Thinking about your pet’s inevitable passing—especially during their formative years—may feel a bit macabre, but the everyday decisions you make about your pet’s health and wellbeing have a direct impact on their longevity, and can potentially add years to their life. Of course your pet is not invincible, but if you follow our Midtown Veterinary Hospital team’s five steps, you can enhance your beloved companion’s quality of life, and enrich their days with health and vitality.

#1: Stay up-to-date with routine veterinary wellness care

Your pet’s annual or semiannual veterinary visits are more than a rite of pet-owner passage. These routine veterinary exams cultivate and support your pet’s long-term health at every life stage:

  • Early-life appointments evaluate your pet for heritable conditions, identify and treat harmful parasites, ensure proper physical development, and fortify your pet’s immune system against life-threatening infectious diseases through vaccination
  • Adult pet visits continue boosting your pet’s immune responses, but also address weight management, disease detection and prevention, and general health support (e.g., dentistry, mobility, nutrition, behavior).
  • Senior pet visits focus less on prevention and more on supporting the body by identifying age-related maladies, controlling pain and discomfort, and diagnosing and monitoring chronic disease.

Annual screening tests (e.g., heartworm and intestinal parasite testing) and blood work ensure preventive measures are effective and allow your pet’s veterinarian to diagnose and treat hidden illness months or years before the condition becomes a serious problem.

#2: Care for your pet’s dental health

Your pet’s dental health influences their entire wellbeing. In addition to the pain caused by decaying teeth and bone, dental (i.e., periodontal) disease bacteria can damage your pet’s heart, liver, or kidneys. 

Although you likely consider dental disease a senior pet condition, periodontal issues begin in early life. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some dental disease by age 3. Once plaque bacteria are established below the gumline, this progressive disease can only be managed—never cured.

Fortunately, consistent at-home dental care and annual professional examinations and cleanings are an effective way to prevent or slow periodontal disease progression. Daily toothbrushing with pet-safe toothpaste and providing your pet with other plaque-busting strategies, such as a dental diet, a water additive, or dental chews, can prevent tartar accumulation and this buildup’s ensuant inflammation, infection, and tooth and bone loss. If your pet is experiencing dental disease signs (e.g., bad breath, sensitivity, visible tartar), schedule a dental consultation with our Midtown Veterinary Hospital team. 

#3: Protect your pet with parasite prevention

Internal and external parasites are more than a gross nuisance. Parasitic infections can compromise young pets’ health and development, transmit life-altering diseases—such as heartworms and Lyme disease—and cause widespread infestations that make your pet and you miserable.

Year-round heartworm, flea, and tick prevention is the safest and most effective way to protect your pet from parasites and their diseases. Dog owners should follow up with an annual heartworm and tick-borne disease test to ensure their pooch’s preventive protocol is effective. Because no heartworm disease treatment is available for cats, we recommend you ensure your feline friend receives year-round heartworm prevention.

#4: Keep your pet at a lean weight

Preserving your pet’s health and vitality can be as simple as the type of food you put in their bowl—and what you leave out. Pet obesity is reaching epidemic proportions, with more than half of all U.S. pets—56 million cats and 50 million dogs—classified as overweight or obese. Sadly, body weight and longevity have an inverse relationship—as your pet’s waistline expands, their potential life span shrinks. According to one study, overweight pets live 2.5 years fewer than healthy-weight pets. A shorter life span is likely because excess fat tissue creates an inflammatory environment that increases a pet’s risk for chronic diseases, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart disease
  • Allergies and skin problems
  • Respiratory issues

Pets who are fed a portion-controlled diet (i.e., do not graze on food throughout the day) designed to meet their daily caloric needs are more likely to live longer, have a more robust immune system, and experience a delay in age-related decline. If you are unsure of the appropriate diet to feed your pet or need help assessing or managing your pet’s weight, contact our Midtown Veterinary Hospital team.

#5: Provide your pet with abundant age-appropriate exercise

Appropriate physical activity can be pets’ health panacea. Daily exercise allows your pet to stretch their legs, build and strengthen their muscles, develop balance and coordination, improve cardiovascular health, burn excess calories, enhance sleep quality, strengthen their immune system, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve mood and behavior.

Although your pet’s exercise is essential, inappropriate physical activity (e.g., repetitive or high-impact play) can lead to overexertion (i.e., heatstroke). Repetitive or high-impact play can also cause your pet to experience stress or strain-related injuries, cruciate ligament tears, intervertebral disc herniation, altered growth and development, joint damage, and chronic pain. 

To ensure your pet reaps exercise’s full life-enhancing benefits, select activities that are safe for their age and physical condition. Appropriate physical activities include low-impact walking, gentle hiking, or swimming for senior and overweight pets, and controlled play on soft but textured surfaces for puppies until they have reached skeletal maturity.

Your pet’s life is shaped by the seemingly small decisions you make every day—their diet, exercise, and veterinary care provider. Our Midtown Veterinary Hospital team is honored and proud to be your pet’s health provider. We are committed to ensuring your dog or cat lives a long and limitless life. Contact us to schedule your pet’s wellness exam.