Colorado State University Veterinarians Offer Tips to Help Pets Live a Longer, Better Life

In 2011, the American Pet Products Association estimates that Americans will have spent $50.84 billion dollars on pet care. Even in challenging economic times, pet owners are doling out hard-earned cash to buy premium foods and supplements, accessories and grooming products, many of these with promises of improved health and wellbeing for their pet.

What are scientifically proven methods to ensure man’s best friend will be around, healthy and happy, for years to come?  CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital veterinarians and pet experts offer some basic information that can extend a pet’s life — and are more affordable than some fads:

Weight loss
The latest research into pet longevity indicates that keeping a dog at a body condition score of 4/9 (that’s on the lean side, but not so as you can count ribs) adds an average of two years to the dog’s life. It also significantly delays the onset of osteoarthritis and other degenerative joint diseases.

The key to successful weight loss in a pet needn’t be high-dollar foods. Instead, feed a limited amount twice a day, reduce caloric intake and make up for bulk by adding no-salt canned green beans or pureed pumpkin (the kind used make a pie from, without sugar added) to the bowl. Try substituting baby carrots for commercial pet treats. And don’t forget exercise as part of a pet’s regimen.

Dental care
Too many pet owners think of dental care as a luxury, a cosmetic issue, or a way to resolve “doggie” breath. But clinical studies prove that dental disease can cut a pet’s life short and cause a number of debilitating illnesses including cardiovascular disease, stroke and bacterial pneumonia. The plaque that lurks inside a pet’s mouth showers his or her internal organs with a continuous dose of bacteria – a scenario that doesn’t bode well for the future. Proper dental care is essential to a pet’s lifelong health.

Basic safety
A good fence, strict observation of leash laws and secure transport can profoundly affect a pet’s longevity; just ask any veterinarian who has spent time in an emergency or critical care unit. Animals that are admitted after being hit by a car are overwhelmingly inflicted with complicated and life-threatening injuries including pelvic fractures, ruptured bladders and punctured lungs. Similarly, a loose dog in the back of a pickup truck is an invitation to disaster and can turn a dog into a projectile on a busy highway – keep dogs in the cab.