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Five Life-Lengthening Health Tips for Your Pet

How to Add Years to Your Pet's Life


By Lorie Huston, DVM


Anyone who has ever had a dog or cat wishes just one thing — that he or she has a healthy and long life. Here are five tips that can help your pet do just that.


1. Feed a high quality diet.

Pets fed a high quality diet have a shiny hair coat, healthy skin, and bright eyes. A good diet can help strengthen your pet’s immune system, help maintain his or her intestinal health, help increase his or her mental acuity, help keep joints and muscles healthy, and much more.


Read: 4 Reasons Life Stage Diets Will Help Improve Your Cat's Health

Read: The Importance of Life Stage Feeding


2. Keep your pet lean.

Pets that are overweight are at risk for a myriad of health issues. Obesity is the number one nutritional disease seen in pets currently and studies have shown that being overweight or obese can shorten a dog or cat’s life span by as much as two years. Why? Being overweight or obese puts your pet at risk for joint disease, heart disease and diabetes, among other things.


Read: How Obesity May Shorten Your Pet's Lifespan


3. Take your pet to the veterinarian regularly.

All pets, including both dogs and cats, require regular veterinary care. However, veterinary care goes far beyond routine vaccinations, even though those are important. A routine examination by your veterinarian can uncover health issues of which you are unaware. In many cases, an early diagnosis improves the chances of successful treatment. Early diagnosis is also likely to be less costly for you than waiting until your pet’s illness has become advanced and serious before attempting treatment.


Read: The Importance of Veterinarians for Cats

Read: The Physical Exam: What to Expect at the Veterinarian's Office


4. Keep your pet’s mouth clean.

A common problem among dogs and cats, dental disease and oral health issues can cause your pet pain, making it difficult for him or her to eat. If left untreated, oral health issues may even lead to heart and kidney disease. In addition to regular dental checkups, the most effective means of caring for your pet’s mouth at home is to brush his or her teeth at home. If your pet isn’t a big fan of toothbrushes there are other alternatives as well, including dental diets, treats, and toys. Ask your veterinarian for some recommendations.


Read: 10 Tips for Keeping Your Cat’s Teeth Clean

Read: Oral Hygiene and Your Dog's Health


5. Do not allow your pet to roam unsupervised.

Allowing your dog or cat to roam free may seem like you’re doing your pet a favor. However, pets that roam are susceptible to a number of dangers, including automobile accidents, predation, exposure to contagious diseases, exposure to poisons, and more. Additionally, allowing your pet to roam unsupervised may alienate your neighbors should your pet ever "relieve" him- or herself in their lawn or dig up their garden.


Read: Should I Keep My Cat Indoors?

Read: 10 Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs


Following these tips can go a long ways towards providing a long, healthy and happy life for your pet.


Image: bart78 / via Shutterstock

Comments  11

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  • Proper Diet
    03/11/2014 12:52pm

    Wonderful information.
    I wanted to point out number 2. Keeping your pet lean. We adopted a little Maltese from the Oregon Humane Society about three years ago and I went through various brands and types of pet food appropriate for him, until I found the correct one. You can see him modeling the dog clothing I make at http://www.whirlydogsupplies.com - he is in great health now.
    When we got him he had been rescued from a puppy mill and was full of infections and severely malnourished. After about 6 years he had gained weight but developed a cough... I took him to the Vet and she stated that he was 3 pounds overweight (so number 3 is very important too). For a little 7 or 8 pound dog, even One pound is HUGE and can be considered overweight.
    I switched him to a High-End dog food that is higher in protein and lower in fat, also the recommended amount of feeding is less, so now he has lost weight and is maintaining it. Furthermore by feeding him the proper food he has more energy and gets more exercise (because he has more energy). Hence, the cough is almost non-existant.
    So this is really good information for people to read. I hope pet owners take your information to heart for the health and happiness of their dogs. Thanks and much love from Whirly Dog Supplies. :)

  • Miminal Vaccinations
    03/11/2014 02:22pm

    After years of doing rescue, and now running a special needs dog sanctuary, I can say without hesitation that the most important thing is to minimally vaccinate. As Dr. Goldstein says, "Vaccines are the biggest danger to our pets". After talking with thousands of dog owners who lost their beloved pets too young, all but 1 had this in common: yearly vaccinations. The longest-lived dog that I know of never saw a vet and was never vaccinated after she was three years old. She lived to 23. The goal of medicine is to "First Do no harm", but vaccines are harming and killing our pets by the millions. There is a lot of information out there regarding vaccine damage. I learned the hard way after my first two Standard Poodles began having seizures. When I stopped vaccinating except for rabies every three years, my 3rd Standard Poodle lived to just under 15. And remember, only healthy pets should be vaccinated, even for rabies. If your pet has any health issues from "allergies" to "idiopathic epilepsy", they should not be vaccinated. Ask your vet for a "Letter of Exemption" in lieu of the rabies vaccine. Vaccinating an unhealthy pet is malpractice, yet it happens every day.

  • 03/14/2014 06:04pm

    Vaccination is a medical procedure with risks and benefits. Read http://www.onlynaturalpet.com/KnowledgeBase/knowledgebasedetail.aspx?articleid=51. For vets in India it is a great way to earn money regardless whether a pet dog is in good health or not and regardless whether it is young or old. Then after the dog gets stricken with autoimmune problems these vets make more. I lost a German Spitz because of a 7-in-1 annual combo given at the senior age of 11 years. The vets here refused to accept that its deteriorating problems were due to the combo, but insisted that it was the result of CCD (canine cognitive decline)! I firmly believe and much to the chagrin of local vets advise other pet owners here that not to give any vaccine after a dog reaches adulthood - 12 months to 18 months. No boosters & no combos. DP at the age of 3 months, lepto and hepatitis at the age of 6 months and antirabies at the age of 12 months. Your pet must never be allowed to loaf off the leash outside your home and not allowed to mix with street dogs which are aplenty in residential colonies here.

  • 03/14/2014 06:28pm

    So sorry about your German Spitz. Vaccines are the cause of auto-immune problems (including hypothyroidism), cancer, and "idiopathic" epilepsy (which is usually liver inflammation). Vets are making a killing. Vaccines are fast and easy with a high mark-up. Then the vets make a fortune trying to heal the dog that was fine before the vaccine. Again, "First do no harm"!
    Many people have contacted me to tell their stories of vaccine damage. One woman rescued a Standard Poodle. The vet vaccinated him for rabies and everything else. Within 24 hours he was having seizures which the vet insisted was not due to the vaccines. He also developed a fibrosarcoma at the site of the rabies vaccine, which is most common in cats and Jack Russells. The vet still insisted that it wasn't the vaccine and made an appointment for the dog to be vaccinated again! Beyond malpractice. Thankfully, the owner contacted me and cancelled her appointment. Hopefully, she also found a vet with a conscience. And the lepto vaccine is extremely dangerous. It should never be given to dogs under 20 pounds or to puppies, because of "adverse or fatal reactions." Yet vets give it all the time. I live in the mountains with wildlife from elk to cougars and have never had a lepto issue. The dogs are in more danger from the vaccine than they are from the disease. The article "Bottom Line Blurs Veterinary Medicine" explains the profit-driven veterinarian mentality. Best wishes.

  • 04/15/2015 02:30pm

    plz help. just wondering why 2month old puppy woke up and cant get up for 4hrs. now. cant move back legs at all. his mind is fine, for now. husband gave him a shot for worms lastnight, HAS TO BE RELATED

  • 10/17/2014 11:40pm

    Agree wholeheartedly!! Six years ago tomorrow (Oct 18th) I lost a precious friend and very special cat to VAS (vaccine associated sarcoma) at only 12 yrs of age. Tests confirmed that our Max got the aggressive cancer from the rabies vaccine. Having learned the hard way the lesson regarding the dangers of vaccines. I now take my cats to a vet who runs titers before vaccinating. yay!
    Incidentally, I firmly believe the statistics of VAS and other severe side effects from vaccines are dramatically underestimated. My vet at the time Max was diagnosed told me that 1 in 10,000 pets get VAS from vaccines yet my cat and my parent's dog both got it. Years later I'm at my new vet's exam room and the vet, myself and the tech are in the room EACH of us has had a pet get VAS!! What are the chances THREE of the 1 in 10,000 would be randomly together in one room? Sorry, not buying it. There is a much greater risk than the public is lead to believe!!

  • 11/09/2014 05:07am

    I am sorry for your loss. My old vet that I had for years and trusted went against my wishes and without my consent and vaccinated my dogs with the so called combo wambo, DHLPP&C. She claimed she was trying to protect them. I lost my beautiful husky to IMHA brought on 13 days after she vaccinated her which I know were from the vaccines. My alaskan malamute now has cushings and liver disease and my spitz mix has kidney and congestive heart failure. These dogs were all healthy and happy before she vaccinated them. My husky was 11.5 years old, my malamute was 9.5 and my spitz mix was16.5 years old. I spoke with her on the phone for over an hour and told her to make sure it was put in my dogs records that I only wanted titers drawn and no more vaccines due to their ages because I didn't want them to end up with vaccinosis. I turned her in to the state veterinary board and took her to court. She hired a good lawyer and lied her ass off, stating at no time did I ever tell her not to vaccinate my dogs. I have spent thousands of dollars since then on my dogs let alone over 3000.00 trying to save my husky. This woman should have had her license revoked but a good lawyer let her get away with murder. I miss my husky and so doesn't my other dogs. I can understand your pain and heartache.

  • 11/27/2014 02:18pm

    I have been a groomer for many years and over the years it has become so apparent that there has been an incredible amount of young dogs dying of unknown reasons..Ages 5 through 9 so many I stopped counting..The skin issues and Cushing desease and tumors everywhere.. I put off getting rabies shot for my dog for year and half because of fear of reaction well didn't he have anaphylactic shock and was dying right in front of me..he reacted before the vet left the room..he had to have epinephrine and oxygen.. we were there for 4 hours before I felt able to leave...I have been going to him for 25 years a great vet but he also falls into this vaccination money pit.... this pup's mother also had reaction years ago with hives and vomiting and was sick for 3 days and that is with benydryl...another important note with my first story he had had a shot of benedryl 10 minutes before the injection to protect him from this... makes you think nothing protects them from these shots except us.....

  • 12/04/2014 01:14am

    Hi Kris,
    Thank you for this very informative article. Should a dog be vaccinated to prevent against "kennel cough" due to exposure to other dogs like at a "dog park" or "doggie daycare"? Thanks.

  • 12/04/2014 05:27am

    The kennel cough vaccine should be given only if you want your dog to get kennel cough. :-) The last 20 dogs I rescued that arrived with kennel cough had all been vaccinated for it. Some arrived very sick and one almost died from pneumonia. Interestingly, the dogs that weren't vaccinated for kennel cough rarely caught it from the sick vaccinated dogs. if they did catch it, they were mildly sick for a very short time. The dogs that were previously vaccinated for kennel cough were more likely to catch it and were much more ill. Additionally, the local shelter never vaccinated for kennel cough, and never had any dogs come down with kennel cough. A new volunteer insisted that the shelter start vaccinating for kennel cough, and, you guessed it, they have had kennel cough outbreaks ever since. Other shelter managers have told me the same thing. No kennel cough until they started vaccinating for it. Also, the intranasal kennel cough vaccine is responsible for cases of nasal cancer. It is harmful and useless. I don't vaccinate mine for it, and wouldn't advise anyone to use the vaccine. Dr. Martin Goldstein used to require any dogs he boarded to be vaccinated for kennel cough. Owners complained that their dogs got sick anyway. When Dr. Goldstein stopped requiring the kennel cough vaccine, he had no more issues with kennel cough in dogs he was boarding. Best wishes.

  • Keeping Lean
    03/23/2015 07:52pm

    Yes, a skinny pet is a happier pet. Animals are meant to be active, so play with them. Bond with your pet through playing whatever game they enjoy playing. The exercise will do them good.

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