One of the greatest things about dogs is the unabashed, unconditional love and adoration they bring into our lives. The hardest part of dog ownership? The sobering fact that you will only have them in your life for a little over a decade. With the average lifespan of a dog ranging from 10-14 years, every dog owner would agree they would do whatever it takes to give their dog the longest, healthiest and happiest life possible.
Unfortunately, many dog owners may not even be aware that there is a myriad of seemingly benign habits that can actually shorten your dog’s life expectancy. Making sure you aren’t inadvertently harming your dog for the long term is one of the dog owners’ greatest responsibilities.
Your dog’s diet
Keeping your dog on a healthy food regimen is one of the key building blocks for their overall health. But beyond that, there are some hidden dangers in some of the habits we may indulge in with our dogs. Feeding your dog table scraps and other human food can be extremely dangerous, as many dishes may contain ingredients that are toxic to your dog. Onions, chocolate, garlic and a number of spices that are prevalent (and often hidden) in human food can be extremely dangerous for your dog to ingest. So, it’s a much safer practice to stick with high-quality dog food as their sole source of nutrition.
There are also a number of food sensitivities we need to be cognizant of as pet parents, some of the most common include: wheat, chicken, soy, pork, fish, dairy and egg. Thankfully, there are a number of food options on the market now that cater to each of your dog’s unique sensitivities.
And while it may be really tempting to continually reward your dog with treats, too many treats can also introduce some serious health risks. Allowing them to have too many treats and you won’t just spoil their appetite for nutrient-dense meals they need to thrive, but it could also lead to obesity – which impacts as much as 53% of America’s dogs.
Your dog’s lifestyle
Obesity isn’t just a result of overindulging. Beyond the extensive health issues that being overweight causes for a dog, data confirms that it can actually decrease a dog’s life expectancy by 2 1/2 years. By not creating and maintaining an exercise regimen for your dog that is designed for their specific breed and weight management, it’s one of the easiest ways to inadvertently shorten your pup’s life. It is also imperative to speak with your vet and understand what those exercise requirements (and limits) are for your dog based on their breed’s specific needs and challenges.
Creating a healthy lifestyle for your dog goes beyond just taking them out on a walk. Many dog owners don’t understand the negative impact a lack of socialization can have. A lack of socialization can cause our pups to develop anxiety, the inability to enjoy walks or playtime, and ultimately cause depression — so be sure to give your dog some well-deserved interaction with others.
Your dog’s health care
Keeping up with your vet visits is perhaps the single most important thing you can do for your dog. And while it may be tempting to skimp on vet care when your dog is perfectly healthy, only your vet can identify underlying issues and concerns that could have a negative impact on the quality of life you create for your dog long term. They will make sure you spay or neuter your dog, keep up with their dental health, and offer up tips on heartworm, flea and tick prevention. These can be easy steps we overlook that can have detrimental effects on your dog’s lifespan.