There are some veterinary experts who believe that dogs can live to be 25 years old. We know that this is not the norm. It does not mean, however, that we do not pay attention to ways that can lengthen and enhance their lives as they get older. We know when we bring an animal into our home that it is more than likely that we will outlive them. This, again, does not mean that we have the right to lower our expectations on behalf of our dog.  There are simple and natural ways to help your dog extend his life in a manner that helps him to still enjoy life fully as he ages. Some of these hints sound obvious, but we all lead busy lives with work and family obligations so reminding ourselves about the basics every so often is good to do.

When it comes to food and our dogs, we are all suckers for a wagging tail and pleading eyes. Training your dog not to beg is possible and then you have to be resilient and not give in to offering table scraps (a no-no) or extra treats.  Obese dogs are at risk of heart disease and joint disease, just as we are when carrying too much weight.  Providing a wholesome diet in measured portions along with exercise (more about that ahead) can prevent weight gain or help her to take off the ounces.  There are many natural food options for your dog and some are specifically formulated for overweight dogs. You want to give her food without chemical preservatives or unhealthy fillers which are empty calories and might cause illness. If she is overweight and sluggish, a visit to the veterinarian is in order. You can extend your dog’s life by paying attention to nutrition and helping her to stay fit. There have been some studies that show that lower weight dogs can live up to 2 years longer, so make sure that she is at her ideal weight or less.

Along with nutrition, you want to provide your dog with physical exercise every day and, if possible, include a period of time for her to be off-leash in a dog park or a fenced yard. You want her joints to stay healthy and an extra 15 minutes on each of your daily walks can help her stay strong as she ages.  If there’s an opportunity for play dates with other dogs, try to schedule them for her.  Socialization with other dogs reduces stress and being off-leash with playmates encourages running and jumping.

We think of our dog as a physical being, but it is important to keep her brain active. Long walks are good for her fitness and, if you take her to new places every so often, the different smells and environment will help to keep her on her toes. Providing her with toys that give her a problem to solve (if I move it this way, a treat will fall out!), but you will have to remember that any treat earned by figuring out how to get the food out of the toy needs to be reduced from her regular daily intake.  Watch her play with her toys and see which ones she engages with more often and buy similar toys. Keeping brain function acute is part of keeping her healthy with the goal being a longer life. Remember, however, that when buying toys, watch out for chemicals and avoid toys made with polyvinyl chloride that can emit chemicals when used. Keep it natural and enticing. There are hemp alternatives that provide the same brain activity without cancelling out the benefits of play due to chemical ingestion.

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It is also important to look at stress inducers in your dog’s life. Some dogs do experience stress as an ongoing condition. Some things that cause stress for our dog could be if there has been disruption at home due to human illness or death, schedule changes in family members’ lives, or a new baby. Your dog might also become stressful during regular walks on urban streets. Crowds and loud noises are stressors for some dogs.  As with humans, ongoing stress can cause health problems that can affect their life-span. One excellent and natural response to your dog’s stress is to introduce essential oils as part of your dog’s well being regimen. There are essential oils that promote calmness and lessen anxiety, such as lavender, that are excellent for aromatherapy to lessen stress.  It is important to remember that this will not happen automatically and you will need to continue after the initial treatment.

Humans have stressful and busy lives.  As with everything in our lives, sometimes we are lax about doing things we know we should be doing. Our daily two walks and a few minutes of playtime with our dog become routine and we might miss signals from her that she needs more attention.  Dogs are social creatures and can become lethargic, or the opposite by becoming hyperactive, if we do not pay enough attention to them.  Bringing a dog into your home is a partnership; you might have adopted Sophie because you were lonely, but might have started to take her for granted.  One of the most natural and healthy things you can do for your dog is to spend together,  learn together, and continue bonding.  Lonely dogs do have shorter lives, and less happy lives, so it is important to bond either by playing gently or by having a long petting session.

There are other things that you can do to enhance and lengthen your dog’s life.  This is just a primer and you will find other ways also that fit your dog’s age and breed. These five solutions are natural methods that call for an investment of time and some thoughtful purchases.  In the long run, this is an investment that will pay huge dividends as you watch your healthy dog age with grace while maintaining a joyful and long life.

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