aYNobody likes getting old but it sure beats the alternative: DYING YOUNG. When it comes to our beloved pets, they never live long enough. The goal however, is to give them a long and HEALTHY life. Over the last two months I have done a blog series on: "7 Things You Can Do That Will Shave Year's Off Your Pet's Life." This will be a brief recap highlighting each topic. You can go back through my blog posts and review any specific issue in more detail if needs be. Next month I will begin a new series covering the biggest issue, source of frustration and bewilderment I see with pet parents: "Selecting the Best Food For Your Dog." I will go into detail on reading and understanding pet food labels, show you all the tricky marketing gimmicks used by large pet food companies, as well as provide a wide range of excellent options in all price points. I hope it will be a huge help! Speaking of food, the #1 biggest mistake you can make when it comes to your dog's lifespan and health is: ALLOWING YOUR PET TO BECOME OVERWEIGHT. You are in charge of the bowl and what and how much goes in it. Most commercial foods are processed and contain lots of unnecessary carbs. Add to that all the treats we love to spoil our pets with. It doesn't take long before you can't clip the harness clipped around your now obese fur baby. A pet that is just a few pounds overweight is much more at-risk to a whole host of health issues.
#2. Skipping Wellness Checkups:
In addition to doing regular at-home wellness exams, I suggest an annual visit to your veterinarian. If you have a puppy, a dog with a chronic health issue or a dog over 8 years of age, more frequent check-ups are recommended. These exams will allow you and your veterinarian to stay on top of any changes in your pet's health so you can take appropriate action sooner rather than later. Also, regularly reviewing diet, medications, and exercise habits with your vet insures you're meeting your dog's sometimes frequently changing healthcare needs. I can't stress enough the importance of working with a trusted veterinarian on proactive health care to help your dog live a long, vibrant life.
#3. Ditching Doggy Dental Care:
It may be hard to believe, but the biggest disease culprit vets see in most dogs, regardless of age, breed, sex and immune status is
dental disease. Even the healthiest of dogs usually begin to show symptoms by 3 years of age. Your pet's oral health is nothing to take lightly. If not addressed immediately and thoroughly, dental disease can strip your pets of not only their teeth, but their overall health, allowing billions of harmful bacteria to enter their bloodstream and affect multiple other organ systems. I recommend brushing your dog's teeth daily – just like you would your own teeth. It's the best way to ensure strong, healthy teeth.
4. Ignoring the Athlete Inside Your Dog
In order to stay lean, fit, well-conditioned, emotionally balanced, and mobile as they age, your dog needs a good workout every day.
Canines are designed by nature for movement. If your dog doesn't get opportunities to run, play and get regular aerobic exercise, even if they're not overweight, your dog can end up with arthritis and other debilitating conditions that affect the bones, joints, muscles and internal organs.
In addition, many canine behavior problems result from a lack of physical and mental activity. What many people don't realize is that dogs need reasons to get physically active. Even the biggest, greenest backyard isn't enough on it's own to motivate your pet to get the exercise needed to stay in good physical condition. Your dog should be getting a minimum of 20 minutes of sustained heart-thumping exercise three times a week. Taking Fido on a daily sniff, stroll and piddle around the block is great for starters but it's definitely not enough to meet your dog's cardio needs. If you aren't able to move at this pace, consider involving your dog in other types of cardiovascular exercise like swimming, fetch, Frisbee, agility competition, flyball or hiring a dog "runner". You could also take a bike ride alongside your dog using a special dog bike leash. Check my homepage for hikes and other fitness opportunities for you and your dog to participate in.
5. Smoking Around Your Dog:
If you smoke cigarettes, you're aware of the risks, not only to your health, but also to others around you who are exposed to your smoking. But what many people don't understand is the danger smoking poses for pets. Studies have concluded that dogs living in smoking households are much more likely to suffer from respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis, and lung cancer, than dogs living with no-nsmokers. If you or another member of your household smokes, I strongly encourage you not to do so inside your home or anywhere your pet spends time, and don't allow others to poison your dog's environment either. It's also important to note that it's not just about contaminants in the air. Smoke particles cling to everything inside a home, so the rug your dog lies on, or the bed they nap in is coated with cigarette toxins.
Don't leave cigarette butts for your dog to find. Dispose of nicotine gum or patches appropriately. And don't assume e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to smoke around your pet, as the FDA has found they also contain a number of potentially toxic chemicals. After smoking, wash your hands before handling your pet. If your dog likes to snuggle in your lap, change to clothes you haven't smoked in. Also consider investing in a quality air filter unit and keep up with filter changes as recommended by the manufacturer.
6. Not Training Your Dog to Be a Good Canine Citizen
Sadly, animal shelters are full of dogs who didn't get a proper start in life, and developed behavior problems as a result. An unpredictable or out-of-control family dog poses a huge danger to himself, as well as other animals and people. One of the most important things a guardian can do is provide basic positive reinforcement behavior training for their canine companion. The goal of positive reinforcement training is to encourage "more of this" (desirable behaviors) and "less of that" (undesirable behaviors). In order to reach that goal, you must teach and reinforce what TO do by using praise, and affection. Don't make the focus on what your dog is doing wrong. If your pet has frustrating behaviors you can't seem to resolve, I recommend partnering with a positive reinforcement trainer until you've worked through your dog's issues. Taking action with the right trainer will greatly benefit the health and relationship with your pup!
7. Failing to Understand the Importance of Socialization
Socialization means exposing your dog (preferably as a puppy) to as many new people, animals, environments and other stimuli as possible without overwhelming them. Socialization should engage all of your dog's senses though exposure to the sights, sounds and smells of daily life. This exposure will help develop a comfort level with new and different situations. Dogs that have not been adequately socialized often develop fear and anxiety responses which can often result in dangerous aggressive behavior. Sadly, almost half of all dogs relinquished to shelters have at least one behavior problem — aggression and destructiveness are among the most common. These behaviors often originate from the fear and anxiety that develops as a result of improper or incomplete socialization. By working with the right trainer you can relive your sweetie of these issues. Your dog will develop confidence, and you will have a much stronger bond. It often takes lots of time and patience, especially with rescue dogs, but is so worth it.
And there you have it. The best things to do to give your pet s long and healthy life. Coming soon my pet nutrition series with tips on how to select the best food for your dog. 👍🏼🐾