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3 Reasons Why Dogs Die Young – And What We Can Do About It

Over the years dogs seem to have been coming down with more and more ailments. Their lifespan is shortening as they age more quickly. It seems that now more than ever we are concerned with keeping our pets as healthy as can be, but there still seem to be so many problems that cause us to lose them sooner than we should. Some of the most common causes of death in young dogs may not be able to be prevented, but we can do our best to minimize the risks. Below you’ll find certain conditions to look out for as well as how to keep them at bay.


  • 1. Cancer – We know, the scary “C” word. But the fact is that one in four dogs will be diagnosed with cancer. While it most commonly affects dogs over the age of 10, it does seem to be happening sooner and sooner in our pets. Recent studies have pointed out some theories as to what may be increasing the incidence of cancer in our friends, and perhaps the most important one is toxins and chemicals.
    • Healthy eating is becoming more popular with our pets; more owners are switching to grain free and high quality ingredients, as they should be! Low quality dog foods are loaded with ingredients that may actually contribute to illness in our pets.  Making sure your pup gets optimal nutrition is essential in keeping him thriving.
    • Another cause for concern is over-vaccination. It was long thought that annual vaccines were beneficial to pets, but studies are starting to show quite the contrary. Minimal vaccination protocols are cropping up left and right from veterinarians with a more holistic approach – and with good reason. These studies are showing vaccines to be more of a damaging toxin than a protective aide. If you haven’t looked into minimal vaccination protocols, it might be time to do so.
    • 2. Congenital Disease – When most owners think of congenital diseases, they think of hip and elbow dysplasia. While these disorders are detrimental and very common, they are not the worst of the genetic disorders that can be passed down. Genetic diseases affect every organ system in the body, and only some have a known cause.
      • Some of the more common are as follows:
        • Von Willebrand’s Disease – an inherited bleeding disorder that limits the ability for blood to clot
        • Degenerative Myelopathy – deterioration of the spinal cord that causes progressive loss of function in the body
        • Megaesophagus – dilation of the esophagus that prohibits food from being swallowed and digested
        • EPI – Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency – atrophy of part of the pancreas that leads the dog to slowly waste away
        • PRA – Progressive Retinal Atrophy – deterioration of the retinal cells in the eye, causing blindness
      • There are many, many more genetic disorders found in dogs. The best way to avoid these conditions is to select parents that have been genetically tested to be clear of the disease. Luckily, there are DNA tests that can tell us whether or not our breeding dogs are carriers of certain genetic disorders. This helps eradicate the diseases in our beloved breeds. Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that mixed breed dogs are not at any less risk for these disorders.
    • 3. Trauma/Injury – This may or may not come in as the most common cause of death in young dogs. Accidents happen, and we can only do so much to avoid them. Certain accidents, such as hit by car or dog fights, can be prevented by containing your dog, keeping him on a leash, and being able to properly read dog behavior. Others, such as cruciate ligament tears, can be brought on by obesity and lack of exercise. In the cause of trauma, it’s most important for us to do our best to keep our dogs safe. Keep them crated of fastened in the car, avoid dog parks where fights can break out, keep your dog leashed, and make sure he can’t escape the house or yard.

    There is only so much we can do in terms of keeping our pets safe and healthy, but we can make tiny steps to improve their lives exactly as we would ours. Keep your pup at a healthy weight with a nutritious diet, adequate exercise and minimal toxin exposure and he should live a long and healthy life. While we can only manage genetic disorders and injuries and attempt to decrease the risk, it’s important to remember that they are not always a death sentence. With veterinary care advancing, we should be having our pets living longer in no time.

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Written by Katie Finlay
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