13 Ways to Help Your Pet Live Longer
These expert tips can help your furry friends have a long and happy life.
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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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, Nfld. “Turns out the treats alone were equivalent to a full day’s calories.”
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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.
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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.”
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.
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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.
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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, Ont. “If they’re no longer doing any of them, it’s a sign that their quality of life has been compromised.”
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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