There are a few things all dog parents have in common: We all want our dogs to be healthy; we all want them to be happy; and we all want them to live the longest lives possible.
Like humans, some dogs are genetically programmed to live longer. A recent study examined overlapping genes from two dogs in their twenties. While more research is needed to confirm their findings, the authors hypothesize that fine-tuning gene expression may be the key to extreme longevity in both dogs and humans. Someday we may be able to prolong our dogs’ lives through selective breeding, but for the time being, we will have to rely on tried-and-true science. Veterinarians, dog trainers, and holistic experts recommend these 15 simple strategies to help your dog live longer.
1. Control their calorie intake.
It should come as no surprise that dogs of a healthy weight outlive their obese counterparts. In fact, even a small reduction in calories can make a big difference. According to a 2011 study, dogs that eat about 25% less than the “normal” recommended amount of food live an average of two years longer.
This makes sense when you consider that most pet food manufacturers over-estimate how much your dog should eat in order to sell more food. Instead of using the feeding chart on the package to determine how much to feed, ask your veterinarian to calculate the right number of calories for your dog’s individual needs.
2. Choose a diet with high-quality ingredients.
Healthy feeding is about much more than just calorie control. The quality of the food matters just as much, if not more.
As a rule of thumb, veterinarians recommend avoiding foods with artificial ingredients, cheap fillers, food dyes, and excess sugar or sodium. Low-grade meat byproducts and foods with less than 20 percent crude protein are additional red flags.
Many pet parents are choosing a variety of fresh, home-cooked, and flash-frozen options for better health and vitality. Dry kibble simply cannot compare to lean, responsibly-sourced meat, fresh fruits and veggies, and nutrient-dense superfoods like fish oil and chia seeds.
3. Give Probiotics.
Approximately 70% of the cells that make up your dog’s immune system live in the gut. If you want your dog to live longer, keep their belly happy with probiotics.
Probiotics help your dog fight off disease-causing invaders and prevent the sluggish, sickly feeling that comes along with poor digestion. When dogs feel good, they get more enjoyment out of life.
4. Store Food Properly.
Improper food storage can lead to food poisoning, rancid kibble, infiltration by pests, and deadly bacterial infections.
Here are a few basic rules for storing your dog’s kibble and/or canned food:
Seal food containers tightly between each use to prevent contamination by bacteria.
Store dry food and unopened canned food in a cool, dry environment to prevent vitamin loss and rancidity.
Once open, canned pet food should not be left out of the refrigerator for longer than 2 to 4 hours.
Contact the manufacturer to find out how long your dog’s dry food lasts once the bag is opened.
If using a storage bin, place the entire bag inside rather than pouring the kibble into the bin. This provides a fat barrier and preserves flavor.
5. Use better bowls
There are some extremely cute dog bowls out there, but they may not be the most healthy options. Plastic bowls can cause allergies and collect disease-causing bacteria. Ceramic feeding dishes are easily broken or chipped, and the glaze may contain dangerous lead.
The safest options are stainless steel and glass bowls because they are easy to clean and do not contain toxic materials. Just be sure to wash them properly between every use with hot water and dish soap, according to the FDA.
The heartbreaking fact is that you will likely outlive your pup. However, with lots of love and conscientious care, you may be able to help your dog live longer and enjoy better health in the time you have together.