Sadly, dogs just don’t live as long as humans do. We’ve all heard of “dog years” – an idea that usually equates one year for a dog with seven or so for a human. Longevity can depend on the breed, with smaller dogs usually living longer, but the average canine lifespan is about 10–13 years.
We all want to spend as much time as we can with our canine companions, making sure they live a long, happy, and healthy life.
Unfortunately, you might actually unwittingly be shortening your dog’s life.
The good news is that these things are problems you can fix as soon as possible, helping to extend your dog’s life.
1. You’re Overfeeding Them
A plump, pudgy pooch may look cute to us humans, but overweight and obese dogs suffer from the same health issues that affect humans who are carrying too much extra body fat. Adipose tissue, aka “fat”, acts as an endocrine organ, as well as a way for organisms to store extra energy for lean times. Overweight dogs are more likely to suffer from heart diseases and other issues in their old age, meaning – they tend to live shorter lives.
Interestingly, the lesser a dog eats (to a point, of course), the longer they live. This has also been documented in other mammals. Research has found that dogs that are fed a low-calorie diet, with about 25% fewer calories than the amounts normally recommended, actually live longer.1
We definitely recommend consulting with your veterinarian before you try this strategy, of course. You don’t want to underfeed your dog, just ensure that they’re getting an amount of food that’s on the low end of what’s healthy for their breed.
2. You Haven’t Had Them Vaccinated
Has your dog received vaccines against common canine diseases? If not, getting them vaccinated can greatly reduce their risk of getting sick. Even if your dog almost never goes outside, they could still contract a pathogen that could be dangerous for them.
Dogs should be vaccinated against canine distemper, parvo, rabies, lime disease, and several other viral and bacterial illnesses. Talk to your veterinarian about your options.
3. You’re Being Too Generous With Table Scraps
When your dog gives you those big, sad puppy eyes, it’s hard to resist the urge to toss them a piece of whatever it is you’re eating. It’s fine to do this from time to time, but it’s also important to know about potential health risks.
Some foods that humans eat are quite fatty, which isn’t good for your dog’s health. Sausages, fried foods, and bacon are in this category. Your dog’s taste buds may love fried chicken, but their arteries feel otherwise. It’s best to stick to lean meats if you’re going to treat your dog to some people food.
Other foods that are fine for humans can actually be toxic for dogs. Onions are an example. For humans, onions are a perfect way to add flavor and complexity to a dish. But for dogs, onions are actually toxic. This is also true of other edible plants in the Allium genus, including leeks, scallions, and garlic. These plants contain chemicals called organosulfides, some of which are responsible for their flavor and pungency.
In humans, these do not have negative effects, but for dogs, they cause oxidative hemolysis. This means that their red blood cells begin to burst, causing anemia and, in some cases, partial paralysis.
The toxicity is dose dependent, but many people have accidentally poisoned their dogs with seemingly innocuous things like tomato sauce or homemade beef stew.
4. You’re Not Getting Your Dog Enough Exercise
A sedentary lifestyle is just as bad for dogs as it is for humans. Although the amount of physical activity your dog needs can depend on their breed, all dogs need some form of exercise to stay healthy and happy.
5. You’re Not Taking Care Of Their Teeth
This is one of those things it’s all too easy to overlook. Brushing your dog’s teeth might be something it never even occurred to you to do. But without good oral hygiene, your dog can develop gingivitis. When that goes untreated, it can escalate into more serious gum disease, which is associated with higher risks of heart disease and metabolic problems like diabetes.
Along with brushing their teeth, you can also give your dog specially formulated treats designed to help clean their teeth.
It’s Never Too Late to Break a Bad Habit
If you’ve been a little lazy about getting your dog some exercise, you’ve been treating them to bacon on a daily basis, or you haven’t been taking good care of their teeth, there’s a good news: it’s never too late to start.
By taking great care of your dog’s health – including the little things that are easy to forget – you can extend the amount of time that you’ll get to spend with them.
|↑1||Metabonomic investigations of aging and caloric restriction in a life-long dog study. National Institutes of Health.|