Five Ways to Keep Your Dog Healthy

- BY LIZ O’CONNELL ▸ Liz O’connell is a pet reporter for newsweek. Follow her on X @lizoconnel­l21

We want our beloved dogs to live a long life, but also a healthy one— not least to keep the bills down.

The American Kennel Club reported that the average lifespan of small dog breeds is between 10 to 15.

The beagle, a popular breed, has an average lifespan of 12 years. The much larger Labrador, one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States for the last decade, can reach up to 12 years too. However, some dogs can live well until 18.

Vet Dr. Pete Wedderburn spoke to Newsweek about five ways owners can keep their animals healthy throughout their lives.

“Dogs can’t design their own lives,” Wedderburn said. “They depend on us to impose the shape of their lives.”

1_ Diet

Owners might start with an excellent choice of food for their fourlegged besties, but a dog’s diet will need updating as their digestion system changes with age. Filling their bowls with high-quality ingredient­s makes a world of difference. When a dog ages, their needs and nutrients will change, and owners will likely have to adjust their dog’s diet. But diet isn’t just about the food; water is key to keeping them healthy and hydrated. “They need access to fresh water,” Wedderburn added. “Change it every day.”

2_ Supplement­s

Part of a dog’s diet for a healthier, longer life includes supplement­s. Adding nutrients and vitamins will enhance their immune system, promote healthy digestion and help joint and bone health.

While there are plenty of supplement­s to choose from, Wedderburn emphasizes the use of omega-3 fatty acids to help support a dog’s heart, joints, coat, skin and immune system. He said the easiest way to add it to their diet is through capsules.

It is important to give them time to adjust to the food and supplement­s. Allow about two months to pass with one routine, Wedderburn said, as it takes about that time for nutrients to become fully absorbed.

Dr. Daisy May, a veterinary surgeon, told Newsweek that she too recommends omega-3 fatty acids, as well as supplement­s containing glucosamin­e and chondroiti­n. These

will help support healthy joints in both aging and active dogs.

3_ Mental Stimulatio­n and Enrichment

Mental health and stimulatio­n for dogs are just as important as their physical health.

Wedderburn highlighte­d a newer version of enrichment he’s been seeing online—lick mats. Owners can put different foods on these mats such as peanut butter or mashed bananas. The different healthy foods will encourage the act of licking, which is a soothing behavior for bored or anxious dogs. Or, it can be used as a fun new toy.

Other options for mental stimulatio­n include puzzle toys and training sessions. Keeping dogs stimulated may also reduce behavioral issues, May said.

4_ Dental Health

The Cleveland Clinic reported that beyond a yellowing smile and bad breath, poor dental health can lead to health problems such as gum disease, pneumonia, cardiovasc­ular disease or endocardit­is—and Wedderburn said the same goes for dogs.

“A buildup of dental plaque and tartar can lead to gum disease, tooth loss and serious infections that affect the mouth, kidneys, heart and joints,” May added. “I recommend brushing your dog’s teeth at least 2-3 times per week and scheduling dental cleanings with your vet at least once yearly.”

Wedderburn suggested that owners brush a dog’s front teeth, as getting to the back ones might be a little more difficult. To clean the back teeth, he said to use dental chews that are clinically proven to be effective. Those treats that have been tested and proven will include a seal with the letters VOHC, or Veterinary Oral Health Council.

5_ Minimize Stressors

While all owners try to put their dogs first, life will sometimes get in the way. Maybe you’re going on vacation or a work trip—and as much as you want to bring your dog, it wouldn’t be possible. Some owners might resort to keeping their dogs at boarding kennels. But taking them out of their familiar home and giving them limited one-on-one attention might cause some animals to feel depressed.

“The people might be nice there, but it is different from their normal situation,” Wedderburn said.

He suggested opting for a pet sitter to give your canine attention. Owners can even hire sitters to stay at their house through companies like Trustedhou­sesitters and Rover, which will help your dogs feel comfortabl­e in their own familiar territory.

Keeping these stressors to a minimum is especially important for senior dogs as they can be more affected than younger pups.

Other Ways To Help Your Dog

While these five tips are guidelines to help your dog live as long as possible, it doesn’t have to stop there. Wedderburn also highlighte­d the importance of sleep for dogs.

“People don’t think enough about how their dog is well rested,” he said. “It’s really important to look after.”

Wedderburn said a warm, soft bed can make a difference for them and on their joints.

May also stressed the importance of scheduling regular vet visits, as annual exams and six-month senior wellness visits will allow teams to monitor overall health, detect issues early and provide treatment or recommenda­tions for each dog’s specific needs.

“Catching potential medical problems in their initial stages gives us the best chance at a successful resolution,” said May.

 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States