“That really is an unusual thing,” Erik Olstad, an assistant professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, told The Washington Post. “Owners will always ask me, ‘How can I make my dog live the longest life that they can?’ That’s a loaded question because there are so many variants that go into life expectancy.”
A lot of it is genetics. Life expectancy and predisposition for diseases vary by breed, Olstad said. But there are still things dog owners can do to give their pets the opportunity to live a long and happy life, vets told The Post.
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“Dogs are very much like people,” said Natasha Olby, a veterinary professor at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “They need healthy diets, exercise, community, engagement and regular health care.”
Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial, experts told The Post. Dog owners should strive to give them quality dog food and avoid overfeeding because, as they age, the extra weight will make it much harder to treat mobility conditions such as arthritis or ruptured ligaments.
“If I see dogs entering senior years overweight, I can always bet money that we are going to have some serious mobility conversations moving on,” Olstad said.
New record: Oldest dog EVER – Bobi at 30 years and 266 days ?
The secrets to a long life, according to human Leonel Costa, is free roaming, human food and socialising with other animals ?️ pic.twitter.com/Ur5c2Gh8yb
— Guinness World Records (@GWR) February 2, 2023
Preventive care is a must. Keep their vaccinations up to date, take them to the dentist and visit the vet once or twice a year for a regular checkup.
If you’ve been fortunate enough to raise a senior dog, you should not conclude that certain behaviors or conditions are just ailments that come with age, said Nicole Ehrhart, director of the Columbine Health Systems Center for Healthy Aging at Colorado State University.
“One thing that we should not assume as a pet slows down is, ‘Well, it’s just getting old,’” Ehrhart said. If you are seeing your dog slowing down, that should be a warning flag for you to seek veterinary assessment.”
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Physical and mental exercise are also key. Take your dog on regular walks and runs that stretch out as long as your dog’s breed and age allow.
The five-mile run that works well for your 1-year-old border collie will not be the same workout that your bulldog with arthritis will require. In that case, experts said, you are better off with giving your dog 15-minute walks four times a day, for example. For mental stimulation, hide food and treats inside their toys.
As much as one wants their dog to live a long life like Bobi — who Guinness says is the oldest ever recorded — experts highlighted that the focus should be on giving pets the most quality of life possible. Life expectancy is not a contract, Olstad told The Post.
“My job as a vet is not to get your dog to live as long as possible if it compromises their quality of life,” Olstad said. “Their happiness is much more important to me than the longevity.”
“Try to not focus on that life expectancy, and look at your dog as an individual,” he said. “I have some [clients] that say, ‘Hey, I heard that someone’s Great Dane lived to 15!’” (Great Danes live an average of eight to 10 years.) “That can be a really tough thing if your expectations aren’t managed.”