If you're like most people, your dog isn't just a friend, but family. Not only do most of us wish we could spend more time with our pets, but we also want them to have a longer life in terms of being healthy and feeling good. Here are a few ways to ensure both longevity and quality of life.
1: Diet: Diet is undoubtedly one of the biggest factors. If you feed kibble, buy the best kibble you can afford. If you buy raw, make sure you're feeding the proper proportions of bone and organ. The body is a complex organic machine. If you don't fuel it correctly, it won't run on all cylinders.
2: Regular Checkups: The best way to treat any problem is to catch it early. Many people skip bi-yearly checkups with their vet because they find it to be excessive. Dogs grow faster and age more quickly than humans. Health issues are also more likely to get out of hand at an increased speed. Make sure you catch them early by having regular, bi-yearly checkups. Also, be vigilant during grooming and perform routine inspections. If you notice any lumps, bumps, or lesions, make sure to report them to your vet as soon as humanly possible.
3: Grooming: Keeping your dog clean and deshedded are also things that will extend their life and comfort. Overheating due to lack of grooming is a thing. Matted fur also affects the skin and can cause bacterial and fungal infections. Don't forget your dog's dental hygiene. As in humans, dental hygiene is about more than looks. Gingivitis can cause toxins and bacteria to get into the bloodstream and cause heart and kidney problems as well as abscesses. Be sure that if your dog has anal gland blockages that they're taken care of. They can cause wounds to open as the pressure seeks a way to escape and these can easily get infected. Keep the eyes and ears clean. If not, little issues can go unnoticed or become bigger issues.
4: Exercise: Exercise is another big component of longevity and health. Overweight dogs die young. German Shepherd Dogs are lean, mean, long-distance running machines. "My boy is only 9mo and 125lbs." He's not running for 30 minutes without collapsing, much less all day, in the summer, after sheep or bad guys.
If your female is over 80lbs, or your male is over 105, regardless of height, there's over a 90% chance they're overweight. And I added a few pounds to account for overly tall dogs because the FCI standard is 72.5lbs for females and 88lbs for males.
Thin dogs live longer. A study was done on Labrador Retrievers where they purposely kept one group of very similar/related dogs too thin, and the other group "average weight." The "too thin" dogs almost outlived the "average" dogs by 2 years. It seems like our perception of "normal" isn't normal. If you can't see a few ribs, your dog is likely overweight.
Run with your dog, bike with your dog, hike with your dog, and take your dog swimming. Cardio is important for weight and heart health. These dogs are designed for work and high output. If they sit on a couch all day, they'll fall apart from the ground up.
5: Training: So many people leave their dogs untrained that I don't even see how they can stand it. An 85lb, driven dog, chewing everything, jumping on everyone, knocking over children, trying to fight other dogs, won't come when called unless they're in the house, bark incessantly at nothing, aren't safe around strangers, etc.
You might be thinking those are only annoying things, you can live with them, but those are deadly things. If your dog attacks other dogs or people, your city or state will force you to put them down eventually. If they run off and don't come when called, one day, a car will be coming down the road that can't stop in time.
These are driven highly motivated dogs. Training isn't an option to make your life easier. Training is a necessity. If your dog won't come every time you call him/her, your dog isn't fully trained, it just knows a few words and picks and chooses when to respond to them. If you have to cross the street when a neighbor is walking their dog down the sidewalk, your dog is not fully trained. If these problems exist and you can't figure out how to fix them, call a professional trainer and get it sorted. If they can't get it sorted, they're not a good trainer, see someone else.
As a general rule of thumb, try to find trainers who compete. AKC obedience, IGP, Mondio Ring, etc. Anybody can call themselves a dog trainer, and most people feel very confident in their abilities... until they compete and place 42nd of 45 competitors and realize "Maybe I'm not as good as I thought. I need to learn more and train with new people to learn new things." Find trainers who compete with their peers and know their shortcomings vs very confident trainers who think they know everything but never won anything.
6: Supplements: Supplements are the Wild West. There are no regulations on them, and they're not monitored by the FDA or any other agency. So, when you pick supplements, you need to pick a company that's honest and is putting bio-available ingredients in their product. If your dog has gut issues, probiotics work and will help. If your dog has joint pain, glucosamine, and chondroitin work. But if you go and buy cheap stuff from big manufacturers, they will cut every corner to maximize profit as any big business will do with any product.
If a company makes supplements, grooming tools, dog food, hair dryers, microwave ovens, and dress shoes... chances are they're worried about their bottom line. If a company is dedicated to only making supplements, that's their only business and they're more likely to use quality ingredients because their existence is based on one thing: how well your dog is doing.
These six things will play a huge impact on how long your dog will live, and more importantly, your dog's quality of life. Six things may not sound like much, but they may increase your dog's life by 30% or more. Feed your dog well, see your vet regularly, keep them clean and groomed, keep them thin and in shape, keep them trained, and find quality supplements for issues they may have, and they'll feel better for longer and live longer.
If you learned anything or enjoyed this article, leave a like, and more importantly, share it with friends and family who have dogs. A healthy happy dog takes work and this is a guideline on the goals of that work. Thank you.
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