Of all the questions that we receive, how to help a dog live a longer life is among the most frequently asked questions. As a mom whose heart truly beats dog, I have this share this sentiment and want my dog to live as long as humanly possible. A wise person once wrote that the short life span of a dog is perhaps his or her only fault. I don’t give a fig what a non-scientific website says about why dogs don’t live as long as their human counterparts. Theories galore run rampant online, and only the truest of dog lovers take that extra leap and do things to extend the life of their dog(s).
Bottom line: Metabolism and size of the species has a lot to do with it. Humans have domesticated the dog as we know according to human preferences and specifications. Look at the hundreds of types of dogs we have nowadays: It’s all about breeding. According to evolutionary biologist, Suzanne Sadedin, the loss of genetic diversity in a species also shortens lifespans.
So what can you do if you feel this way: I want my dog to live longer?! Aside from the typical answers you find about keeping your dog fit and active, here are 10 things that aren’t often talked about but can help you to help your dog live a healthier and hopefully, longer, life:
(1) Check Your Dog’s Nails for Liver Issues
Indeed, a dog’s nails may hold the key to liver issues. The folks at Dogs Naturally say that when you trim a dog’s toenails, you may find they’re dry and brittle; the nails may fray or even get infected. If you have a groomer or vet tech or veterinarian do this, have them look for any nail issues and report them to you. Anything that your dog dog swallows, inhales or absorbs through his skin is metabolized by the liver. It does remove toxins from the body, so keeping an eye on any outward issues, like those associated with the nails, can help identify issues in the early stages.
(2) Ask for the SDMA Test From the Veterinarian
What if a simple blood test could detect that chronic kidney disease is present in your dog and then you can do something very early on before it progresses? The folks at IDEXX Labs have developed a simple blood test performed at the veterinarian’s office called an SDMA test. IDEXX reports that it shows if your dog (or cat) has chronic kidney disease months or even years earlier than traditional methods. Vets typically look at creatinine, BUN, and urine specific gravity tests, among others, for indication of kidney disease. Often times, the disease is in advanced stages when it shows up this way. Read all about the IDEXX SDMA test and ask your vet about it, too.
(3) Check Your Dog’s Urine at Home
I perform a monthly free catch urine test at home on my dog. I have been doing this for close to 20 years, with my current dog and my last Cocker Spaniel.
I purchase the Siemens Multistix that test for 10 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 the time recommendations (2 minutes for most) and then compare against the colors on the bottle. (strips expire and are about $35 for 100 but so worth it – about the same cost as 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).
Does your dog suffer from urinary tract infections?
(4) Keep Chemicals Flea and Tick Treatments Off Your Dog
I know that fleas and ticks suck, literally and figuratively. I’ve been down the road of side effects to spot-on flea and tick preventatives with my last Cocker Spaniel. Namely, the product of a very popular brand burned her fur right off. In addition to a host of other problems she developed, I regret not knowing better in the mid 2000’s. I wish I could go back and never put a harmful topical on her. What works for some may not work for others.
Rule of thumb: If I cannot use it or wear it as a human being, then I am not putting it on my dog. There are safe, more chemical-free ways to keep ticks and fleas away from your dog. It takes some time, but isn’t your dog worth it? And you want your dog to live healthier and hopefully have a longer life, right?
CLICK THIS: Safer Ways to Prevent Fleas and Ticks
(5) Don’t Overvaccinate Your Dog
When your dog develops cancer at the site of a routine yearly vaccination, your whole world changes. On the upside, I have spoken to veterinary oncologists, nutritionist, pet parents who have experienced cancer in their own dogs, and 20 years of doing so has brought me to this conclusion: Do not overvaccinate your dog. Determine what vaccines are best for your dog in his or her own unique case. Gone are the days of “one size fits all” in vaccines. Many experts believe overvaccination of our pets is harming and/or killing them.
CLICK THIS: Why Your Dog May Not Need Yearly Vaccines
(6) Use a Collar Decoratively but NOT For Walking Your Dog
Collars can damage the throat and thyroid of a dog. The thyroid and salivary glands are superficially located just under the skin in the upper part of the neck. Think about it: Your dog’s collar rests ON these very structures. The dog pulls. You pull back. The dog pulls once or twice. You pull back. The structures can be easily injured by trauma and sudden pressure forces. Foremost veterinary authority, Dr. Jean Dodds, writes extensively about the thryoid gland in her book, The Canine Thyroid Epidemic: Answers You Need for Your Dog. This book blew me away and really opened my eyes to so many things that affect a dog’s thyroid.
CLICK THIS: Pain to Train: The Reality of Choke and Pinch Collars (note: DON’T use them)
(7) Ignore the Healthy Dog Running in Fields on the Front of a Dog Food Bag
Only you can decide what works for your dog’s age, breed, size, and considering his or her health. The dog that you see on the front of any dog food can or bag should be ignored. Learn to read a label and if the label is overly complicated, well then perhaps the food isn’t best for your pooch. Consider this:
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.
Want to learn how to read a dog food label without losing your marbles?
CLICK THIS: The Truth About Dog Food Labels
(8) Brush Your Dog’s Teeth at Least Daily
If you remember one thing from this article, it is this: Brush your dog’s teeth at a bare minimum the number of times you’d brush your own daily. No, hard bones do not scrape off the tartar and that is enough for a dog. This is like saying you eat pretzels or hard candy and expect that crunchy mechanism to eradicate tartar in your mouth.
There are tried and true ways to get a dog to accept teeth brushing. The key is patience: From you.
CLICK THIS: 10 Tips for Dogs Who Hate Teeth Brushing
(9) Stimulate the Mind
Some people focus on their dog’s body and don’t consider that a mind needs stimulation, too. No matter what the weather, if you live in an apartment or on a ranch, dogs can and should have their minds exercised. There are at least five reasons your dog needs mental stimulation.
CLICK THIS: 5 Reasons Your Dog Needs Mental Stimulation
(1o) Count Calories
I will spare you the “keep your dog fit” speech and just recommend that you count calories. Until I started doing this several years ago, I was overfeeding my dog. A fat dog is not a healthy dog: You know the drill: Shorter life span, more health issues, bad for the joints, etc. So count calories. With well over 50 percent of our pets in the United States considered to be overweight, many pet brands are taking noticing and counting calories. Get the general calorie requirements for your dog by visiting the Slim Doggy website here.
Never put your dog on an instant diet. Talk to your dog’s veterinarian first. Slow and steady is key to weight loss.
Remember, your dog is a mammal with a faster metabolism than human beings. Faster metabolism means faster heart rate, temperature, and aging process. The best we can do for our dogs is our best to keep them happy, healthy, and live longer and better than ever.
Got any tips to help dogs live a longer life? We’re all ears and listening in the comments below.