One of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received over the years is how to help dogs live longer lives. Amazingly, when I typed “how to help a dog live longer” into Google to prepare for this post, this was one of the first “people also ask questions:”
That’s right, how do I make my dog live forever? In a perfect world, your dog would draw his or her last breath in perfect synchronicity with yours.
Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, savvy bloggers and journalists uncovering truths about the pet industry, and technology taking a stronghold, dogs are living longer, stronger, and healthier lives.
Here are several ways to help your dog extend its life expectancy from several dog parents whose dogs lived to be 15 years old or more.
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Brush Your Dog’s Teeth As Often As Your Own
Teeth are living tissue, so damage to them can affect many of the body’s systems from kidneys to heart. Because teeth are alive, rotting or damage to them can cause pain.
Think of your task as maintaining 42 soldiers because that’s how many teeth the adult dog mouth has (unless there have been accidents, genetic anomalies, or extractions). Dogs need us to maintain their teeth and that means with maintenance, care, and regular dental exams/checkups. By the way, adult humans have 32 human teeth, unless you add in those bonus wisdom teeth.
If a dog loses a tooth, it’s gone for good. Dr. Ernie Ward says that cavities are rare in dogs, and if they occur, they are treated the same way as the human cavity.
You don’t want your dog to encounter gum disease, which is that nasty brownish-yellow or brownish-greenish color. Gums that are red, swollen, or even bleed can indicate infection or serious disease. Is your dog’s breath stinky?
Knowing what normal looks like in a dog’s mouth will help you stay atop anything that is abnormal. The earlier you catch a growth or oral anomaly, the sooner it can be treated before it becomes cancer or spreads.
Secret Tip: Brush your dog’s teeth daily. Get them used to it at a young age. If your dog hates having his teeth brushed, start slow using my easy-to-implement system. My last Cocker Spaniel never had to have her teeth professionally cleaned and so far, my dog, Dexter, is on the same path.
Feed Your Dog A Whole Food Diet
We don’t believe everything big brands want us to, and that includes what and how we feed our dogs. Just as the pet industry has evolved, so has the savvy dog parent.
Whole food for dogs is exactly what it sounds like: unaltered, not processed, and clean. Whole food eating means no junk, which is in a lot of dog foods and kibble. Clean eating has become a bit of a buzz phrase these days, but it basically means being appropriate and savvy about the healthy foods you feed your dog.
If you haven’t heard, pentobarbital has been found in some sub-standard dog foods. Pentobarbital is a euthanasia drug inducing respiratory arrest (ceasing of breathing). Clean eating and whole food does not necessarily mean raw, but if raw is your jam, go for it. Just know what you are doing before you feed raw. The newest addition to the line of Dr. Harvey’s products is Raw Vibrance. A growing number of pet parents are feeding their companion a raw diet.
You’ve got everything you need from green lipped mussels to raw goat’s milk, shitake mushrooms and eggshell membrane in this formula. You guessed it: You add hot water, your choice of protein, an oil and wha-la: Raw diet! The protein can be raw or cooked, your preference. Like all their formulas, made in the USA. You won’t have to worry about grinding organ meats, finding the right nutritional balance, or anything like that.
We met with Wendy Shankin-Cohen and her husband, Dr. Harvey Cohen in person, and they agree: Dogs change once they get whole food. As a brand ambassador for Dr. Harvey’s, I wholeheartedly endorse their products and have fed them to both of my dogs.
Human grade refers to a finished product that is deemed legally suitable, safe, and FDA-approved for consumption by a human.
Feed grade refers to the quality of a finished product which is not suitable for consumption by humans according to FDA standards. It is only legally allowed to be served to animals because of the ingredients it contains or how it has been processed. Further, it may include by-products, chemicals, fillers, and parts from “4D” meats: animals which are dying, diseased, disabled, or deceased. (re-read that last sentence very carefully. Did you shudder as we did?)
Made with human-grade ingredients does NOT mean a finished product is actually legally, human grade. An ingredient might start off being fit for people to eat it, but once it is shipped to a pet food plant and processed according to regulations for feed grade products, the term “human grade” can no longer apply. By true definition, that ingredient is not human grade.
Dr. Harvey tells us that he gets over 100 emails a week from dog moms and dog dads whose dogs have kidney disease. The commonality in these dogs is processed dog food. Dr. Harvey’s offer solutions to dogs with kidney disease and kidney issues. They get calls from people whose veterinarians tell them, “I’ve done everything I can for your dog.” They talk to them about proper nutrition. Their customers write and call us with the miracles that happen in their dogs’ lives thanks to eating a proper whole food diet.
Read more about our visit to Dr. Harvey’s headquarters here.
Secret Tip: Our dog’s BFF, Zola, lived to be 15 years and 2 months of age. One of the things Zola’s mom was asked at veterinary visits is what food she gave Zola. This beautiful dog thrived on Dr. Harvey’s Veg-to-Bowl and Dr. Harvey’s Canine Health for years. Her mom mixed it with proteins that Zola’s sensitive stomach could handle, as she had uncontrolled irritable bowel disease until Zola stabilized on the Dr. Harvey’s diet with supplements.
Click to find out what we feed our dog and make a selection for your pooch.
Keep Chemicals Away From Your Dog’s External and Internal Body
Chemicals include everything from toxic flea preventatives to vaccinations. I am not anti-vaccination, but I am anti over-vaccination and follow the protocol of Dr. Jean Dodds.
When it comes to vaccines, too much of a good thing can be a deadly thing. It’s not just me, whose last Cocker Spaniel had a mast cell tumor (cancer) reaction at the site of vaccine injection. The folks at Whole Dog Journal and the experts they consult believe that annual vaccination for most canine diseases are “unnecessary and potentially harmful.”
Your dog’s health and overall life span may pay the price for “but we do it this way at this practice” mindsets. If your veterinarian is unable or unwilling to discuss blood titers and their role in your dog’s immunity and protection, that’s a sign to find a new vet. Times have changed. Bottom line: “Veterinary medicine today has advanced to the point of acknowledging that there is no single “perfect” vaccine program; vaccine programs must be tailored to the specific needs of each animal.”
When it comes to flea and tick control, two wrongs don’t make a right. Trying to repel and/or kill fleas and ticks with something that can kill a dog doesn’t mean it should happen.
There is a multitude of reasons I “do no harm” to my dog’s skin and internal organs by rejecting mainstream chemically-laden flea and tick spot-ons, topicals, sprays, and more.
Here’s our non-chemical flea and tick prevention post and what we use, recommend, and why. In my dog’s tote bag at all times: Dr. Harvey’s Herbal Protection Spray, as an alternative to the chemical spray-ons. It is ensconced in a base of Witch Hazel, Catnip Oil, Erigeron Oil, Neem Oil, Citronella Oil, Cedarwood Oil, Geranium Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Organic Rosemary Extract.
Secret Tip: No matter how much time you spend preventing and treating the home and dog of fleas, they will get back in if you haven’t treated your yard and other surrounding areas. Use cedar wood type chips in areas outside to prevent fleas. Mow your lawn regularly to prevent long blades of grass for fleas to hide in.
Basic Common Sense From A Wise Dog Dad
Al Nelson is a dedicated dog dad from Chesapeake, Virginia. His Cocker Spaniel, Maxie, passed recently at nearly 17 years of age. Here are his wise tips in his own words on how he helped his dog live longer and healthier:
Lumps, Bumps, and Hygiene: I was very careful to take her to the vet to have any lumps, bumps, or questionable sores. I bathed her frequently and had the groomer come to my house to clip her once a month. The groomer always told me about bumps or growths to be addressed.
Ear Infections: Maxie tended to get ear infections, as Cockers are prone. For years he tried everything until he stumbled on a solution of 50/50 white vinegar and water with a single drop of mild dish soap.
Adopting a Second Dog: I truly believe the single thing that helped extend Maxie’s life was adopting another dog. At the time, Maxie was 11, and I adopted three-year-old Mindy. Mindy “kick started” Maxie again, with her energy level. Maxie went back to playing ball and playing in the yard
Comforts of Home: I got her little stairs, as she liked to jump on couches and chairs. She used them to get up, which helped, but the stubborn old girl would jump down next to them. I started searching for ways (by this time, social media was around to get an educated opinion from) to help with inflammation, and help her feel better. I found success with a few different things. A combination of laser therapy, massage, turmeric supplements, and CBD oil really made a difference. She was back to feeling comfortable and wagging her tail, as well as doing an old dog’s version of “the zoomies” on occasion.
Addressing Health Problems: In December of 2017, when Maxie developed a severe case of pancreatitis, I found help in communities like Club Cocker and Fidose of Reality. As Maxie was almost 16 at this point, some things were too hard on her system.
A fat-free diet, of boiled, lean ground beef, a base mix, a daily dose of Dr. Harvey’s Runs Be Gone (a great product) along with a spoonful of organic pumpkin, and a little organic applesauce helped her.
More about How to Help a Dog With Pancreatitis here.
Heart Murmur: At age 10, Maxie developed a heart murmur, but with veterinary care and checkups, she maintained her murmur with no ill effects from prescribed medicines.
More about Dogs and Heart Murmurs here.
Monthly At Home Dog Urine Check
You must check your dog’s pee at home. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it can prevent and detect a whole boatload of issues before they explode.
I perform a monthly free catch urine test at home on my dog. I have been doing this for almost 26 years, with my current dog and my last Cocker Spaniel.
I purchase the ph Urine strips that test for many different levels of things in my dog’s urine. If your dog battles urinary tract infections (UTI’s), these strips can be a lifesaver for detecting levels such as pH and blood in the urine in between vet visits. Collect the dog’s urine with a free catch in the morning when it is most concentrated, dip the stick in, wait for the time recommendation (2 minutes for most) and then compare against the colors on the bottle. (strips expire and are about $18 for 150 but so worth it – less than the cost of one urinalysis at the vet, so very cost effective).
In healthy pets, the urine pH is typically in the 6.5 to 7.0 range. Medicines, age, co-existing health conditions, and even stress can change the level of pH. In addition, the most concentrated form of urine is the “free catch” first thing in the morning. Vets can also do a cystocentesis on a dog in order to pass a needle through the bladder and to obtain a more sterile sample (this is not a painful test, by the way).
You don’t want your dog’s urine pH to be too high or too low, as either way stones of one type or another can form.
Fat Dogs Have Mega Problems
A fat dog is an unhealthy dog: You know the drill: Shorter life span, more health issues, bad for the joints, etc. We count calories. With well over 50 percent of our pets in the United States, there is a direct correlation between the increase in diseases and increases on the scale.
Never put your dog on an instant diet. Talk to your dog’s veterinarian first. Slow and steady is the key to weight loss.
Remember, your dog is a mammal with a faster metabolism than human beings. A faster metabolism means faster heart rate, temperature, and the aging process.
Here’s how to help your dog lose weight appropriately. Slow and steady is keep.
You must exercise your dog in some capacity, too. Exercise includes mental and physical.
Whenever I do these board games with Dexter, I have him do a sit-stay and then give the “okay” command. I cheer him on and encourage him throughout his sniff and find process of game play. I know he feels good about it since the gameplay continues, he gets the treat reward, and his little tail goes a hundred miles an hour throughout. Remember, always do this in short bursts, cheer the dog on, end on a positive note, and never yell at, scold, or otherwise make a dog feel bad for his efforts.
Learn more about how to stimulate your dog’s brain here.
What are you doing that helps your dog live a longer life? Let us know in the comments below.
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