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10 Ways You Could Be Shortening Your Dog's Life - Slideshow

Avoid these ten things to extend your dog’s life.

10 Ways You Could Be Shortening Your Dog's Life

Dogs don't live as long as humans do, and that's a sore spot for dog owners. It's heartbreaking to lose them, and we all want to do everything we can to give our canine friends the longest, healthiest lives possible.

Unfortunately, there are some common ways that people inadvertently shorten their dogs' lives. We've put together some of them here, with explanations and solutions.

Not all human foods are safe for dogs.

Feeding Dogs Human Food

While there are some human foods that aren't harmful and may even be helpful to use as treats for your dog, like baby carrots, there are many that are actually toxic for dogs. Canines don't have the same digestive tracts or metabolisms that humans do, and some things that are harmless to us can have devastating effects on them. Beyond toxicity, dogs can't metabolize fat and sugar the way we can, and giving them fatty, sugar-laden foods can put them at risk for developing pancreatitis, a painful, life-threatening condition. If you have a dog, make sure you're familiar with which human foods are no-no's for them. Take a look at the slideshow "Foods Toxic to Dogs: A Slideshow" to learn more.

Too many treats can cause obesity in dogs.

Giving Too Many Treats

Feeding dogs treats is fun for them and us. Unfortunately, there is a pet obesity epidemic in the U.S., and being overweight leads to many conditions that can shorten a dog's life. Heart disease, diabetes, and debilitating joint disease are just some of the conditions that can be caused by or contributed to by obesity. Not only can too many treats cause your dog to gain weight, but it can also mean that your dog won't have enough appetite left to eat enough of his regular food. This can result in nutritional deficiencies and disease. Think of dog treats like human candy bars or candy, and dole them out sparingly.

Dogs need the food that matches their life stage.

Feeding the Wrong Life Stage Diet

Canine diets are formulated for the specific life stage that the dog is in. Minerals, vitamins, calories, and other nutrients are balanced for that life stage. A puppy that is fed adult food may develop joint problems that can greatly impact his future quality of life. Senior dogs fed puppy food may develop kidney problems sooner than those fed a high-quality senior diet and they may gain too much weight. Check with your veterinarian to determine what life stage your dog is in and feed him an appropriate diet.

Visit your veterinarian for routine check-ups.

Skipping Veterinary Visits

When your dog isn't experiencing any signs of illness, it can be easy to procrastinate on making that regular exam appointment with the veterinarian. Finances, time, and hassle can all play a part in why people avoid annual or bi-annual veterinary visits. Unfortunately, pets age faster than humans do, so it's extremely important that they are examined by a veterinarian at least once a year. There are many disease processes that can be caught early, when they are much more treatable, by a simple exam. Even more early illnesses can be found on routinely-done blood panels. Make sure you don't start viewing your dog's veterinary visits as optional: they are mandatory.

Properly caring for your dog’s teeth can extend his life.

Forgoing Dental Hygiene

Many people don't think about brushing their dog's teeth. After all, those canine cuspids are covered up by dog-lips most of the time and "out of sight" often equals "out of mind." But dogs' teeth are just like humans', and if the plaque isn't routinely removed from them, it will harden into tartar, which is the perfect growing ground for anaerobic bacteria. These bugs are aggressive and destructive and can result in gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth loss for your dog. Beyond that, those harmful bacteria are swallowed by your dog routinely, and they can wreak havoc on his kidneys, heart, and other body systems. Developing a daily tooth-brushing habit as soon as you adopt your dog will help not only help extend his life but also increase its quality. Learn more here: "Home Dental Care for Dogs."

Heartworm preventative is necessary for most dogs.

Not Bothering with Heartworm Preventative

Heartworm is a parasite that enters your dog's body through the bite of an infected mosquito. Over time, adult worms grow and take up residence in your dog's heart, and the infection is usually eventually fatal. Even if heartworm disease is diagnosed and treated, your dog's heart could be irreversibly damaged. Heartworm preventative is an effective way to avoid this deadly infection, but many people do not give it to their dogs because they feel that it is too expensive, and they don't always see the value in it. Heartworm preventative is one of those things that, when it is doing its job, it works so well that it's easy to forget how awful the disease is. Check with your veterinarian to learn what type of heartworm preventative is right for your dog. Learn more here: "Heartworm Disease in Dogs."

Exercising your dog can improve his life’s quantity and quality.

Putting Exercise on the Back Burner

It's easy to come home from work and decide not to take your dog out for a walk. You might think you'll do an extra-long one tomorrow to make up for it. The problem is that dogs need daily exercise, both for physical and mental health. If you're skipping more days than you're getting out there for a game of fetch or a stroll to the dog park, your dog could risk becoming overweight or stressed from boredom. Both conditions could shorten his life.

Knowing how to come is imperative for dog safety.

Neglecting Dog Training

In order to maintain his safety, your dog needs to know and consistently follow the "come" command. If he is ever in danger, your dog needs to respond to you calling him to you immediately. Many dogs are injured or killed because they simply didn't respond to being called. This is something that you don't just train your dog once; you must practice it consistently throughout your dog's life to keep it fresh in his mind and to make sure he remembers that the rewards for coming back to you are always greater than the benefits of whatever mischief he's thinking about causing. Learn the basics of how to teach your dog to come in the article "Teaching Your Dog to Come."

Socializing your dog with other pets and people keeps him safer.

Failing to Properly Socialize

Having a well-mannered dog isn't just a good thing because you'll look good to all of your friends who have ill-mannered ones. It's a matter of safety. If your dog isn't socialized properly, he could get hurt by not following appropriate communication methods with other dogs and humans. Charging up to an unknown dog's face, for instance, could get him into a damaging dog fight. Not being comfortable around people could land him in deep trouble if he bites someone. Socialization is best done at a young age and involves having your dog around lots of other dogs and people and in many different situations. Your dog should be calm and happy in almost any atmosphere. Another time that this could save your dog's life is in an unforeseen situation where you are no longer able to care for him for some reason. Being well-socialized will greatly increase his chances of finding a new, happy home.

Microchips save canine lives.

Not Microchipping

A microchip is a tiny device that can be placed under your dog's skin. It is safe, easy-to-implant, and fairly inexpensive. If your dog ever becomes lost and is taken to a veterinarian or shelter that has a microchip reader, his unique code will be read. As long as you've registered your dog's microchip with the company and made sure to keep your contact information up-to-date with them, your dog can be returned to you. If your dog doesn't have a microchip and doesn't have or has lost his collar and ID tags, he is at much higher risk of being euthanized.

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