One of the hardest things about dog ownership is the day when you must say goodbye to your best canine pal. No matter how long our dogs live, it is never long enough. Thankfully, dogs are beginning to enjoy greater longevity than ever before, allowing us to glean a few extra years with our cherished canine companions. However, senior dogs require special care. When their needs are carefully met, life expectancies are often extended, making the added effort well worth it for you and your dog. Are dogs living longer today, and if so, why?
Why Are Dogs Living Longer Today?
In recent years, several studies have been undertaken to determine what kind of longevity you can expect in your dog. The average life expectancy for a dog was 10.5 years in 2002. By 2016, this number had dramatically increased from 10.5 to 11.8. This large jump in numbers left people wondering…why is this?
What has made such a significant increase in the number of years you can expect to spend with your beloved pet?
The answer is quite simple. Our thinking has changed. While animals have long been claimed as cherished family pets, there has been a shift from our dogs playing the role of a companion to a member of the family. Studies show that 95% of all pet owners now view their dogs on equal footing with their human family members.
When people bond with their pets, they automatically seek ways to ensure their continued health and happiness. This added investment into our dogs has helped to improve and sustain their wellness, and thus, has led to longer life expectancies. More than this; when a pet reaches its senior years, many families make it their priority to provide additional support via medicine, specialized bedding, and even veterinary treatments to improve mobility and reduce pain. Much like with our human family members, the more we invest into caring for a senior dog, the better the dog’s quality of life and the greater the number of years we can hope to spend with him.
What Can I Do to Help Increase My Dog’s Life Expectancy?
There are a number of factors that combine to determine approximately how many years your dog may live. Some of these are predetermined while others you can exert some control over and use to your advantage to help ensure a better and longer life for your dog. The factors that affect a dog’s lifespan include:
- The dog’s size
- The dog’s lifestyle
- The dog’s daily care
- The dog’s breed
- The dog’s activity level
It is a known fact that small dog breeds to tend to have longer life expectancies than their large and giant breed counterparts. But it’s not just size that matters when it comes to how long your dog may live. All breeds can be predisposed to developing certain genetic illnesses, and some breeds are plagued by more health problems than others. This can have a dramatic impact on your dog’s lifespan. Of course, diet and activity levels also play an important role in dog longevity. Dogs that are fed a high-quality diet and that are regularly walked have a far greater chance of enjoying a long and healthy life than those who are not.
Want to give your dog the best chance at long life? Here are some things you can do to help support that:
- Keep on top of dental hygiene
Believe it or not, dental hygiene for your dog is about a lot more than simply a pretty smile and teeth. Though brushing your dog’s teeth can feel like a real chore, it will make a significant difference when it comes to longevity. By performing regular dental cleanings on your dog, you can prevent such problems as plaque buildup, bacterial infections, and gingivitis from occurring, all issues that can cause an abbreviation to your dog’s life.
If brushing your dog’s teeth grosses you out, you can use a water additive designed to assist with keeping your dog’s teeth clean or make use of raw, meaty bones and other types of chews to help remove tartar and plaque from the teeth.
- Feed a healthy diet
The food you feed your dog will make a big difference when it comes to his life expectancy. A high-quality nutritious diet that helps to promote longevity should be free from ingredients such as by-products, sugar, additives, preservatives, artificial colors, and artificial flavors.
But it’s not just the type of food you give your dog that makes a difference in his longevity, the amount is also very important. Dogs that eat smaller meals and maintain a healthy body condition typically enjoy an additional two years of excellent quality of life with their families. Feeding too much food will lead to weight gain, a problem that can significantly reduce your dog’s life expectancy.
- Partake in daily exercise
Getting Fido out for a daily walk offers health benefits for both of you. Engaging in daily exercise can help to keep your dog’s body in tip top condition and will also help to improve his cardiovascular health and keep his stress levels low. Activity also assists with the battle of bulge, keeping your dog at a weight that supports optimal health and wellness.
Another bonus that comes with an active lifestyle is the chance to enjoy some additional socialization when on an outing. If your dog is particularly social, he will take immense pleasure in meeting neighbors and new friends when out on a walk.
What are Some of the Problems Old Dogs Suffer With?
As dogs age, their bodies begin to break down, and they require more care from their owners. It is important to discuss with your veterinarian when your pet can be considered a senior dog and what they recommend for additional care to maintain excellent health and quality of life.
Here are a few of the problems that can plague senior dogs:
As dogs age, their bodies become riddled with arthritis. You may notice early signs of this such as stiffness of the joints, difficulty rising from a prone or seated position, or even sucking of the joints in the legs. Many dogs begin to show disinterest in activities they formerly loved or an inability to walk as far as they once used to. Thankfully, arthritis doesn’t have to mean your dog has to suffer with pain or give up doing things he loves. Medication, dog ramps, and water and laser therapy can help improve your dog’s mobility and allow him to continue enjoying his fave activities including walks.
Without proper dental hygiene throughout your dog’s life, chances are quite good that he will lose teeth or succumb to dental issues such as gum disease.
Senior dogs can be plagued by issues with their weight. Dogs suffering with painful mouths from dental disease or other problems may struggle to eat their food, causing them to lose weight. Other dogs may develop health issues or diseases like cancer that can cause the body to begin to waste away.
Of course, as your dog gets older, his energy levels will also begin to wane, meaning he no longer can walk as far as he once did without tiring. This can mean that instead of losing weight, your dog may begin to pack on the pounds, a problem that can dramatically impact his aging joints in a negative way.
Older dogs should be transitioned to a diet that is better suited to senior dogs and their unique nutritional needs. Most often, these diets are based on lean, easily digestible ingredients and are lower in calories to support healthy digestion and a good and sustainable body condition.
Unfortunately, many dogs can no longer control their bowels and bladders when they reach an advanced age. This can be very hard on your heart to witness and can be a sign your dog is coming to the end of his days with you.
If your dog is struggling with incontinence, there are things you can do to help. Pee pads can be scattered throughout your home in areas where your dog frequents to provide him a place to relieve himself if need be. Some families make use of dog diapers which can be purchased in disposable and reusable forms for your convenience. Both of these methods are a great way to provide your dog with peace of mind when the urge to use the bathroom strikes while preserving your furniture and flooring in the process.
Are dogs living longer? Indeed, they are! With our shift in focus to thinking of our dogs as family instead only pets and our commitment to providing exceptional quality care, our dogs are enjoying longer lives and excellent quality health well into their senior years.