We live longer because of pets, but do pets live longer because of us?

Society today is complex, filled with stress and the race for the perfect drug to deal with this stress is on. As neuroscientists study the chemistry of the brain for the recipe for the chemical soup that is most calming they have realized two things. One; the calmest brain is that of a child nursing the breast and two; the same neurochemistry can be recreated by petting your dog. In a society where the number one drug prescribed is for stress and anxiety followed by antacids and then blood pressure and cardiovascular disease medications we have a fun, furry solution right at our side. Any one of these medications cost over $1,000 per year to prescribe while the average dog only costs about $500 to feed and care for.

Humans have been pet owners for 12,000 years and now over two thirds of human families own pets. According to the NIH, humans benefit from pet ownership in many categories including, mental health, cardiovascular health, longevity, and quality of life. Now how can we repay our debt to our pets? We live longer because of pets, but do pets live longer because of us? Are we doing everything we can to prevent pet disease, to enrich our pet’s lives to make our pets liver longer? Unfortunately the answer to this question is no. Even though pets cannot speak, even though nature causes them to hide their signs of disease and even though they age faster than humans we still pretty much let them fend for them selves when it comes to preventing the most common causes of pet death. Cancer is the number one cause of pet death followed closely by kidney and heart disease. Cancer is most often cured by surgery than any other methodology and the number one factor in determining the success of this surgery is early detection. Early detection depends on a combined approach that uses physical examinations every six months, routine blood screens, urine tests, and x-rays, ultrasound or MRI as well as specific blood tests for cancer. Golden retrievers are now the number one breed with cancer and all Golden and Labrador retrievers should have the blood test for leukemia as this is a common hereditary disease in these and other breeds. The “If it isn’t broke; don’t fix it” method of pet care is a recipe for disaster when it comes to cancer, heart or kidney disease. Heart and kidney disease can be detected early as well with proper diligence and guidance of a proactive preventative minded veterinarian.

Regardless of the breed, there are four quadrants to the preventative care of your pet. The first quadrant includes physical examinations done every six months (three dog years) and vaccinations. The second quadrant are preventative diagnostics that includes the blood, and urine and fecal tests for parasites, heart, kidney disease, heartworms and cancer, described above in addition to glaucoma screening, screening for dry eye and hemophilia tendencies that are more common than you would suspect in certain breeds. The third quadrant of preventative pet care includes preventative actions such as dental care, heartworm and flea prevention and proper grooming procedures. Finally the fourth quadrant includes those things that affect the quality and quantity of your pet’s life. They include spay and neuter, behavioral issues, training, proper feeding and pet food. Did you know the most common reason for pet death is euthanasia because of behavioral problems that are largely preventable?

Considering all the benefits we find in pet ownership, we should pay our pets back with the best of care including the best of proactive, preventative care that can extend the longevity of our pets.