3 Ways to Help Your Pet Live a Longer Life

senior chihuahua on a walk
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As your dog gets older, tailor his physical activities to his abilities. Walk instead of run, take shorter strolls instead of all-day hikes, and practice obedience skills to get him moving.

My wife, Teresa, and I live with a pack of senior or near-senior animals. We love them dearly, and we’re looking forward to many more happy years with them.

As I’m sure you know, a long life isn’t always a given with dogs and cats, but there are plenty of steps we can take to help ensure that they live well into their golden years. Here are three important preventive measures that may help your pets share your life for years to come.

Feed Him Right

Feeding a high-quality food is so important. Commercial dog and cat foods are highly researched, and I would venture to say that plenty of pets eat a healthier, more balanced diet than a lot of people do.

Does your older pet need a senior diet? Not necessarily. Dogs and cats are highly diverse as far as when they start to age. My friend and colleague Dr. Tony Buffington, who specializes in veterinary nutrition at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, says that as long as an animal is still healthy, he can typically stay on his regular diet. One exception is a pet who doesn’t eat very much and is starting to lose weight. Senior pets need to eat enough to meet their protein needs, and if they’re not doing that, you may need to give a food with a higher protein content than what they normally eat.

If your senior pet has health issues, of course, such as kidney disease, diabetes, cancer or other conditions that can affect older animals, you’ll want to talk to your veterinarian about an appropriate food. Many special diets are available that can help support animals with particular diseases and provide the nutrients they need.

Some new foods and supplements can help support brain health. They contain ingredients such as antioxidants and medium-chain triglycerides that work to help keep your pet’s mind sharp by boosting brain energy metabolism. He’s not going to be working the crossword puzzle — at least not if he couldn’t already — but studies show that animals fed certain of these products have shown improvement in cognitive function, especially when started in middle age.

Don’t forget the wet stuff: Free access to water is essential for your pet’s good health. Never restrict his water intake, and contact your veterinarian if he seems to be drinking more water than usual.

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