9 trusted tips to help your pet live longer

Huck is a lucky dog—and an old one. Most Labrador retrievers make it to around age 12, but at 15, Huck has lived 25 percent longer than that. If he were the average American (with a life expectancy of 78.6 years), he would be 98. Learn more about what “dog/cat years” actually mean.

What’s his secret? “It’s a combination of things, including nutritious food with vitamins and oils, a lot of love and attention, and exercise,” says Huck’s owner, Henry Uman. He’s also never left alone but is always with at least one of his three dog siblings or a member of his human family.

9 PHOTOS
9 trusted tips to help your pet live longer
See Gallery
9 trusted tips to help your pet live longer

Watch their weight

An estimated 60 percent of cats and 56 percent of dogs are overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. That can lead to big trouble.

“Excess weight increases the risk of conditions like diabetes, some cancers, and certain breathing problems, while the extra strain on joints can hasten the onset and worsen the severity of arthritis,” says Jo Gale, global scientific advocacy and stakeholder relations manager for Mars Petcare. One study found that being overweight shortened dogs’ life spans by up to 2.5 years compared with ideal-weight canine peers.

How can you tell whether your pet needs to drop some pounds? When you look at your dog or cat from above, you should see a distinct tuck at the waistline, and you should be able to feel (but not see) the ribs. If not, a few small changes could help: Walk your dog a few extra blocks a day, limit treats, and weigh your dog or cat regularly.

Visit the vet
As with humans, early exams can spot problems soon enough for successful treatment. “Because pets age more quickly than humans, issues can creep up fast,” says Pete Lands, DVM, director of emergency and critical care at Saint Francis Veterinary Center in Swedesboro, New Jersey. Keep up on routine treatments such as vaccinations and deworming. Or consider a cat or dog wellness plan, which includes exams, vaccinations, dental cleanings, and tests. Follow these tips to keep your dog safe during the summer months.

Don’t fret about gluten


 

Pets have specific nutritional requirements to stay healthy—most cats need to eat meat every day to get their protein. But just like the human world, the pet world has its fair share of dietary crazes, most of which you should ignore. For instance, there are plenty of 
gluten-free dog foods for sale now, but gluten allergies seem to be “extremely rare” in pets, according to a report published by Tufts University. Visit petfoodinstitute.org for more 
dietary information.

Make an exercise plan


 

Pets need daily workouts to stay healthy, so a formal exercise regime is a good idea. Aim for between 30 minutes and two hours of daily activity, such as walking or running, recommends petmd.com. Athletic breeds such as German shepherds and collies will require more exercise, while smaller dogs such as bulldogs can benefit from a short walk around the neighborhood. You can stimulate your cat by playing with a laser pointer (avoid aiming it at your cat’s eyes), providing catnip-infused toys, or adding perches to your home. And believe it or not, GPS- or WiFi-enabled devices can track your pet’s steps, calories burned, heart rate, and other indicators.

Brush their teeth


 

According to Banfield Pet Hospital, 68 percent of cats and 76 percent of dogs have dental disease, and it may be linked to the development of heart and kidney disease. To avoid that, brush your pet’s teeth every day. It’s not as daunting as you might think! Kneel behind your pet and gently lift his or her lips, then brush the teeth and gums with a pet-friendly toothbrush or finger brush and pet toothpaste. (Dogs especially dislike the taste of mint, and you don’t want Fido swallowing fluoridated paste.) You should also get your pet’s teeth professionally cleaned by your vet at least once a year.

Consider pet insurance


 

Think about what kind of care you want to provide your pet. Some policies cover only accidents; others cover everything, including wellness care. All have deductibles. “If you’re a do-it-all pet parent, then insurance will take most of the financial concerns out of your mind,” Dr. Lands says. Premiums obviously vary, averaging about $10 a month for limited coverage and $100 a month for comprehensive care, according to ­petinsurancereview.com. If you leave your pet home while you’re at work, try these ways to keep them busy all day.

Protect against parasites

 “All pets are susceptible to infectious diseases and parasites,” Gale says. For example, according to Lilian Wong, DVM, a veterinarian with Banfield Pet Hospital, you’ll find heartworm wherever you find mosquitoes. Check your pet for ticks regularly and ask your vet about preventive tools such as medications and monthly injections.

Think about a DNA test 

It may sound crazy, but pinpointing your dog’s true genetic history can help protect against breed-specific diseases. For example, Labrador retrievers and German shepherds are likely to develop hip dysplasia.

DNA tests aren’t 100 percent ­accurate—neither are the commercial tests for humans—but they’ll help narrow down the possible breeds. For $189, the Embark Dog DNA Test screens for breed traits, ancestry, and risk of more than 160 genetic canine health conditions.

Help them age gracefully

Cats reach senior status when they’re 11 to 14 years old; for dogs, it’s around 7 or 8. If your cat has arthritis, consider a litter box with lower walls. Has your pet’s vision deteriorated? Place extra lights on stairs and in dark hallways. Finally, put rugs on slick floors and baby gates at the top of stairs to prevent falls. For more tips for helping your pet live the longest, healthiest life possible, check out these 50 things veterinarians won’t tell you.

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

In 2016, nearly 57 percent of American households owned a pet, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, but it’s safe to say that 100 percent of them wish their dog or cat had Huck’s luck—and level of care.

In fact, advances in veterinary medicine have made it easier than ever to boost your pet’s life span and quality of life. Some now-standard procedures— for instance, vaccinations against rabies, hepatitis, and more—have had a great impact. On the other end of the spectrum are breakthroughs that help animals survive injuries and illnesses that might have shortened their lives only a few years ago.

Take Fridgey, a Bengal cat. Just after his first birthday, Fridgey underwent surgery for a fractured hip, followed by physical therapy on a water treadmill. He recovered, but seven months later, he fractured his other hip. In March 2018, he had a hip replacement, the first time that vets at Purdue University performed the procedure. Today, Fridgey is as healthy as, well, a horse.

7 PHOTOS
Pets that travel poorly under stress and heat
See Gallery
Pets that travel poorly under stress and heat

Bulldogs

(Photo via Getty)

Pugs

(Photo via Getty)

Shih-tzus

(Photo via Getty)

Boxers

(Photo via Getty)

Burmese

(Photo via Getty)

Himalayans

(Photo via Getty)

Persians

(Photo via Getty)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The bill for Fridgey’s medical care was steep—almost $10,000. But owners Tyler and Faith Goldsberry thought it was worth it. “Pets deserve the best treatment we can give them, and we would never add to our family without having the means to make sure they’re taken care of,” Tyler says. It helped that the family had pet insurance. Once a rarity, pet insurance is now in enough demand that some employers offer it as a benefit.

Should you invest in pet insurance? What about gluten-free food? There are so many health and care options available these days that finding the ones that are worthwhile for your pet can be daunting. This guide is a good place to start. Before you learn about how to help your pet live longer, these are the secrets your pet wishes it could tell you.

Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The post 9 Trusted Tips to Help Your Pet Live Longer appeared first on Reader's Digest.

10 PHOTOS
Cat cancer signs to watch out for
See Gallery
Cat cancer signs to watch out for

Excessive hiding

Cats love a good hiding spot, but if you notice your kitty is spending more time under the bed or in hard-to-reach places, it could signal that something’s wrong. “Owners often tell me they notice when their cat is ill if they’re usually social but have been spending more time in new hiding spots, or that they stop coming out at feeding time,” says Jake Zaidel, DVM, founder of Malta Animal Hospital in upstate New York and a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association. While excessive hiding is a general sign that something is off with your cat—not necessarily cat cancer—it’s still a good idea to see a vet, he says. This is what your cat is secretly trying to tell you.

(Getty)

Weight loss

Weight loss is the number-one cat cancer symptom Dr. Zaidel says he sees. It’s often the sign of a gastrointestinal tumor. “When cats are usually food-motivated but start to turn up their nose and don’t want to eat, that’s very concerning,” he says. Cancer can also cause cats to lose weight while maintaining their regular appetite. If you notice your cat shedding pounds, either rapidly or slowly, make an appointment with your vet. This is why your cat loves your laptop so much.

(Getty)

Mouth changes

Sores, lumps, a strange odor, bleeding, or a change in gum color can be a sign of oral cat cancer, particularly in older cats. This cancer sign in cats often goes unnoticed for too long. “We commonly find visible oral tumors because people don’t examine their pet’s mouth,” says Zaidel. “Many oral tumors can be really devastating because people don’t find them until it’s really advanced.” He also suggests brushing on a regular basis. It’s a good idea to watch when your pet yawns or eats, advises Timothy Rocha, DVM, an oncology specialist in New York City. See a vet if you notice something out of the ordinary. Find out the 50 secrets your pet is keeping from you.

(Getty)

Nosebleeds

Nosebleeds are never normal, says Dr. Rocha. “With an older cat, a nosebleed is particularly worrisome. It can be a sign of cat cancer in the nose,” he says. “With younger cats, I would worry more about something like a foreign object stuck up there before cancer.” Believe it or not, these cats have better jobs than you.

(Getty)

Diarrhea or changes in bathroom habits

Occasional diarrhea usually isn’t a sign of cat cancer, says Dr. Rocha, but if it persists or gets worse, bring your cat to the vet. Excessive litter box use, difficulty peeing/moving bowels, or blood in urine or stool are also potential signs of cancer, according to PetMD.com. Pay attention to frequent vomiting—it could just be hairballs or upset stomach, but it’s also a presenting sign of GI tumors, says Dr. Zaidel. This is why cats do that weird kneading thing.

(Getty)

Discharge

Persistent discharge from the nose or eyes is cause for concern, says Dr. Zaidel. Nasal discharge is a common sign of facial tumors, and eye discharge can signal an eye tumor.

(Getty)

Seizures

Seizures can be a sign of brain tumors in cats, most often seen in older cats with cancer, says Dr. Zaidel. If you start to notice sudden and uncontrolled bursts of activity, like champing and chewing, jerking of the legs, or foaming at the mouth, your cat could be experiencing seizures and you should see a vet immediately, according to WebMD.com. Cats can also suffer atypical seizures, which aren’t classic convulsions but instead manifest as fits of strange behavior, like sudden rage or hysteria, excessive licking or chewing, or scratching or biting their owner. If your cat displays these 4 signs, it means that they trust you.

(Getty)

Skin changes

“Every lump, bump, or skin change should be checked,” says Dr. Zaidel. “It could be benign or cancerous, but it’s always easier to treat the earlier it’s caught.” Feel for bumps, lumps, or swelling as you pet your cat. If you notice something iffy, don’t delay—there’s no way to distinguish between a lump that’s benign or malignant without taking a sample. Also pay attention to any sores that won’t heal or lesions that seem itchy or painful.

(Getty)

Weight gain

Sudden weight gain or bloating can be a sign of cat cancer, specifically GI, in cats. If your cat is eating less but seems to be bulking up, take a trip to the vet, says Rocha. A sudden spike in appetite also warrants a visit.

(Getty)

General pain or discomfort

“Pain is a rather substantial sign of cat cancer,” says Dr. Zaidel. If your cat is normally a snuggler but starts to cry out when you pick him up, a doctor’s visit is in order. These are the 17 things your cat would love to tell you.

(Getty)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story

Sign up for the Best Bites by AOL newsletter to get the most delicious recipes and hottest food trends delivered straight to your inbox every day.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.