8 Ways to Keep Your Pet Forever Young

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The average life span of our dog companions is between 13 and 14 years, while our cats’ average life expectancy now falls between 16 and 17 years. However, many pets have the potential to live a much longer life. While breed type and genetics can play important roles, there are a number of factors within your own control that will not only affect how long they will be by your side, but also affect the quality of life that they lead. That’s a big responsibility!

Fuel their bodies.

They are what you feed them. And because they are carnivores, what they don’t need are corn (in any form), wheat, soy, or by-products. A named fresh meat, followed by that meat’s “meal” (which is simply the meat with the skin and water removed), should be the first two ingredients in any dry kibble–always! For example, look for chicken followed by chicken meal, lamb followed by lamb meal, etc. Do your pet a favor and read the ingredient label of the food you’ve selected–and don’t be influenced by the bag’s pretty pictures. Premium nutrition is the single biggest investment you can provide your loved one. Not only will they live longer, they’ll feel better while they’re living.

Keep them fit and trim.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention

(APOP), a recent (2010) study showed that more than 55 percent of dogs and 54 percent of cats are classified as overweight or obese! The addition of even a pound or two of additional fat on a dog or cat can place significant stress on their body. Excess weight can affect body systems, joints, organs, and even the happiness and mental state of the animal. Giving excessive amounts of treats and food can literally kill your pet with kindness. So watch the portions and give them plenty of exercise.

Stimulate their minds.

Dogs and cats are happier and healthier if they receive mental stimulation on a daily basis. It has been said that pets have the mental age of children between three and five years of age and, like children, thrive on fun and games. Deprive them of these activities, and a host of behavioral issues may begin to crop up. Be sure to provide them with plenty of exercise, social opportunities, toys, games, and one-on-one time to keep their minds sharp and their lives interesting and fulfilling.

Primp their bodies.

Grooming is an important part of your pet’s health. Regular brushing and combing removes dead hair and dirt and helps to prevent matting. Dogs and cats that are regularly groomed tend to have a healthier and shinier coat because it stimulates the blood supply to the skin. Pet parents must also keep in mind that their pet’s eyes, ears, and nails also require frequent attention in order for their companions to be happy.

Teach them manners.

Training is especially important for our canine friends. It is about making the bond between you and your dog stronger. Proper training nurtures a healthy human-animal relationship and creates a socially compatible pet. Consider seeking the help of an Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) certified dog trainer. If private training seems too steep, enroll in a community obedience class and stick to the schedule. Well- mannered pets are more likely to spend time with their parents going to picnics, ballparks, and other public places and will spend less time alone at home.

Spay and neuter.

Spayed and neutered pets tend to have fewer health problems. In the female without the ovaries and uterus, such disorders as ovarian cysts, uterine infections, and cancer of the reproductive tract are no longer a concern. In the male without the testicles, testicular cancer is no longer a possibility, and the risk of prostate problems is reduced. In addition, the desire to “wander” is diminished, which lowers the chances of your dog running away from home (and suffering trauma, such as being hit by a car).

Provide them with checkups.

We see our doctor from time to time for physicals and yearly checkups, and our pets need this type of preventative screening as well. Routine veterinary exams should include a history and physical examination with evaluation of the teeth, listening to the heart and lungs (by stethoscope), abdominal palpation (feeling of the abdomen), and inspection of the ears and eyes. Weight monitoring, parasite check (fecal examination), and lab testing of blood and urine are also often recommended.

Keep them safe.

It’s important that we keep close tabs on our furry friends. In general, free-roaming pets have shorter lives than indoor animals. Infectious diseases, poisonings, and trauma are common culprits. Also remember that senior pets have slower reflexes and may not see and hear as well as they once used to. Keep a watchful eye and make the right choices for their safety. They’ll be around a lot longer for us to enjoy!

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