Tips for living better, not just longer

Posted by Dr. Ernie Ward on May 21 2013

For years I’ve lectured to veterinarians on strategies to increase not only a pet’s life span, but it’s “health span.” What I’m interested in both for myself and my pet patients is a highly active lifestyle for the vast majority of my life followed by a very short period of morbidity and death. The trouble is that most pets and people don’t achieve this.

Instead, their quality of life curve looks like a standard bell curve: they gradually rise to a peak in their 30’s to 40’s (five to seven in dogs, seven to nine in cats) and then begin a long and gradual decline toward the end. The result is about half their life is spent in great health with the reminder sick or moribund. But for the majority of us and our pets, it doesn’t have to be this way.

How to help your pet live better, longer

To live better as well as longer, let science, medicine and a heaping of common sense guide you. Here are some keys to keeping your health span in optimal condition.

Keep your pet (and yourself) fit and lean; obesity shortens life expectancy and leads to many avoidable diseases.

Feed your pet the best quality food you can afford. Garbage in equals garbage health.

See your veterinarian regularly; yearly for dogs and cats up to age seven and twice a year after that. Always ask, “What can I do to keep Sandy as healthy as possible?” “Nothing” or “Keep doing what you’re doing” are unacceptable replies. Find a vet who’ll help you keep your pet in optimal shape, not merely alive.

Have basic blood and urine tests performed each year to help uncover illnesses before it’s too late. If you have to ask for your pet to be tested, it may be time to seek another veterinarian.

Finally, get out and exercise daily. Walking your dog each day for as little as 20 to 30 minutes will boost both your immune systems, strengthen the heart, lower blood pressure and calm frazzled nerves. These simple steps will not only help you and your pet live longer, they will improve the quality of your lives. After all, we should be less interested in surviving and more interested in thriving. Here’s wishing everyone enjoys a happy 25th birthday for their pets (and 115 for the rest of us)!

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