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home : columns : columns April 28, 2016

7/1/2014 12:44:00 PM
Longevity and your pet
John the cattle dog at 22 years. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
+ click to enlarge
John the cattle dog at 22 years. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

Max the terrier lived a very long life. He recently passed away in May 2013 at the age of 29 years, 282 days. He was heralded as the oldest living dog, according to Wikipedia. The oldest living cat, Poppy at age 24, passed away this year. She reigned as the oldest living cat according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Dogs like Max and cats like Poppy are outside the norm, but they may be an indicator of an increasingly longer pet lifespan. Veterinarians say it's not unusual for some dogs and cats to reach 15 years or more, and they're seeing more and more pets do so.

Just as the average life expectancy for people keeps reaching closer to the century mark, you will continue to see the same parallels in the pet population. Just like in people, genetics is a part of the equation, so to a significant degree how long an individual dog or cat is likely to live is pre-programmed.

The choices you make for your pet can go a long way in affecting their lifespan. Pet gerontology expert and veterinarian Richard T. Goldston, in St. Petersburg, Florida, says the improvement is a combination of more responsible pet parents, a stronger human-animal bond, and better veterinary care and pet nutrition.

Most dogs, depending on size, can live 10 to 15 years if they are in good shape mentally and physically, and most (indoor) cats generally live from 12 to 18 years of age.

Here are some tips that you as a pet parent can do to extend and improve the quality of your furry friend's life:

Neutering or spaying a pet may help extend their lifespan because the surgery drastically lowers the risk of certain kinds of serious health concerns including complications from pregnancy and delivery such as dystocia, and certain cancers that affect the mammary glands and reproductive organs.

Maintaining your pet's teeth is very important because tooth decay is a very common and dangerous health problem. Tooth decay not only creates dental problems; it can cause infections throughout the body, especially in the heart and kidneys. Most dogs and cats are not going to have picture-perfect teeth or fresh breath like a human, but their teeth should be reasonably clean. Start brushing your furry friend's teeth when he is young, if you can. You can buy toothpaste and toothbrush kits for dogs and cats.

Unfortunately, the obesity crisis has affected animals as well as people. Fido or Kitty can become overweight if they eat a lot of fatty human foods or even if they are eating too much pet food and don't get enough exercise. You can extend your four-legged friend's life if you make an effort to keep him at a healthy weight at all times.

Folks nowadays see the benefit of exercising more; it can extend your life, the same goes for Kitty or Fido. Ideally your pet should get at least an hour of exercise every day to improve their health and regulate their weight. Yes, you can exercise your cat either on a harness or just having playtime.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and regular checkups with your veterinarian can help detect diseases and health problems early on, while they can still be treated. Vaccinations can save lives. Experts recommend that dogs and cats should visit the vet at least once a year when they are fully grown, and two to four times a year while they are puppies.

Just like humans, stress can have a negative effect on your furry friend. There should be some type of routine where your pet can get exercise and have time to be part of the family but also have time for rest. It takes a lot of energy to run around with the family and keep up with all the excitement, so they need time to sleep on their own, too.

As you can see, the key to longevity in your pet's life is to provide them with a healthy lifestyle, which includes maintaining a healthy weight, daily exercise, relaxation, and regular checkups.

Just think of your furry friend's well being in the same way that you would think of a human family member.

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