Brought to you by HIF Pet Insurance
Having a particular interest in human psychology and how the relationships between people and animals evolve, I am constantly engaged by the findings research makes on how pets help us feel younger, and live longer. Animals have a unique ability to improve our mental health through loyal companionship and a sense of purpose. Additionally, they reduce our blood pressure long term, encourage us to be more active, can even slow our heart rate and boost our immunity. What an extraordinary gift a pet gives to every human life it touches. But, are we reciprocating as much as we could?
I am sure you will agree that our pets don’t live long enough. I often tell people to make the most of every day they have with their pet, because one day, too soon, they won’t be there. It is often too difficult to bear, the thought of losing our pets and so it got me to thinking; what can we do to give them the happiest, healthiest and longest life possible? What can we give back? Actually, it’s pretty simple. Everything our pets do to help us live longer, we can offer right back to them.
Here are my top tips for helping your older pet feel young again… even a little younger means, they’ll live a little longer and that’s what I imagine we all want!
For older animals, physical abilities change. Low impact exercise is a great option and easy to provide for pets, particularly dogs. Swimming and wading in water is often useful for strength and resistance training. Longer walks rather than running is also a preferred option as is exercise during a time of the day that is the most appropriate temperature.
Many older dogs can still get exercise inside the home or the backyard, through fun and quick games. Most pets love to think and feel purposeful, just as we do. In fact, the more focused you are on positive daily activities, the better your mental health. The same goes for our furry and feathered friends. Two of my favourite games are hide n seek and search and rescue.
- Search and rescue - This game involves hiding a favourite toy, or even an item that is conditioned to the game then allowing your dog to find it and bring it back for a reward.
- Hide n seek - This game involves hiding food. You can be strategic by placing it in a treat dispenser, or you can scatter it in places where they need to use their nose to find it. This works best with dogs, but all animals love to forage and find food. Use this natural explorative motivation to your advantage.
If your dog wants to be inside with you, allow them to be. The harsh climates over night in particular can reduce the life expectancy as the body has to work overtime to maintain a constant temperature. I have a doggy door for my pets, which allows them to head in and out as they need.
Regular health checks
Health checks are essential for pets as they age. From their teeth to their… other end, the body can slow down and so a quick investigation can pick up something small, preventing it from getting worse. Ensure your pet is up to date with their vaccinations, tick, worm and flea treatment too!
Playtime makes us all feel younger. Having fun, engaging and cooperating with each other improves the chemistry of the brain. Mental health is so incredibly important for all of us including our pets. Pets can suffer from poor mental health, which can ultimately affect their longevity. There are interesting links between mental and physiological health for humans, of which I have no doubt are mirrored in our pets too.
Avoid over feeding.
Obesity is a common contributor to reducing the life expectancy of all species. Links to heart disease, cancer, arthritis and diabetes highlight the importance of maintaining an optimal weight for your pet. Believe me, I know how hard it is to say “No
“ to those dreamy eyes, but remember you are adding to the likelihood that they will suffer from a weight related disease.
Lastly, enjoy every moment you can together. Chester is almost 9 years old and Alma probably older than that. Whilst I invest everything I can into ensuring they live long and fulfilled lives, the greyed muzzles and frequented snoozing are reminders that I don’t have a moment to waste. Be mindful, enjoy the moment and be grateful for having the opportunity to improve the life of an animal just as much as they have improved yours.