Erin Reiser-Ayres, DVM, Midtown Vets
Gone are the days of dogs being considered just for their work – herding the cattle, tracking game, or eliminating small pests. Most of today’s dogs are “hired” for their companionship, and are truly members of the family. It is obvious, then, that you should want to do everything in your power to extend the quality and length of time you get to spend with your four-legged family member.
Preparing for a long, healthy life for your dog starts from day one – and through a partnership with your veterinarian. Paying close attention to five major areas can make great strides toward the long life your dog deserves:
Dogs need regular dental care much like you do – possibly even more so! Most dogs don’t brush their teeth every day, so it’s very important that dental check-ups are regularly scheduled with your veterinarian. Dental disease creates an obvious problem for your dog’s teeth and gums, but it can also lead to infection in the rest of his body if not addressed.
Quality Nutrition and Weight Control
Just as you need good nutrition to maintain your health, what a dog eats affects her overall health, and in turn the length of time you get to spend with her. There are a lot of options out there, each claiming to be the best. It is important that you speak with your veterinarian about which quality, highly digestible, scientifically backed food is right for your dog.
In addition to feeding our dog a quality diet, it is essential to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can significantly shorten the life of your dog and put her at higher risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, just to name a few. For dogs, food does not equal love.
As dogs age, their joint health will play a large role in their comfort and mobility. Your veterinarian can recommend adding supplements to your senior dog’s diet to help keep his joints healthy. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight reduces unnecessary wear and tear on his joints. The less it hurts your dog to move around, the more likely he will be to stay active.
Speaking of staying active…
Mental and Physical Exercise
Regular exercise is an essential aspect of keeping your dog young. Physical activity, however, is only half of the equation. It is important that you go on walks or runs with your dog, but it is also important to exercise her brain. Training sessions, food puzzles, and problem-solving games can help wear your dog’s (or cat’s!) brain out in addition to the physical exercise you’re doing together each day.
Regular Physical Exams
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, regular visits with your veterinarian to monitor for any changes in your dog are essential. It is said, “an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure,” and this couldn’t be more true in the veterinary world. It is key for your dog to see a veterinarian at least once a year for preventative care. Visits should be more frequent for older dogs. The trained mind, eyes, ears, and hands of your vet can detect early disease and give your dog the best opportunity to stay healthy.
We all want our dogs to be with us as long as possible. Following these five guidelines can help ensure that your dog not only lives a long life, but a quality one!
The lifestyle magazine for Oklahoma City dog lovers.