With the recent news that a dog in Portugal had supposedly lived until 31 years old, we asked our community of 18,000 vets and vet nurses at Veterinary Voices UK to gather their top tips for ensuring your dog lives a long, healthy life.
Here's the wisdom they shared:
(1) Don't call your dog 'Lucky' - you are ensuring that your dog will die young of some disease your vet has never seen before, or it will be hit by a car.
(2) Size matters! Keep your dog a healthy weight - just like humans, overweight dogs are at greater risk of diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and many other conditions. Although there are other options, in order to feed a balanced diet, a high quality dry food from a good brand in the form of kibble is the best bet for most dogs and easiest for owner.
(3) Regular exercise - this is good for the physical and mental health of both you and your dog!
(4) Dental care - make sure your dog has their teeth scaled and polished when necessary to remove harmful bacteria that not only cause their teeth to rot and their breath to stink, but can cause infections of the heart and kidneys in older dogs.
(5) Ensure your dog is vaccinated against preventable diseases, such as parvovirus.
(6) Genetics is a huge factor - some breeds of dog will live longer than others. Giant breeds like Great Danes are unlikely to live past 7 years old. Some kind of terrier cross (eg a Border terrier cross or Jack Russell cross) is likely to live much longer. Tragically, some breeds like the lovely Flat Coat Retrievers, which I like very much, are at a high risk of developing cancer and dying younger.
(7) It does often come down to good luck. Sometimes owning a dog that lives for a very long time is simply a matter of luck - as one of vet said recently: "My lab lived til 16, and I regularly fed him pizza and chips. So I'd probably say: it's all down to genetics."
And finally, it's hugely important to remember that dogs don't have any ambition to live a long life - they just want to be happy day by day.
As vets we see a lot of suffering because owners want to keep their pets alive longer, despite them being unhealthy and in pain.
People should never feel guilty putting an older animal to sleep as this is often an act of extreme kindness. Read our blog about pet euthanasia here