Eleven Things You Do That Shorten Your Dog's Lifespan

Listen, everyone wants a fancy new drug or supplement as a shortcut to increasing their pet's longevity. And, honestly, the ones we carry are proven to work very well indeed in helping your dog lead their longest and best life.

But here's the truth -- the choices that you make today reduce your dog's longevity tomorrow.  Curious?  Let's jump in. 


1) Expose your pet to yard chemicals like RoundUp or WeedNFeed:  Both of these products have been proven to cause cancer with chronic exposure in humans, and the same is true of our dogs.  If they are walking across or laying on areas that have been treated with RoundUp or WeedNFeed class products, you are dramatically increasing their cancer risk.  Remember that this applies to golf courses and public parks, as well.

2) Jumping exercise:  While YOU might enjoy seeing your athletic young dog bounce into the air to snatch a Frisbee or flung ball, every time they land your dog's bones and joints are being damaged... and this damage WILL come back to haunt them as they age.  On an evolutionary scale, dogs are walkers and runners, not jumpers.  No dog in evolutionary history routinely jumped 3-4 feet in the air, so stop making your dog do that and they will live a less painful life as they age.  Ditto for dog slamball, the world's worst way to exercise your pet.  

3)  Non-anesthetic dentals:  Just to be clear, non-anesthetic dentals are WORTHLESS from a health perspective, and simply create pain and fear for your dog.  Just knocking the tartar off teeth does nothing --ZERO -- to improve your pet's comfort or longevity.  Why do humans get dental x-rays?  Because that is the only way our dentists can diagnose our oral health.  Ditto for your dog under 25 lbs and your cat.   And about that pain and fear?  At least us humans understand why someone is poking around our sensitive gums with sharp metal tools.  Our pets, not so much.

4) Stairs:  Along the same lines as the jumping exercise above, every trip up stairs creates spinal and hip stress, every trip down stairs creates wrist and elbow stress.   How does a child's gate increase your pet's longevity?  Like this.

5) Encouraging your dog to jump into a truck or SUV bed:  If you are a 30" tall dog being asked to jump into a truck bed 36" off the ground, that is not any different than asking a 5 foot tall human to jump over a 6' wall.  Every day.  For fun.  Not to mention the concussive forces of jumping DOWN.  Just get a ramp, for your dog's sake.  

6) Playing on frozen rivers and ponds:  As an old flyfishing guide, I have known way too many dogs who died by crashing through the thin ice, never to be seen again.  I fully recognize this only applies to a small subset of folks, but just one dog's life counts.

7) Hardwood and tile floors:  If you have an active dog who slips on smooth floors as they play or run to greet you, you are creating spine/hip/knee problems for your dog as they age.  The solution?  Dogs are creatures of habit, and you can predict their traffic pattern.  Put cheap non-skid rugs from WalMart or Home Depot in areas where your dog changes direction.

8) If your dog rides in the back of an open truck, for pete's sake harness them in.  I have seen dogs dragged for blocks behind a pick up truck, and what they look like when that truck stops.  

9) Sun exposure:  If your dog has light colored or short hair... or both... sun exposure absolutely increases the risk of skin cancer and autoimmune diseases. Walk them early, walk them late, walk them in shade... just not in the sunny midday.

10) Feeding your dog too much, or too frequently:  The one GUARANTEED way to increase longevity in ANY species is... calorie restriction.  Sad but true, from worms to humans... and dogs.  And the Dog Aging Study has proven that dogs fed once daily are healthier than dogs fed more frequently.  

11) Not asking your vet... "WHY"  OK, I'm a vet and this might piss off a few of my colleagues.  Just understand that we vets are creatures of habit, have bills to pay just like you, and all too often these days are little corporate robots.  Ask "WHY" your pet needs this vaccine.  Ask "WHY" they need this prescription or this surgery.  If the answers don't make clear sense to you, don't do it.