Did you know that studies on American dogs have classified over 80% of dogs who are ages 6 and older as geriatric? In human terms, that is a ripe age of 42. As a 42 year old woman, I don’t think I am ready to be put out to pasture. As a society, we have begun to accept the notion that it is valid for a dog to look old at age 6 or 7. Don’t believe the hype. With just a few easy steps, you can help ensure your dog lives a long, healthy life.
A few months ago, I met a woman on a walk with two pugs. Without even thinking, I said, “I love old pugs, can I pet them?”. She gave me what I would call the stink eye and told me that her dogs were 6 and 7 years old. Yikes! Her pugs looked ancient, had ruff, dull coats, and one of them was already suffering from eye issues. As I tried to redeem myself and change the subject, she asked me the dreaded question, “How old are your babies?” I answered and then changed the subject again. Francis, my black pug, is 9 and glows with health. Her sleek and silky, blue-black coat makes people think she is under 3. Finnbar, my fawn pug, is a ripe 13 years of age and is just now starting to slow down. People think Finn is around 7 to 8 years old. Were my pugs always this healthy? Sadly, no.
When I got Francis, she had demodectic mange and looked like an elephant due to her lack of hair. She was a young mother from a puppy mill raid and was so pathetic looking when I took her home. I put Francis on a holistic food and after a year or so, switched her to a raw food diet due to chronic urinary stones. I have had Finnbar since he was a baby. I was an uninformed person thirteen years ago. When it came to feeding my pug, I did what any uninformed puppy owner would do. I put Finn on Purina One puppy formula. Mistake. Finnbar snored, had a stinky face, suffered from breathing issues and developed arthritis at an early age. He was young and a mess. When he approached 4 yeas of age, I started applying the same basic principals of holistic health that I used on myself to Finnbarr. With a bit of patience, he turned into the healthy little spud he is today.
Here are a list of beginner steps to help clean up your dogs internal and external environment and put them on the road to a long life full of vibrant health.
Filter your dog’s water. Have you ever considered what is in the water your dog drinks? Tap water and many bottled waters are full of contaminates that a simple water filter can remove. Cysts, heavy metals, chlorine, and pharmaceuticals are just some of the contaminates found in water. These contaminates can affect your dogs skin, coat, and overall health. Always use a stainless steel or glass bowl for water. Plastic and plastic derivatives can leach into your dog’s water, so it is best to avoid it.
Watch what chemicals you put on your dog. Longevity is all about toxic load. Toxic load can be explained by the amount of toxins you put in your body and how your body processes those toxins. Every time you go to put medicine or different grooming products on or in your dog think about what it is made of. For example, when you are shampooing your pup, make sure that your shampoo is a natural, plant based soap free of sulfites and heavy chemicals.
Feed an all natural diet. To me, diet is the key to longevity and a healthy life. What you put in is what you get out. For the beginner, avoid ingredients like wheat, soy, corn, sugar beets, by-products, and generic animal fats such as poultry fat. For those of you who are already feeding a holistic kibble, try adding raw fruits and vegetables to your dog’s diet as well as raw meat. With any dietary change, make the transition gradually. If you decide to feed your dog a 100% raw diet, make sure to research the proper techniques for doing so. I feed my pugs a raw diet. My lab, terrier, and lab mix all get a holistic, limited ingredient dry kibble. Essential to every diet is a mixture of proteins. This reduces your dog’s chances of developing a sensitivity to their food. I always suggest switching proteins every 2 to 3 months.
Add enzymes and probiotics to your dog’s diet. Enzymes are fundamental to proper digestion. If your dog is eating a dry or canned dog food, it is essential to add a digestive enzyme to their diet. Enzymes are not found in commercial dog foods because the cooking and extruding process destroys them. Your dog’s stomach was built to digest raw foods that are plentiful in a variety of digestive enzymes. Probiotics are an excellent way to balance your dog’s stomach bacteria levels. Balanced gut bacteria leads to healthy digestion and a strong immune system. Gut health has a direct correlation to overall well-being. When you add probiotics to the diet, they produce antibiotic substances than can help your dog fight off certain infections.
Avoid antibiotics whenever possible. Gut health is a key component to a healthy pup. Antibiotics are the nemesis of happy lgut bacteria. Every year, over 125 million dogs and cats, are given at least one round of antibiotics. Many of these animals need them, but millions more do not. Antibiotics are powerful medicine and have a place in veterinary medicine. However, it is my opinion and the opinion of many scientists and holistic veterinarians that antibiotics should be given only when necessary. They should not be used as a means of avoiding infection. For example, giving antibiotics to dogs suffering from an upset stomach, mild diarrhea, or a shallow puncture. The overuse of antibiotics can lead to autoimmune diseases, chronic ear infections, and cancer. If your dog has a legitimate infection that is not responding to natural methods of healing, then use antibiotics but save their use for when your dog really needs them.
Avoid topical and internal flea and tick treatments. Flea and tick treatments like Frontline and Advantix are dangerous and in my opinion, should be avoided. The chemicals found in these medications get into your dogs blood stream and can cause adverse reactions like allergies, skin issues, seizures, and sometimes death.These treatments also elevate your dog’s toxic load by making the liver work overtime metabolizing all of the introduced foreign chemicals. Flea and tick collars should also be avoided. Not only are these collars dangerous to your dog but they can be harmful to you and your family if you touch them and forget to wash your hands. There are many natural and preventative methods for keeping your dog and your environment pest free. I encourage you to explore the natural options before resorting to strong chemicals. Many owners just apply topicals because “it is just what you do in the summer”. Learning about what you can naturally do to keep your furry ones safe and avoiding these treatments can go a long way in bringing down your dog’s toxic load and bringing up their vitality.
We all have met the dog who has always eaten the worst food on the shelf, gotten vaccinations every year, and doesn’t follow a single step that I have discussed above. I could compare this dog to my neighbor, J.R. He eats bacon fat every morning, smokes more than a pack of cigarettes a day and is going on 90 years of age. A medical wonder. However, these examples are not the norm. Dogs are aging at a unprecedented rate and suffering from diseases historically unheard of. They are meant to live a long healthy life. It is a tragedy that a 6 year old dog is now being considered a senior. With a bit of patience, knowledge, and effort, we can help turn these statistics back around and grow old with our pups.