A dog can be an indispensable companion but given its shorter lifespan, in comparison to their humans, with most only living to around 10-14 years on average, heartache at the loss of a furry friend can always be right around the corner.
Writing on The Conversation, Jacqueline Boyd, a canine consultant and affiliate of the The Kennel Club UK, explains that because of the genetic similarity between dogs and humans, many of the same things that humans can do to be healthier and live longer will work on dogs too.
Here are five tips to help your dog live a longer and healthier life:
1. Keep the weight off
As in humans, a healthy bodyweight can be a key determinant in improving health across a wide range of factors for dogs. Owners should look to ensure their dogs are not carrying excess weight and manage their calorie intake over the long-term.
“Carefully monitor and manage your dog’s bodyweight through regular weighing or body condition scoring – where you look at your dog’s physical shape and ‘score’ them on a scale to check whether they’re overweight, or at a healthy weight,” Boyd recommended.
Overall, using feeding guidelines and good nutrition is linked to a more beneficial ageing process, Boyd added.
2. Increase exercise
Exercise can help dogs both physically and psychologically, in a similar way to humans. A higher level of physical activity can help control a dog’s weight too, and is associated with anti-aging effects, Boyd explained.
“While exercise alone won’t increase your dog’s lifespan, it might help protect you both from carrying excess bodyweight. And indeed, research suggests that ‘happy’ dog walks lead to both happy dogs and people,” she said.
3. Learn new tricks
Tricks help keep a dog’s mind active, with Boyd noting that contrary to the popular phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” the reverse is actually true. For older dogs, alternative low-impact games, and challenges that an owner can perform with their dog can be helpful both mentally and physically.
4. Developing bonding
Like human friends, dogs need ongoing time to develop a deep relationship with their owners. Dogs are often described as family members, and a healthy, stable relationship can be mutually beneficial to both the dog and its owner(s). Furthermore, Boyd noted that a deeper relationship with a dog can help an owner notice when its behavior changes, which can signal any potential concerns sooner.
“Where there is compatibility between caregiver and dog, this leads to a better relationship – and even benefits for owners, too, including stress relief and exercise. Sharing positive, fun experiences with your dog, including playing with them, are great for cementing your bond,” Boyd wrote.
5. Regular visits to the vet
Dogs are susceptible to medical concerns in a similar manner to humans and need monitoring to ensure their health. Trips to the veterinarian are important to maintain a dog’s vaccinations to prevent the risk of contracting infection or parasites and reduce health concerns of potential dog-to-human transmission of disease.
A good relationship with a vet will also allow an owner to better tailor an individual dog’s treatment, Boyd explained, increasing the chance of identifying health problems, such as osteoarthritis or dental issues, earlier.