Whether you prefer a classical, opinionated veterinary clinician or a more holistic approach to veterinary care, most people have one simple goal when going to the vet: A long, healthy life with their furry friends.
Two different veterinarians agree on four things pet owners need to do in order to achieve the ultimate goal of a long life with their pets. While Dr. Elizabeth Murphy and Dr. Madeline Yamate have different approaches to veterinary practice, both find common ground rooted in canine health.
Author of How to Age-Proof Your Dog, Dr. Elizabeth Murphy, considers love and healthy habits to be the main factor for a long life and that we are the “guardians of our pets’ health.” Therefore, a pet dog’s overall health is usually reflective of their owner’s health.
“We are the key to their longevity,” she mentioned to The Sacramento Bee. “So, we should strive to be near them, and find things that they enjoy, that we enjoy doing. Doing things together will be healthier for the dog, and it’s also better for you.”
The founder of the Center for Integrative Animal Medicine in Davis, California, is Dr. Madeline Yamate. She believes the main factor contributing to canine longevity is eating healthy, regular exercise, and routine veterinarian check-ups.
“It’s just like going to the auto mechanic – you need to have regular checks to see if there are problems,” she mentioned. “Your dog may look fine to you, but may be in the early stages of a disease. If we catch it early enough, we may be able to turn that around.”
Dr. Yamate and Dr. Murphy agree that the following four factors contribute to lengthening a dog’s lifespan:
1. Keep Them Lean
As Dr. Murphy mentioned, we are our pets’ health guardians, their exercise buddies, and their cooks. The owner has control over their dog’s weight. Dr. Murphy suggests modifying exercise and meal portions as dogs mature to prevent weight gain.
Dr. Yamato is opposed to pet owners feeding dogs from their plates, but reassures dog owners that preparing extra lean meats and fresh veggies are beneficial to the canine diet.
2. Brush Their Teeth
Just like humans, dogs develop plaque buildup on their teeth. If bacteria from the dog’s mouth gets in the bloodstream it can potentially lead to liver, heart, and kidney trouble. Lingering plaque on canine teeth can also eventually lead to tooth loss and gingivitis. Dr. Murphy realizes it’s difficult to brush a dog’s teeth daily, but suggests that even 2 days a week is better than not at all and can make a big difference to canine health.
“Brushing Plaque off a dog’s teeth while it’s still soft – about every three days – is the best way to ensure it doesn’t become tartar,” she mentioned. “Dog toothpaste comes in multiple flavors and can be applied with a standard toothbrush.”
3. Play Games
Both doctors agree that playing with your dog is extremely important to their mental and physical health. They suggest recognizing your dog’s unique play style and discovering ways to relish in activities together. They also emphasize the importance of mental stimulation through a variety of puzzle games. This can help minimize the possibility of canine cognitive decline that may accompany as dogs reach their senior years.
4. Show Them Love
Dr. Yamate mentions that “Dogs are pack animals – they want to go places with you and be with you.” She believes dogs will live a longer, healthier life if the dog feels loved.
Pamela McKinnon, a Sacramento resident, is also convinced that loving a dog keeps them alive longer.
Maggie, her Poodle, lived to be 20. Before that, her Newfoundland mix made it to 19 years, and prior to that, her Labrador Retriever lived until 17. “Keeping them close” is the secret, she said.
“I had (dog) beds everywhere in the house,” McKinnon mentioned. “(Maggie) felt protected and secure with me. That’s the really important thing, is that you put them close to your heart.”
Overall, it’s important to communicate love and affection toward a dog so it confidently knows it’s loved and will continue to be loved for his/her entire life. So, go out and play games with your dog, make sure their diet is healthy, keep their teeth clean, and be sure to shower your pup with love. This will encourage them to stick around as long as possible with their best friend, too.