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These changes to your dog’s lifestyle can help him live every day to its energetic fullest.
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My very first dog was a majestic, kindhearted Airedale Terrier adopted from a responsible breeder. He was pampered from birth, and had an award-winning lineage that extended back three generations. Yet tragically, this sweetly good-natured boy died before reaching the age of 7 due to sudden, unforeseen organ failure.
About a decade later, I adopted a raggedy Bichon Frise mix who had been abused and neglected by two different owners. His first 20 months of life were characterized by one cruel disadvantage after another. Yet in astonishing contrast, he wound up overflowing with enthusiastic energy; alive and kicking ’til the ripe old age of 21.
Huh. So why the dramatic difference in longevity? Well, life is certainly unpredictable, and there’s no such thing as a magic potion — so perhaps it was simply due to random chance. But between the time I adopted those two dogs, I’d begun researching the potential impacts of strategic lifestyle changes on canine wellness. What I learned is that we may not be able to fully control the number of years we have with our beloved pets — but we can do a lot to make sure those years are filled with quality and vitality. Follow these “lucky seven” tips to help your treasured pup enjoy every day to its energetic fullest.
Just like human beings, our dogs need regular activity to keep joints limber and organs functioning smoothly. Life certainly gets stressful, but nonetheless (or maybe as a direct result) we should make daily walks or some form of active training/play a regular priority. Also, don’t forget about the benefits of a rejuvenating rubdown. Lightly massaging your pup’s muscles and joints assists the body’s lymphatic system, enhances flexibility, and supports overall immunity.
You know the old adage: A busy mind is a happy, active, sharp mind. So help combat boredom and cognitive stagnation by making time for a brain game or two. The activity can be as simple as hiding a piece of kibble under a cup and inviting your pup to sniff it out. You can also keep a few of your dog’s toys tucked away in a closet; continually rotating the mix you make available every few months. And by all means, investigate the incredible array of fun puzzle toys for pups. Our dogs especially enjoy any product created by their personal playtime hero, Nina Ottosson.
It’s often instinctive for dogs to downplay their discomfort. Moreover, certain health issues may not exhibit visible symptoms until they’re fairly advanced. So have your furry friend examined by a trusted vet at least once per year. Also make time for regular nail grinding, plus gentle brushing and grooming with a natural shampoo and conditioner. If your pup has an especially thick or multi-layered coat, find a professional groomer you and your pup like. And keep a close eye on any subtle variations that might signal a problem. Look for increased water consumption, lack of appetite, unusual lethargy, unexplained bumps, and weight-related changes.
If periodontal problems aren’t addressed early, they can lead to pain, tooth loss, even infections that may spread to other organs. Don’t fall for that old wive’s tale that crunchy kibble helps “scrub” canine teeth. When you eat a granola bar, do your teeth feel sparkling clean? Kibble usually breaks down into soft, starchy particles that clog the tiny pockets between teeth and gums. A nice, big bone or durable chew can often provide useful tooth-polishing action — and crunchy, raw vegetables like carrots are also a good oral health option.
But beyond that, it’s often smart to establish a regular, at-home teeth cleaning routine. Use a tasty organic toothpaste formulated for pets, and your pup will often learn to perceive these sessions as a treat. There are also convenient, botanically based gels and sprays you can apply to the teeth and gums. Zymox is one proven enzyme-based brand to try.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but it’s worth a reminder: YOU are your dog’s biggest hero. Loving, regular interaction with you — even just quiet time on the couch or an affectionate ear scratch — means the world to your pup. In fact, a recent Harvard Medical School report recounts studies showing that “together time” is measurably beneficial for both you and your canine. It can help reduce heart rate, promote general feelings of well-being, even minimize the stress hormone cortisol.
It’s worth repeating: The daily food our canine friends consume can have a profound impact on overall wellness and energy. Canines respond well to clean-eating diets, just as humans often do. You know how our human packaged products can feature misleading promotional terms that holler “healthy?” The same goes for pet products. So read labels very carefully. Red-flag ingredients include fake colorings like Yellow 5 and Blue 2; chemical texturizers like Dicalcium Phosphate; chemical humectants like Propylene Glycol (also used in antifreeze); and anything that says “meat by-product” — a cagey category that can come from unspecified or unregulated sources that would never be approved for human consumption.
Look for high-quality foods and treats that are made from natural, whole, organic and/or human-grade ingredients you can pronounce. Or, explore natural, homemade diets like those of holistic veterinarian Dr. Richard Pitcairn. Additionally, make sure fresh, filtered water is available at all times. I’ve found that running-water pet fountains make regular hydration way more appealing to the average hound.
Specific canine requirements may vary, so always consult with a qualified animal nutritionist or holistic vet before beginning a new supplementation program. That said, adding a good-quality source of inflammation-calming Omega-3 fatty acids is usually a smart move (especially krill based supplements for dogs) — our pups go particularly nuts for salmon oil. Digestive enzymes are another healthy addition that can help enhance immunity and improve nutrient absorption for an overall energy boost.
Seven’s a lucky number … but do you have any points to add? We’d love to hear them. Share your insights below!
Marybeth lives in the Midwest with her wonderful husband, and her rescue dogs Grant and Maizy — all of them Heinz 57 mixed-breed types. A freelance writer and marketing consultant, she’s been rehabilitating severely abused rescues for over two decades. She’s currently working toward specialized certifications in animal nutrition counseling. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her family Instagram feed.
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