Any pampered pooch will be keen to enjoy his privileged position as man’s best friend for as long as he possibly can. After all, it’s a dog’s life of chasing squirrels, fetching balls and grooming parlours - and it's not to be sniffed at. But how many dog days can you both look forward to and is there anything you can do to extend the life of your faithful hound?
According to Guinness World Records, the canine credited with the accolade of World’s Oldest Dog is an Australian cattle dog named Bluey, who finally went to the Big Cattle Farm In The Sky in 1939, at the grand old age of 29 years, five months and seven days. While studies into the breed have ruled out the presence of a longevity gene, it’s presumed a host of factors - not least a diet of kangaroo - kept Bluey bouncing with vitality for all those years.
To put Bluey’s success into perspective, the average dog lives between ten and 13 years. It seems that size matters. This is because, generally speaking, the smaller the dog, the longer the lifespan. Whereas Irish wolfhounds and Bernese mountain dogs manage an average of just seven years, petite pooches such as chihuahuas and Jack Russell terriers are chalking up 16 years or more.
Whatever the breed and size of your four-legged friend, here are seven surefire ways to help him live as long and healthy a life as possible…
1. Brush up on dental hygiene.
Nobody expects your hound to have a Hollywood smile, but never underestimate the importance of a healthy set of gnashers. Eighty per cent of dogs over the age of three have some form of painful gum disease and, if left untreated, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause problems in the heart, kidneys and even the liver. Chew toys and treats will help to reduce plaque buildup, but should not take the place of a proper cleaning routine. Establish a cleaning session, using doggie toothpaste and toothbrush, ideally daily or at least three times a week. If your dog’s teeth need a professional clean, book him in with Roundwood Vet for a cleaning session under general anaesthetic. (Prices start at only £120 for this and we give estimates before any treatment starts).
2. Monitor mealtimes.
It’s not only what you feed Fido, but how much that can play a crucial role in how many frisbee-catching days he can expect. A study in 2011, found that dogs who were given a diet with a 25 per cent reduction in calories lived on average two years longer than fully fed counterparts. The calorie-restricted canines also suffered fewer diseases and when they did get ill, it happened later in life.
3. Take joint responsibility.
While any dog is at risk of arthritis as he ages, it’s a sad fact that some breeds are more likely to suffer from joint problems. Again, it tends to be the big breeds who draw the short straw. Large breeds including German shepherds, golden retrievers, great Danes and old English sheepdogs can fall prey to both osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip socket. Smaller dogs are not exempt though, with Dachshunds, Poodles and Pekinese at higher risk of serious back problems. And tiny breeds, such as Pomeranians and Maltese are prone to slipping kneecaps, where the kneecap pops out of the thighbone. Help your hound by acquainting yourself with any potential genetic risks. Be vigilant to any symptoms, since early intervention can prove invaluable in prolonging his life. Signs of trouble include limping, stiffness, trouble getting up, excessive panting and holding one leg off the ground. As soon as you spot any of these, book a visit to the vet where a range of treatments from surgery to joint supplements will soon put the spring back in your Springer.
4. Get out more.
Regular exercise is crucial to prolonging your dog’s life. Aerobic exercise will keep your hound’s heart healthy, boost his immune system and help control his weight. The amount of exercise required will depend on your dog’s age, breed, size and overall health, but aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes per day. If you own a working or hunting dog, you should up the activity to two hours per day. (Less than this can result in extreme boredom in working dogs - which is why youtube is full of Dog vs Sofa videos.)
5. Make prevention your mantra.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as Benjamin Franklin wisely said. So, be sure to take your dog for regular vaccination, checkups, blood and urine testing and parasite prevention. Early detection of potential diseases is vital and will give your vet the best chance of treating the problem.
6. Minimise stress.
A study into the effects of stress on a dog’s lifespan, carried out at Pennsylvania State University, was unambiguous. Dr. Nancy Dreschel, veterinarian and animal researcher, concluded: “Stress caused by living with anxiety or fearfulness has deleterious effects on health and lifespan in canines. The findings indicate that fear, specifically the fear of strangers, is related to shortened lifespan.” Help protect your pooch by creating a chillout zone in a quiet area of your home. Provide him with his own bed, a comfy blanket and a favourite toy, and give him plenty of time to recharge his batteries.
7. Go for the snip.
You may want to consider getting your dog spayed or neutered since this is known to extend lifespan by between one and three years. Indeed, studies have shown that neutered dogs live an average of 2.3 years longer than those that haven’t been neutered. It seems there are very clear reasons for this.
Neutered males cannot succumb to testicular cancer and are less likely to suffer from prostate problems or infectious diseases. And spayed females are less likely to develop mammary cancer and are protected from potentially fatal infections of the womb.
So, follow these simple steps with dogged determination and you will be rewarded with many long and happy years of canine camaraderie.
Book a wellness appointment with Roundwood Vets today by calling us 020 8459 4729.