How Can I Help My Dog Live Longer?
How can I slow my dog’s ageing? How can I help my dog live longer? Two questions as pet parents we would all like the answers to.
It is unfortunate that our dog’s lives are far shorter than our own, but there are steps we can take to give them the best chance of living their longest lives, and lives with improved quality.
It is a question of prevention rather than cure, of taking a proactive approach to their health and wellbeing rather than a reactive one. While cost it is not the priority for most of us when considering our dog’s health, adopting a preventative approach to our dog’s health will in most cases prove to be cost-saving – both financially and emotionally.
They Are What They Eat.
As we feed our dogs the same food for lengthy periods of time without much, if any, change, the most important aspect of what we feed them is the balance and completeness of their food.
Their food should at the very least meet – and preferably exceed – the minimum nutritional requirements outlined by FEDIAF (European Pet Food) and AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officials). By selecting a food for your dogs that does this you are at least ensuring that your dog should survive as it should be getting the minimum nutrients they require to sustain life.
But as with us, nutrition can go a lot further than simply sustaining life. The best diets can help to support your dog against disease and other long term health issues that affect their quality of life and longevity.
One has to look no further than Dan Buettner’s ‘Blue Zones’ research to understand the importance of diet on not just long life but also the quality of life enjoyed by those long-lived communities. These “Blue Zone” regions are incredible because besides having a large percentage of people that live to 100, the aging population also remains active well into their 80 and 90s, and typically do not suffer the degenerative diseases common in most of the industrialised world.
10 years of research into the reasons for these age-defying communities is crystallised into what is called the ‘Power 9’. All of these are relevant to our dogs and how we can help them enjoy their healthiest, and longest, lives.
- Move Naturally. Moving naturally throughout the day — walking, gardening, doing housework — is a core part of the Blue Zones lifestyle.
Our dogs benefit from getting the correct amount of exercise and mental stimulation in their daily lives.
- Purpose. The Okinawans call it ikigai and the Nicoyans call it plan de vida. Knowing why you wake up in the morning makes you healthier, happier, and adds up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
Dogs also thrive on their daily routines – their feeding times, daily walks, cuddle times.
- Down Shift. Stress is part of life, but Blue Zones centenarians have stress-relieving rituals built into their daily routines. Adventists pray, Ikarians nap, and Sardinians do happy hour. Many dogs suffer stress, even if we are unaware of it – separation anxiety, loud noises, unexpected activities – can all contribute to your dog’s stress and anxiety levels.
- 80% Rule. People in Blue Zones areas stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full and eat their smallest meal in the early evening.
It is perhaps harder to draw a comparison with this but feeding your dog a nutrient dense food, one that is lower in calories and high in nutrients will help ensure they feel full longer
- Plant Slant. Beans are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grains round out the rest of the diet and meat is eaten in small amounts.
This is one of the main reasons for developing Bonza – the ability of plants to heal!
- Wine @ 5. Moderate but regular consumption of wine (with friends and/or food) is part of the Blue Zones lifestyle.
While we would not recommend giving your dog wine, the phytonutrient that makes wine so good for our health is resveratrol – found in grapes, wine, grape juice, peanuts, cocoa, and berries of Vaccinium species, including blueberries, bilberries, and cranberries
- Belong. Being part of a faith-based community adds four to 14 years to life expectancy. The only faith our dogs need to belong is the conviction of our love and attention, something they so freely they give to us. The reverse has also been shown to be true – our dogs make us longer-lived and happier. We belong together!
- Loved Ones First. Having close and strong family connections (with spouses, parents, grandparents, and grandchildren) is common with Blue Zones centenarians. Making our dogs part of our family as opposed to ‘possessions’ provides them with the necessary bonds that provides relief from stress and a general sense of wellbeing and contentment.
- Right Tribe. The world’s longest lived people have close friends and strong social networks. Our dogs are social creatures – some more motivated by human interaction, others interaction with their own kind. Providing them with the opportunity for either, or both, is key to their overall happiness.
The important aspect of this is diet. As the famous Ayurvedic saying goes, “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use; When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”
Diet refers as much to the amount we eat, as to what we eat and the same is true for our dogs. Obesity is the number one enemy of both our health and our dogs. It is responsible for the majority of chronic diseases we both face – diabetes, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular conditions and cancers – all of which are on the rise for our dogs too.
It is important to eat low calorie, nutrient dense foods. Food that provides us with nutrients above and beyond the basic nutrients required to sustain life, nutrients that can actually contribute to our health and that are preventative of the causes of ill health. Plants are the only foods capable of contributing all of these additional nutrients.
Dental and Oral Care
Good oral hygiene is an often overlooked aspect of our dog’s health but regular dental care is vitally important.
Your dog’s teeth and gums provide avenues for bacteria and disease to enter their body with potentially serious health implications.
Bacteria surrounding the roots of their teeth can access to the bloodstream, referred to as bacteraemia. This periodontal disease can lead to endocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle.
Studies show that dogs with severe periodontal disease have microscopic damage to several organs, including their kidneys, liver, and heart, which can lead to irreversible damage to these organs, cruelly affecting their quality of life and shortening their time with us.
As with us, the most important way to prevent the potential for periodontal infections is to brush your dog’s teeth regularly. This will help to remove tartar build up. Tartar build up provides a haven for bacteria at the base of the teeth with your dog’s gums which can become the start of disease.
It is recommended that you have your dog’s teeth cleaned at your vet’s every 6 -12 months to remove stubborn tartar brushing has been unable to remove.
There are also natural ingredients, like brown seaweed (Ascophyllum Nodosum), Sage, Chamomile and Echinacea that research shows support a reduction of oral bacteria and tartar build up.
Balance Their Exercise
Exercise builds and maintains muscle mass, muscles support joints. Insufficient muscle tone can have, and likely will have, a significant impact on your dog’s mobility as they age.
It is important to provide your dog with an appropriate level of exercise and conditioning based on their age. Most dogs will be able to cope with 1-2 hour walks between their adult and senior years (how old this is will depend in large amount on their breed). Older dogs will be less able to go on the long rambling walks they were capable of earlier in their lives but it is important to maintain an exercise routine to slow this decline.
While their muscle condition score will naturally deteriorate the older they get, it is still possible to reduce the decline through age appropriate nutrition and exercise levels.
It is very important to ensure that their nutrition provides them with the support they need for their joints throughout their adult years, not just at the point at which it becomes obvious they are beginning to experience joint and mobility issues.
Provide Mental Stimulation
Cognitive decline in all its forms is affecting greater number of humans as we live longer. The same is true for our dogs.
It is important to stimulate your dog mentally throughout their lives to help them maintain mental agility and acuity.
This can be through fun training routines as they develop to allowing them to indulge in their favourite sense, smell, as they become less focused on seeing more of the world to enjoying more of the here and now they get from sniffing the incredible array of familiar and new scents they encounter during their daily exercise even if there walks and activities naturally become shorter as they age.
Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Inflammation is at the heart of the chronic diseases – diabetes, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular and cancer – that both we and our dogs are increasingly suffering from.
Inflammation is beneficial when needed in response to injury, irritation or infection for example, but it can have catastrophic health consequences when it remains in a chronic state.
Chronic inflammation generates a constant supply of free radicals that overwhelm the body’s antioxidant defences and ultimately damages the DNA. Free radicals are harmful because they create microscopic damage to the body’s cells.
This damage is called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is what leads to the “aging” process, and is also at the root of chronic diseases including allergic reaction, food enteropathy. diabetes, autoimmune disease, cancer, dementia and cardiovascular disease.
Gastrointestinal issues is another significant cause of inflammation in dogs and much of these issues stem from diet.
Research shows nutrients that are anti-inflammatory and antioxidative help your dog to combat inflammation and oxidative stress which in turns supports a reduction in the condition your dog is suffering from and effects these powerful nutrients have on your dog’s health and ageing.
Should you be supplementing your dog’s food? Prevention is better than cure.
Once your dog shows symptoms of a physical issue, such as arthritis, mobility issues, vision impairment, cognitive decline or dental it is most often too late to reverse the damage already done.
Most dog food does not do our dogs the justice, or deliver the preventative health benefits, they need and surely deserve from their diet.
As outlined previously the cheaper the food the less likely it is to have the quality protein sources, complex carbohydrates, fibres and essential fatty acids to allow your dog to thrive long into old age.
Many premium foods are developed to deliver quality sources of protein, carbohydrates and perhaps even fibre (although most contain insufficient in our view). 99.99% will however not include what are considered non-essential nutrients, phytonutrients.
These powerful, plant-based compounds are the key to elevating your dog’s food beyond simple nutrition to nutrition that is preventative and potentially restorative.
Your option is to add supplements to their diet to make up for the shortfall of ingredients that provide this preventative support or to feed them a food that includes these powerful, health-giving nutrients as part of their daily diet.
There most used supplements are for:
- Digestive support
- Joint and Mobility support
- Skin and Coat health
- Heart health
- Brain health
- Anxiety and Calming
- Oral and Dental support
If your dog’s food includes the ingredients known to provide preventative support for the most common health issues, they are likely to face through their lives, it ensures that you do not have the inconvenience of adding the supplements to each meal, and the cost of doing so, but also ensures that these phytonutrients can work synergistically to provide the best preventative health support throughout their lives.
Bonza was formulated with canine nutritionists, integrative veterinarians and canine herbalists to deliver a food for your dog that elevates it beyond simple nutrition, a food that includes the majority of ingredients found in the world’s largest brands’ supplement formulations . Our complete and balanced plant-based food includes PhytoPlus®, a proprietary blend of potent phytonutrients, enzymes, prebiotics, probiotics, provitamins, herbs, botanicals and adaptogens providing them with natural and holistic preventative health support for the most likely health issues they might face throughout their lives.
Bonza. Nose to Tail Good Health.