7 Easy Tips to Increase Your Dog's Lifespan
What Can I Do to Increase My Dog's Life Expectancy?
If you just brought home a new puppy, you are probably not too worried about his life expectancy since the average lifespan of a dog is anywhere from 10–15 years. Some dogs live a lot longer than the average, so as your dog gets older, you will probably want to find out what you can do to keep them healthy.
Are there things you can do to increase his life expectancy? A dog's life is partially determined by his genetics. His future is not set in stone, but you can make a difference by how you care for him. The sooner you start some of these changes the better, so get started right away. Here are some important tips:
- Limit feeding so that your dog will stay thin.
- Feed your dog a homemade diet.
- Brush your dog daily.
- Examine your dog every week at home and take care of any problem you find immediately.
- Provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
- Have your dog spayed or neutered,
- Keep your dog´s teeth clean by brushing daily, and have them checked by your vet to see if your dog needs a dental cleaning.
Average Life Expectancy of Some Popular Dog Breeds
Bernese Mountain Dog
How Long Is My Mixed Breed Dog Going to Live?
It is difficult to estimate the life expectancy of some purebred dogs and even harder if the dog is a crossbreed. The best estimate you can make is based on your dog's size, weight, and genetic background.
If your dog is a Lab cross, for example, and looks a lot like a Lab, he is probably going to live a little over 10 years. If your dog is a Toy Poodle cross, he might survive a lot longer—maybe around 14 years. If you need help in guessing your dog's probable life expectancy, leave a good description of him in the comment section.
Why Should I Keep My Dog Thin?
- Numerous longevity studies in humans reveal that thin people live longer. Besides putting less stress on their heart and joints, their insulin levels are lower and this may be what accounts for their longer lives.
- A British study showed that puppies fed a diet with a 25% restriction in calories lived about 2 years longer than those fed normally. They also had fewer joint diseases as they aged.
- Overweight puppies stress their joints as they grow and tend to develop arthritis as they get old. An older, thin dog with arthritis might not even show clinical signs, while an obese dog will have problems getting out of the bed or even going outside to pee.
Why Should I Feed My Dog a Homemade Raw Diet?
- Although there are no studies to prove that a homemade prey type diet is more effective in increasing your dog's lifespan, there was a study done by European researchers and they found that dogs fed any homemade diet lived almost three years longer than when fed a commercial diet.
- Feeding a good quality commercial diet may help your dog live longer, but there is no proof of this. Pet foods are not regulated like human foods and if a company chooses to make a claim on its food, no one can stop them. None of the dry dog foods sold to keep your dog alive longer have been tested.
- Some dog breeders and rescue organizations recommend a raw diet since the kibble in dog food is so often made up of corn and other fillers. A raw diet made up of mostly bones and raw meat will meet his needs naturally without the use of grains, which may cause joint disease that will decrease a dog's life expectancy.
- Feeding your dog raw bones as part of his diet may prevent him from developing dental disease until he is very old. Dental disease is present in most of the dogs fed kibble by three years of age; oral infections, especially when they become systemic, will lead to a shorter life. If your dog has poor dentition he is going to need to have his teeth brushed every day even if fed bones and may still need a dental cleaning once a year.
What About Vegan Food for My Dog?
Since dogs do well on most types of food, it is okay to feed your dog a homemade vegan diet as long as you are meeting his needs. One of the longest living dogs in the UK was a collie cross that was being fed a homemade vegan diet. He lived to 27, but the problem with anecdotal evidence is that we do not know how long he would have lived on another diet. Would he have lived to 29 on a homemade raw diet? (The Australian dog who died at 29 ate mostly raw kangaroo meat and bones.) Would he have died at 25 on a cheap dry dog food? No one knows.
I have seen puppies suffering from malnutrition when fed a homemade vegan diet, so during the rapid growth phase it is a good idea to have them on an animal protein diet. In some areas there are also commercial vegan dog foods available for puppies so if you are morally opposed to providing your puppy with animal protein this may be an option.
What Supplements Will Make My Dog Live Longer?
- Omega fatty acids: Dogs need the polyunsaturated fats in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and prevent painful joints when they are young. Fatty acids can also decrease joint pain as they grow old. Since omega-6 fatty acids will be present in so many parts of his diet, it is important to supplement omega-3 acids with sardines and good quality fish oil.
- Antioxidants: These supplements are important since they destroy free radicals that will cause your dog to age. If your dog is on a homemade diet, any of the raw vegetables we feed our dogs contain high levels of antioxidants. I give my dogs acerola. This amazing fruit provides a high level of vitamin C, one of the most effective antioxidants available. Although dogs are known to produce their own vitamin C, it is not enough to meet the needs of the body.
- Probiotics: These are the good bacteria that your dog needs to stay young. I allow my dogs to consume all of the fresh horse manure they want to keep healthy, but if this is not possible (or you do not want to deal with the smell) give your dog yogurt, kefir, or one of the commercial probiotics supplements.
- Glucosamine: This supplement will slow your dogs aging by reducing the inflammation in his joints. When fed a raw food diet that includes chicken feet, beef tracheas, or beef tails, glucosamine is already available to your dog. If you do not feed your dog correctly, you will need to buy the commercial supplements which may or may not have the amount of glucosamine that is advertised on the label.
Why Should I Groom My Dog Every Day?
- Besides making your dog feel good and reducing shedding, daily combing or brushing will also allow you to look for skin problems and catch any small tumors or other diseases early.
- Part of the daily grooming routine should also include brushing teeth in those dogs that need it. Most dogs over three years old will have oral diseases, and unless the teeth are taken care of, plaque will develop into tartar and pockets of bacteria will develop under the gum line. Those infections will shorten your dog's life expectancy.
Why Should I Examine My Dog Every Week?
- A good grooming will alert you to most problems before they become serious. A thorough weekly DIY exam should also be done at home since it only needs to take a few minutes of your time.
- When you spot a problem during the home exam, you should have it looked at by a veterinary professional. Start treatment right away so that your dog will have a better chance of living a long life.
- Even though you perform a weekly exam on your dog, you should take him in for yearly or twice yearly exams as he becomes a senior. A senior exam and blood screening might catch a problem early that would shorten your dog's life.
Will Exercise Make My Dog Live Longer?
Adequate daily exercise will keep your dog thin, which is one of the most important factors in increasing his lifespan. Going for a brisk walk a few times a day will also extend his lifespan. Mental stimulation when out exercising is also important to keep a dog from developing memory loss in his old age. It may even be important to prevent the development of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (dog dementia).
What Is the Most Important Way to Improve Your Dog's Chances of Living Longer?
Other Tips That Might Help
- Use natural methods of flea and tick control: The topical and oral chemical flea and tick products on the market today have all been tested and approved for use in dogs. Unfortunately, they were tested on few animals and even then it was only for a very short period of time. When dispensed, they are applied for the dog's entire life, and the dog has to work his liver overtime to remove them from the body each month. Natural flea and tick control methods do work, and will also extend your dog's lifespan.
- Do not over-vaccinate: When given appropriately, vaccines are great and have saved many canine lives over the years. They are not medically necessary every year though, and in some dogs may cause side effects that will limit their lifespan.
- Dogs that get sick are more likely to die young: Deworm your dog as necessary and give a monthly heartworm preventative.
- Give heartworm preventative: No one can give you a definitive age if you want to know how long your dog can live with heartworm, nor how soon he will die if infected with the worms. Small dogs have much more heart damage with a small worm burden and larger dogs are able to withstand a mild infection without showing many clinical symptoms. If your dog is infected and not showing many clinical signs, I recommend the slow kill method since it is less stressful and may help him enjoy the years he has left.
- Consider supplements that may help prevent cancer: If your dog is a member of a breed prone to cancer, you can try to supplement with omega fatty acids and antioxidants. If he does develop cancer, your dog will probably die young even when you follow the treatment recommendations of your local veterinarian. Dogs with hemangiosarcoma usually live only a few months. Dogs with untreated osteosarcoma may only live a few months and even with aggressive treatment will probably die within 6 months; when dogs with lymphoma are treated by a vet they may last a year.
- Genetics matter: If you have been hoping to own an Irish Wolfhound or Bernese Mountain Dog all of your life, then lifespan will not be your most important concern. If you love all dogs, however, and want to find a companion to be with you for many years, choose a breed that has a long life expectancy. Genetics do matter.
- Urfer SR, Wang M, Yang M, Lund EM, Lefebvre SL. Risk Factors Associated with Lifespan in Pet Dogs Evaluated in Primary Care Veterinary Hospitals, Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 2019 May/Jun;55(3):130-137.
- Wang Y, Lawler D, Larson B, Ramadan Z, Kochhar S, Holmes E, Nicholson JK. Reducing the amount of food available: Metabonomic investigations of aging and caloric restriction in a life-long dog study. J Proteome Res. 2007 May; 6(5): 1846-54
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.