Don’t skip veterinary visits
Modern veterinary medicine has seen significant improvements in the prevention and management of health problems in dogs. Successful vaccination and parasite control programs have effectively reduced the incidence of disease in both dogs and humans – including toxocariasis, which can be transmitted from dog feces to humans, and rabies, which can be transmitted from dog to dog or dog to person.
Having a good relationship with your veterinarian allows you to customize treatments and discuss your dog’s needs. Regular health checkups can also help identify potential problems at a treatable stage – such as dental problems or osteoarthritis – that can cause pain and affect the dog’s well-being.
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At the end of the day, it’s a combination of our dog’s genetics and the environment he lives in that affects his longevity. While we cannot change their genetics, there are many things we can do to improve their health that can only help them live longer, healthier lives.
Jacqueline Boyd, Senior Lecturer in Animal Science, Nottingham Trent University
This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.