13 Ways to Help Your Pet Live Longer

These expert tips can help your furry friends have a long and happy life.

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Overweight cat
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Watch their weight

Chubby isn’t cute if it means an early death. An overweight fur baby is prone to a host of joint, digestive, respiratory and urinary problems that can trim up to 2.5 years off its lifespan.

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Lonely dog sitting on couch
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Limit treats

One way to help your pet shed pounds: cut back on treats. “A client of mine would give her dog Milk Bones every time she took him for walks,” says Dr. Maggie Brown-Bury, a veterinarian in St. John’s, Newfoundland. “Turns out the treats alone were equivalent to a full day’s calories.”

Find out which dog breeds have the longest life expectancy.

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Cat in a cardboard box
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Keep cats inside

Indoor cats live up to twice as long. Cats who are allowed outside are vulnerable to cars, wildlife and other cats, who can carry diseases like feline leukemia, which is transmitted through bodily fluids.

Here’s why you should never let your cat sleep in your bed.

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Cat playing with toys
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Don’t let them get bored

Give indoor cats outlets for their natural behaviours. “A puzzle feeder toy can stimulate their hunting instincts, and an elevated perch by a window can entertain them for hours,” says Brown-Bury. “An enriching home environment definitely improves quality of life.”

These seven tips can make your cat friendlier.

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Dog playing outdoors with female owner
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Always spay and neuter

An American veterinary study found that fixed female dogs lived 26 per cent longer, while the difference for males was 14 per cent. Spaying can also prevent several types of reproductive cancers.

Find out the most popular dog breeds in Canada.

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Dog kissing its owner
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Watch for cancer symptoms

Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs—almost half of all dogs over the age of 10 develop cancerous tumours. More treatment options (like stereotactic radiosurgery) are available than ever before, if you’ve got the budget—as much as $10,000 in some cases.

Discover which dog breed is most compatible with your star sign.

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Things you can do to help your dog live longer
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Know when to say goodbye

Pursuing extensive treatments to prolong your pet’s life isn’t always best. “Make a list of your pet’s favourite things to do,” says veterinary oncologist Dr. Sam Hocker of Guelph, Ontario. “If they’re no longer doing any of them, it’s a sign that their quality of life has been compromised.”

Don’t miss this expert advice on how to provide end-of-life care for your pet.

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Cat and dog playing
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As with human cancers, prevention is the best defence

Limit your pet’s exposure to toxins like pesticides and second-hand smoke. Pets can get skin cancer, too, especially around the ears, nose and belly.

These are the most common mistakes cat owners make, according to Cat Whisperer, Mieshelle Nagelschneider.

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Cat drinking water from tap
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Know the signs of kidney disease

One of the sneakiest pet killers is kidney disease. Look out for symptoms like excessive thirst and urination.

Here’s the scientific reason cats love to clean themselves.

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Cat drinking water from bowl
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Keep them hydrated

Many cats who eat dry food don’t get enough fluids. Try moisture-rich canned food at least part of the time to help prevent the chronic dehydration that often leads to kidney problems.

Brush up on the health benefits of owning a pet.

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Senior dog
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Feed them right

You don’t need to change your pet’s diet the second it becomes a senior. Pets’ aging processes depend on factors such as breed, genetics and health issues, so a food marketed toward older animals might not be right for your particular pet.

Find out the best dog breeds for seniors.

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Cute puppy
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Visit the vet

Regular vet checkups and blood panels—once a year for younger pets and twice a year for seniors—are crucial to catching diseases early. Any lumps should be investigated while they’re small. “If you notice it grow, call me,” says Hocker.

Check out Canada’s cutest pets.

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Cat and dog friends
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Give them attention

You are the ultimate key to your pet’s longevity. Dogs and cats whose owners give them consistent time and attention are healthier in the long run. Not only does the exercise and mental stimulation keep them energized, but as pack animals, dogs want to go everywhere with their owners. And despite their aloof reputation, cats need at least 15 minutes of interactive playtime a day.

Living in a small space? These are the best dog breeds for apartments.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada

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