To some extent, your pet’s maximum lifetime is programmed in its genes. However, as loving pet owners, there are many things we can do to:
- Prolong the lives of our pets
- Help ensure, no matter how long they live, that our pets are happy, healthy and loved
Here are 7 tips to help stretch the lifetimes of your dogs and cats:
- Nutrition: Good nutrition is the foundation of healthy, long life. Your pet’s immune system, muscles, bones, digestion and so much more depend on the right food in the right amounts. Follow the vet’s feeding instructions and do not overfeed your pet – fat pets can develop all sorts of problems. Your vet can also recommend the occasional treat, and, if necessary, nutritional supplements to address particular needs.
- Healthcare: The best advice is for regular, semi-annual checkups with your veterinarian. Often, the vet can detect a problem in its early stages and treat it before it gets worse. If your pet visits the vet only annually, diseases may progress undetected to the point of degeneration. Remember, pets age much more quickly than do humans, so the care your pet needs changes rapidly as it ages. Of course, promptly bring your pet to the vet anytime it exhibits unusual symptoms. Your vet will ensure your dog or cat receives all its vaccinations, another key to a long life.
- Dental hygiene: Gum disease is linked to heart disease in a number of mammals. Diseased gums can result from periodontal disease, making them more vulnerable to bacterial attack. Bacteria travel from the gums to the bloodstream where they can affect the heart and other vital organs. A healthy immune system helps, but you can improve your pet’s health by brushing its teeth daily – your vet will show you how to do it and which products to use. Add appropriate dental treats and chews to the diet, and inspect your pet’s mouth for loose teeth or unusual growths. Your vet will include an oral exam with every six-month checkup.
- Supervision: Dogs and cats may want to roam free, but that can be dangerous due to threats from automobiles, poison, other animals, rotting food, even pet knapping. You should walk your dog a couple of times a day and let it get exercise off the leash only in supervised surroundings. It’s a good idea to train your dog to respond to basic commands, like stop, come and sit. Many cats remain indoors all their lives (see next tip), and some cats love to be walked on a leash.
- Neutering: The epidemic of stray cats and dogs is heartbreaking, and neutering is a major defense against the problem worsening. If you neuter your pet early in life, it won’t develop the urge to mate. This can be especially important in cats, who like to roam and, if male, spray their territories. Your vet can explain the options involved in desexing or sterilizing your pet. Even if you professionally breed show animals, you can neuter the members of the litter who are not of show quality.
- Body maintenance: Your dog should receive regular exercise. Cats normally need just a large room and a few toys to get their exercise, and the addition of long horizontal surfaces and ramps adds variety to the cat’s daily routines. In addition, you pet may come down with a condition that requires health maintenance therapies. For example, an animal with arthritis may benefit from physical therapy, massage and stretching. You veterinarian will advise you on the various ways you can help your pet feel better.
- Good environment: Your pet deserves to live in a safe, clean environment. That means removing possible exposure to household toxins, keeping cat litter boxes clean, and ensuring your pet receives regular pest control preventatives. Wash your dog regularly, and comb or brush your dog or cat daily. If your pet is exposed to a harmful toxin such as detergent, bleach or bug spray, bring it to the veterinarian immediately. A safe, loving home is one of the best ways to prolong your pet’s life.
Finally, in honor of National Adopt-a-Cat Month, we’d like to point out that many wonderful cats are available to be welcomed into your home.
We encourage you to contact these terrific pet adoption agencies for that special feline addition to your household.