Even with the best intentions and all the love in the world, dog owners everywhere are doing things that shorten their dogs’ lives.
1) Believing the dog food hype.
Commercial pet foods have highly talented marketing teams. They promise their food will make your dog as happy and healthy as the ones playing happily in the ads. The packaging looks colorful, like the dried kibble is full of fresh ingredients, and makes bold claims.
The truth is you have to dig much deeper to find out if the food can actually deliver what it promises. The vibrant colors? Artificial dyes included purely to appeal to you (dogs are mainly color-blind, so food coloring means nothing to them).
Ingredient list includes “by-product meal”? Sounds like food, but it could be anything from bones to chicken feet. AAFCO approved? Meets minimum requirements, not necessarily exceeding them or optimal for your dog’s specific needs.
There’s a difference between surviving and thriving. Make sure your dog’s food provides the nutrition your dog needs and quality of ingredients she deserves, whether it's commercial, homemade, or some other source of balanced nutrition.
The remedy: Do your research to know your dog’s food gives her what she really needs.
2) Killing them with kindness
It’s hard to ignore the sweet puppy eyes begging for a piece of your dinner. She's so good, she deserves a treat or two. But too many owners take this to the extreme and end up destroying their dog’s diet.
The dog gets foods that are at best useless, at worst dangerous. Commercial treats are often fatty and nutritionally useless; table scraps of fatty, seasoned meat is worse (many of our favorite seasonings are toxic to dogs). As junk food accounts for more of their diet, the dog gains more weight.
Weight gain leads to joint problems, heart issues, and more, slowly making their life shorter and more painful. Once those problems kick in, there’s no turning back the clock.
The remedy: Keep an eye on the junk food. Keep treats healthy and a small part of your dog’s diet.
3) Trusting everything the vet says
Vets go through a lot of schooling to get their credentials. Many vets go above and beyond to specialize in a certain type of animal to provide your dog the best care possible. But they’re human, and that means sometimes they make mistakes.
Good vets acknowledge that and will encourage you to do everything you need to feel confident in your dog’s health care. Other vets will shut down your questions, ignore your concerns, or suggest solutions because they’re profitable to the vet. If you follow those vets blindly, your dog will suffer.
For example: When my dog’s eye turned red, I took her in and asked the vet about allergies. The vet insisted that was not a possibility; instead, she put Nala through several uncomfortable, expensive tests and prescribed ointment that didn’t work. Someone else recommended allergy medication, which cleared it up within a day. We never went back to the first vet.
Another time, a vet was stumped by a joint issue Nala had, so she consulted another vet in her office. As it turned out, he had recently handled the same issue with another patient and had lots of research fresh in his mind. Their combined knowledge and experience gave Nala better care than she would have received otherwise. I trust our vet more now than I did previously because she was more focused on healing my dog than looking smart or being right.
The remedy: Choose a vet who is open, honest, and supportive, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
4) Watching movies on the couch together.
It’s one thing to love snuggling with your dog. It’s another thing when your dog is a couch potato who doesn’t get exercise. Recent estimates say that over half of all dogs in the United States are overweight. Those are dogs who aren’t getting enough exercise and are carting around extra heft that is slowly wearing down their bodies.
Much like junk food, lack of exercise shortens your dog’s lifespan. Exercise is great bonding time, whether you’re walking, doing agility, or swimming together. The couch may be cozier, but you’ll enjoy more years of snuggle time if your dog lives a longer life.
The remedy: Choose bonding activities that involve physical activity. Then relax on the couch together.
These 4 mistakes are easy to make. That’s why so many of us dog owners have made at least one of them. But for the love of dog, we need to stop. Stop making these mistakes and our dogs will live healthier, happier, longer lives.
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Photo credit: Emily Kreed