Conventional Wisdom says that a dog's age in human years can be determined by multiplying each year by seven. But my 10-year-old Shih-Poo still looks and acts like a puppy. And although dogs and cats do have shorter lifespans than humans, there are more factors to consider in judging the relative age of a dog, such as dog size and overall health.
Here is a chart that is more accurate for determining your pet's age. Chart by William Fortney, D.V.M., Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Richard T. Goldston, D.V.M., Parkview Animal Hospital, St. Petersburg, Fla. According to this, my 10-year-old Shih-Poo boy is 58, and my 11-year-old girl is 62. Regardless, it's easy to see that pet lifespans are condensed. So what can we do to ensure their years are happy and whole?
Going to your vet every few years is like getting your annual exam every 10-15 years. Your vet is trained to look for subtle changes you might not be able to see. Catching early disease processes can actually save you money in the long run by keeping you out of the pet emergency room due to preventative care.
Your dog's bad breath can be a sign of dental disease, which can lead to overall inflammation in the body. My vet says that the healthiest geriatric dogs he knows are the ones who've lost their teeth. Unfortunately, my old girl has never let me get after her with a toothbrush, and she's having trouble with her dental chews, so we're going to have to do some major work in there as soon as possible.
Scientists have long proven that rats fed less food live much longer lives than their overfed counterparts. This also applies to us humans (darn it!) Pet obesity seems to be rising right along with their owners. We can actually be killing our pets with kindness lavishing them with calorie-laden treats. And a treat for them can be a more significant percentage of their daily intake than a snack for ourselves could be. Vets hear all kinds of funny excuses for their pet's appearance, like, "they're just big boned." Pay attention to the slow creep of your pet's paunch and ask your vet how to make adjustments to their diet and exercise. Other things may be contributing to weight gain such as hypothyroidism, so make sure to get that blood work done.
I'm preaching to the choir here. We all know we should be exercising ourselves, and the same applies to our pets. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to cells, and that can make a huge difference in the fight against aging. Not exercising = cell asphyxiation. All our organs need to breathe! That's why our brains are sharper when we bite the bullet and do our workouts. We want our pets to stay sharp too! So walk your dog and enjoy the benefits for yourself as well! Photo courtesy of Mark Robinson. What have you found that has helped your pets live long and prosper?