Whether you prefer a straight-laced veterinary clinician or a holistic vet with a focus on Chinese medicine, we all have one common goal when we consult a doggy doctor: More healthy years with our canine BFFs.
Two very different vets agree on four things pawrents need to do in order to achieve that goal.
Dr. Elizabeth Murphy, author of How to Age-Proof Your Dog, believes prevention is the key to longevity and that we are the “guardians of our pets’ health.” As such, our dogs’ wellness tends to be tied up with our own.
“We are the key to their longevity,” she told The Sacramento Bee. “So we should strive to be near them, and find things that they enjoy, that we enjoy doing. Doing things together will be healthier for the dog, and it’s also better for you.”
Dr. Madeline Yamate is the founder of the Center for Integrative Animal Medicine in Davis, California. She believes that healthy diets, exercise regimes and maintenance care are the keys to canine longevity. Her practice offers acupuncture, doggy massage and herbal supplements.
“It’s just like going to the auto mechanic – you need to have regular checks to see if there are problems,” she said. “Your dog may look fine to you, but may be in the early stages of a disease. If we catch it early enough, we may be able to turn that around.”
So what do Dr. Murphy and Dr. Yamate agree are the four best ways to extend your dog’s lifespan?
1. Keep Them Lean
As Dr. Murphy says, we are our pets’ health guardians, their chefs and their personal trainers. How heavy a dog gets is totally within the control of the owner. She recommends adjusting meal portions and exercise as dogs age to avoid packing on the pounds.
Dr, Yamato strictly forbids her clients from giving table scraps, but encourages them to cook extra lean meats and fresh veggies to supplement their diets.
2. Brush Their Teeth
Dogs develop plaque on their teeth just like humans. Over time it can lead to gingivitis, tooth loss and even disease in the kidneys, liver and heart if bacteria from the mouth enters the bloodstream. Dr. Murphy understands the difficulty in brushing a dog’s teeth every day, but says even just 2 days a week can make a world of difference.
“Brushing plaque off a dog’s teeth while it’s still soft – about every three days – is the best way to ensure it doesn’t become tartar,” she said. “Dog toothpaste comes in multiple flavors and can be applied with a standard toothbrush.”
3. Play Games
Both Dr. Murphy and Dr, Yamate agree that play is vital to the physical and mental well being of all dogs. They recommend discovering your dog’s individual play style and finding a way to enjoy activities together.
They also stress the importance of mental stimulation through puzzle games in order to stave off cognitive decline that comes along with aging.
4. Show Them Love
Dr. Yamate stresses that “Dogs are pack animals – they want to go places with you and be with you.” She believes that the more loved a dog feels, the more time they may have to return the favor.
Sacramento, CA resident, Pamela McKinnon has a knack for providing long, happy lives to the dogs she loves – and she says that’s the secret right there – love. Her Poodle, Maggie lived to be 20, her Newfoundland mix before that passed away at 19, and she had a Labrador that made it to the ripe old age of 17.
“I had (dog) beds everywhere in the house,” McKinnon shared. “(Maggie) felt protected and secure with me. That’s the really important thing, is that you put them close to your heart.”