As pet owners, we always wish for more time with our beloved companions. Whether a pet lives to 7 or 17, owners often say goodbye wondering if they could have done more or followed healthier routines to have slowed the paws of time. Our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team believes the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, your daily routines actively influence your pet’s life span. To ensure you are establishing healthy habits to enhance your furry pal’s health, read our team’s top five secrets for adding years to your pet’s life. 

#1: Visit the veterinarian at least once a year

If your pet regularly receives a clean bill of health at their annual wellness appointment, you can easily underestimate a routine veterinary exam’s value. However, consider the 20 or 30 minutes spent in a Westerville Veterinary Clinic examination room once or twice a year as a deposit in your pet’s health bank account.

Routine examinations allow our team to track your pet’s early development, monitor their midlife health, and help seniors age gracefully. Each visit helps us understand your pet’s personal needs, address your concerns, strengthen your furry pal’s immune system, identify early disease signs, and treat minor problems before they become serious.

Do not be tempted to skip your pet’s annual veterinary visit because they seem fine. To ensure your pet reaps preventive care’s benefits, stay consistent in scheduling their well-care appointments. Along with a comprehensive nose-to-tail exam, your pet’s annual or biannual wellness visit features important services such as:

  • Customized vaccine protocols
  • Infectious disease screenings (e.g., heartworm, fecal parasite, tick-borne disease testing)
  • Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Behavior and training advice
  • Blood work
  • Senior pet pain assessment
  • General pet care advice

#2: Provide daily mental stimulation and physical exercise for your pet

Most domestic companions do not receive adequate daily activity. Insufficient exercise contributes to numerous health and behavioral problems that can lead to unnecessary suffering and shorten your pet’s life. Inactive dogs and cats are more likely to be overweight or obese, increasing their cancer, arthritis, diabetes, kidney failure, heart disease, and orthopedic injury risk. Sedentary pets are also more likely to experience elevated stress and anxiety, resulting in destructive or reactive behavior that can damage the pet-owner bond, which frequently leads to pet surrender or humane euthanasia.

Fortunately, the solution is easy—and fun—when you engage your pet mentally and physically 20 to 30 minutes per day. Tailor your pet’s activity to their age, fitness, and preferences. Our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team’s favorite physical and mental stimulation exercises include:

  • Outdoor play
  • Leash walks 
  • Hiking
  • Swimming 
  • Motorized or motion-activated toys that stimulate prey drive
  • Nosework games
  • Puzzle toys
  • Dog fitness exercises
  • Trick training 
  • Obedience, rally, or Canine Good Citizen (CGC) classes

As a bonus, exercising with your pet can improve your own health. According to various studies, pet owners who exercise with their dogs are more likely to stick with their fitness routine, walk further and at a faster pace than people who do not own pets. In addition, pet owners who exercise with their pets are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease—the leading cause of human death in the United States.

#3: Keep your pet lean

Overweight pets live up to 2.5 years fewer than lean pets. Excess fat tissue creates an inflammatory environment within the body, leading to various chronic health problems, including arthritis, cancer, diabetes, kidney failure, urinary issues, heart disease, respiratory problems, allergies, and orthopedic injuries.

Alternatively, helping your pet maintain a lean body weight (i.e., a 4 or 5 body condition score) can extend their life expectancy by 15%—almost 2 years. In one groundbreaking canine study, lean-fed dogs (i.e., those fed appropriate portions of a complete and balanced diet) were also less likely to develop hip dysplasia and arthritis, avoiding chronic disease until their late senior years. Woof! Talk about discovering the Fountain of Youth!

#4: Protect your pet from parasitic diseases

Parasites are more than pesky nuisances—fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can cause your pet to develop life-altering and life-threatening diseases, including heartworm disease, Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis. Intestinal parasites (e.g., roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms) can overwhelm puppies and kittens, causing altered growth, anemia, or death.

Veterinary-prescribed parasite preventives are the only safe and effective way to protect your pet. To ensure your furry pal maintains a strong and comprehensive defense against parasites, our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team recommends year-round prevention and annual heartworm and tick-borne disease testing for all pets.

#5: Care for your pet’s dental health

Dental disease affects more than your pet’s teeth and gums—bacteria from your pet’s mouth can damage their heart, liver, and kidneys. Sadly for most pets and their owners, dental disease is easily overlooked in its early stages—when prompt treatment can halt or reverse the damage.

Daily dental care is the best way to safeguard your pet’s oral health and prevent dental disesase’s heartbreaking consequences. Brushing your pet’s teeth at least three times per week with a pet-safe enzymatic toothpaste reduces plaque bacteria and tartar buildup—precursors to dental disease. If your pet does not tolerate toothbrushing, use an antiplaque water additive, or feed them a veterinary dental diet.

The special bond you share with your pet is limitless, but unfortunately the paws of time eventually fracture the connection. By providing the highest level of veterinary care, our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team helps your pet live their best—and longest—life. Contact our team to schedule your pet’s next appointment.