THE GREYTEST WISH
It’s no secret – we adore our Greyhounds. The only problem with dogs is that they don’t live long enough! Our dearest wish is for them to live a long, happy and healthy life. Greyhound parents have a head-start on some of the basics for a dog to live to old age: retired racers are generally spayed or neutered before adoption – this is a big one. Also, obesity is usually not a problem for Greyhounds, as they love to run and play. “Pet weight” is often a few pounds more than racing weight, which is perfectly OK. You do not want to have your hound gain too much weight though, as it is hard on their joints. We have been taught to always keep our dogs on a leash when not in a fenced area, and that is another huge one – freely roaming is the cause of too many pet lives cut short. Here are 10 other strategies that promote canine longevity:
1 . QUALITY DIET – Just like for people, a healthy diet is key to a dog’s well-being. Pets that are fed high-quality meals have bright eyes, healthy skin, and shiny hair coat. A healthy and nutritious diet also ensures the development of immune system, intestinal health, and mental growth, all necessary to help your dog live longer. Educate yourself, read labels and talk to your veterinarian. Avoid generic “meat byproducts,” sugars, excess sodium, and unnecessary fillers. Look for whole ingredients and responsible sourcing practices from your dog food to help extend your dog’s health. NO people food –it’s too salty, fatty, spicy!
2. SUPPLEMENTS – Approximately 70% of the cells that make up your dog’s immune system live in the gut. If you want your dog to live longer, keep their belly happy with probiotics. Probiotics help your dog fight off disease-causing invaders and prevent the sluggish, sickly feeling that comes along with poor digestion. When dogs feel good, they get more enjoyment out of life. I like FORTI-FLORA (no prescription needed), but there are many others.
Some other supplements to consider are glucosamine and chondroitin for dogs with joint trouble and fish oil or Omega fatty acids also improve joint health, promote memory, and healthy coat. These supplements are typically available in liquid, chews, and pills. Talk to a vet before giving your pup any vitamins, minerals, or other supplemental health products.
3. REGULAR VET CHECKUPS - Visit the veterinarian at least once a year. Dogs and all pets need professional healthcare to maintain their optimal level of health. Take your pup to the vet once or twice a year for checkups and vaccinations. This gives your vet an opportunity to check for signs of common health concerns, answer health or nutrition questions you may have, and offer recommendations for improving your dog’s health.
4. PET FIRST AID – You can use most things in your family first-aid kit, or have a dedicated one for your pets. DIY instruction in my prior blog here https://bit.ly/DIYfirst-aid-kit. Keep a dog first aid guidebook handy, or bookmark a website such as http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pet_first_aid_kit.html.
5. KEEP YOUR DOG’S PLACES CLEAN – Areas where your dog lives, eats, plays, and sleeps must be cleaned regularly, including their bowls. Pick up your dog’s waste because there are several diseases that can be transmitted from dog to human via the fecal/oral route. Clean up is so much easier and faster with a pooper scooper.
6. DENTAL HYGIENE - Your dog’s teeth need to be brushed daily, or at least several times a week. There are all sorts of different doggy toothbrushes you can get. Some treats are good for keeping teeth clean as well. Unfortunately, poor oral hygiene can lead to plaque, gingivitis, and eventually periodontal disease, a bacterial infection of the mouth that has been linked to heart disease and organ damage in dogs. If teeth brushing is a problem in your house, try a product like PLAQUE OFF (added to food) or FRESH DENTAL water additive, provide safe chew toys and dental treats, and have the vet check their teeth at annual visits.
7. EXERCISE & SOCIALIZATION - Daily cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart muscle and can certainly help your dog live longer. It can also help your dog live better by lowering stress, increasing endorphins, and balancing mood. Go for regular walks and keep your dog busy with play or other physical activities. Also, group exercises are another good option. Socialization with other dogs not only boosts our grey’s health but also improves behavior and enhances the quality of our dog's life.
8. KEEP YOUR DOG SAFE – Tag or microchip your dog, or both! The tag should be made of a durable material, attached securely to a sturdy buckle collar, and include the dog’s name, your name and up to date contact information.
Don’t leave harmful stuff lying around the house where your dog can get into it.
Even well-trained Greyhounds should always be on a leash or behind a fence when outside. Dogs who are allowed to roam free may run into traffic, encounter a wild animal or aggressive dog, or simply run away.
Protect your dog from extreme weather conditions. If it is too hot or cold for you to be comfortable outdoors, you should limit the amount of time your pup spends out there as well. When we got our first Greyhound, our vet told us “when you need a sweater, your dog needs one too!” Never leave your dog alone in a car.
Use caution if visiting a dog park with your hound. Bring a muzzle and stay close at first, in case things heat up. If you think your dog is getting too excited, leave immediately. The best scenario would be a playdate with other Greyhounds.
9. MENTAL STIMULATION - Like people, dogs thrive on mental stimulation to keep them happy. A bored dog can become depressed, anxious, destructive or even ill. So to extend your dog's life, keep them busy with work and exercises they enjoy, like training, socialization, walks, games and other enrichment activities, like food toys. It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks: sign up for advanced obedience lessons, or try a dog sport like agility or lure coursing. Your dog will thrive with the added stimulation, and your bond will strengthen as you learn new skills together.
10. BONDING WITH YOUR PUP - Spend time with your Greyhound. Go for daily walks and let the dog meet and greet other dogs and people. You can even take your dog to new places like the beach, the park, or any place with new smells – to your pup, that’s a special treat. There’s no need to plan something special though, just spend some time petting your dog, playing, or even just taking a nap with your pup. The most important thing is to give your dog plenty of love and attention - that will relieve stress and make your dog happier, which can improve quality of life for both of you.
The sad fact of dog parenthood is that people outlive pets, and there are no miracle products that will extend your dog’s life far beyond their natural lifespan. But with conscientious care, enrichment, and regular veterinary attention, you may be able to give her a few extra years. Your time together is precious, so savor every minute. Remember, EACH DAY WITH YOUR DOG IS A GIFT.