“Doc, How Long Will My Pet Live?”
Contributed by Dr. Melissa Brookshire, DVM
This is a common question asked in veterinary practices every day. We all know that most pets don’t live as long as humans, but we want to know if we will have 10 good years, 15 good years or even longer with our special pet.
A 34-year old cat? Wow! While this number may sound extreme, the average life span of 15 years for a cat far exceeds the 4-6 years that was typical just 30 years ago. Dogs also are living longer now too, with significant variability in the average lifespan based on breed size.
In the Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice – Geriatrics, an article by Dr. Dottie LaFlamme says that 40% of dogs and 30% of cats in the United States are 6 years or older. Thirty years ago, we would not even be talking about this population because dogs and cats were simply not living that long.
So why are our pets living longer than ever before? Dr. Johnny Hoskins, in Geriatrics & Gerontology of the Dog and Cat, attributes the increased lifespan of our pet dogs and cats to veterinary research and care, and improvement in diet.
Did you know that the feline requirement for dietary taurine was not even identified until the 1980s? Research into the ideal diet for dogs and cats has identified beneficial nutrients that many premium pet foods now contain. Antioxidants, joint care supplements, probiotics and many others, are new ingredients that improve your pet’s well-being.
So, what can you do to help your pet live a longer, healthier life? Besides regular check-ups and preventive care at your veterinarian, your pet’s diet and body condition are two of the most important factors for longevity. A 14-year study done with a group of Labrador Retrievers showed a 1.8 year advantage for dogs that were maintained in lean body condition over dogs that were slightly overweight. The Labs were not allowed to be obese, as many pets are. Obesity has an even more detrimental impact on overall health and longevity, leading to chronic diseases that are difficult to manage.
Feeding your pet a premium food with high quality beneficial nutrients and keeping him in lean body condition will provide him with the nutritional advantage he needs to be happy and stay healthy.