Although we know that our beloved dog will probably die before we do, there are many things an owner can do to help their dog live a longer life. Learn how to improve your dog's lifespan and how to keep it healthy.
Right from the start, the dog you buy, and the place you buy it from, can have a huge impact on how long it will live. Pups sold in pet stores come from mass breeders, places who only breed for profit. As such these pups may typically have genetic health problems or predispositions to some problems. Of course, most owners know that small dogs live longer than big ones, and most pets stores sell only small breed pups. The gimmicky dogs sold as teacup dogs tend to have many health problems.
Back yard breeders also tend to disregard breeding for health, rather they breed for cuteness. If a person wants a long lived purebred dog they are best off to select one from a reputable breeder. Sadly many people interested in buying a puppy have no idea how to determine if a breeder is reputable. Quite simply put, a reputable breeder takes their dogs to shows to prove their worth as breeding animals and has them tested by a veterinarian against any genetic health problems. They do not breed any dogs where problems have been shown to exist. They do not advertise puppies for sale, rather they get waiting lists before they breed.
Purebreds have known problems associated with their breed, any owner wanting a purebred should know what health problems to be aware of and how to avoid them.
Mutts are often suggested as healthy dogs because of something called hybrid vigor, meaning they have more diverse genes than a purebred. This does not mean all mutts are healthy, some are the result of a mating between two low quality purebreds and as such would not have great genes anyhow. Still, mutts should not be discounted, and many have long lifespans when selected well.
Having a dog desexed has a huge benefit to health and lifespan. Spaying or neutering reduces or removes the chances for the dog to develop some cancers (interestingly enough cancer is second only to accidents as far as the biggest threat to lifespan). Regular vaccinations can also have a huge impact on lifespan. Parvo virus is responsible for killing many puppies, so a puppy should not leave its home unvaccinated. Regular vet care can help keep a dog healthy, and alive for a long time. Prevention of worms, such as heartworm, can also increase a dogs lifespan. It is worth noting that many products are dangerous to use without a veterinarians approval, such as over the counter flea medications, which have been linked to many pet deaths.
One problem for many dogs is that their owners neglect to care for their teeth. While it might not seem important to lifespan, an infected tooth can spread infection to the dogs brain. Even if it does not get to that stage, bad teeth make eating difficult.
People think that dog food companies would not be selling poor quality pet foods, but they do. Many ingredients are known to cause problems. Unfortunately the standards for pet food nutrition is very poor. A wise owner would always look at an ingredient list on the bag of dog food and avoid problem ingredients such as corn, pork, wheat, soy, and beef. They would also avoid cheap preservatives such as BHT, and BHA, both linked to health concerns. They would never offer a food that contained any by-products, which are not only cheap un-healthy filler, but are preserved with a chemical pesticide Ethoxyquin, known to cause health problems.
Many cancers are from eating poor quality ingredients found in poor quality foods (particularly in the preservatives) so food selection should be very important.
Too much food is not doing the dog any favors either. Obesity is just as harmful in dogs as it is in people. Gravy and fat might taste yummy but they are not things dogs should have.
Try to find a healthy dog food that is close to a dog's natural diet.
A well trained dog is going to live a longer life simply because they are not going to be a problem for their owner. All too many dogs are surrendered to the animal shelters because they are unruly and unmanageable. Some of these dogs become so unsafe they are not put up for adoption.
A dog who is allowed to roam is in danger at all times. Not only can it be hit by a car, it could be picked up by an angry neighbor and dumped in another part of town, or poisoned because of becoming a pest in the neighborhood. Even chaining a dog in a unfenced yard is not safe because stray dogs could easily pick on it. Naturally as pack animals dogs prefer to be with their owners, but this isn't always possible, as such a fully fenced yard or dog run make the best option.
As mentioned, dogs are pack animals, they thrive when they have a companion. A dog who lives with another dog, or even a cat, may have positive benefits because of not being alone in the case where an owner works long hours. They need to learn social skills as well so they can interact correctly with other animals.
If a dog is picked up as a stray most shelters only have to hold it for 72 hours. Many hold the pets longer and ideally put unclaimed ones up for adoption. However by providing the dog with identification an owner can be contacted immediately, and returned to them.