These days, we treat our dogs like they are pretty much another member of our families. It’s only natural that we would want to extend the lifespan of our loyal companions for as long as possible. Unfortunately, studies show that the average lifespan of dogs has been steadily decreasing over the years.
In 2004, a study from the UK Kennel Association found that dogs were living on average to be about 11.3 years old. Just ten years after that study initially took place, the average lifespan of dogs had decreased by a full year to about 10 years old. Experts state that dogs age about 7 times faster than humans, which is a tough fact for all dog owners to accept. However, you don’t have to let your dog become part of these alarming statistics.
Increasing the lifespan of our furry friends might be as simple as changing a few small variables in their everyday lives. In fact, we already have the blueprint, thanks to a fascinating Ted Talk from Rodney Habib, the founder of the Planet Paws.
After his dog was also diagnosed with cancer, Rodney decided to dive deep into finding ways to increase the lifespans of our pets. Rodney’s findings were truly intriguing and can be applied to your pets to help them live a longer and higher quality life.
We can’t control it all
Unfortunately, we cannot control all aspects of life (because we saw what that did to Thanos), so we have to make peace with the factors that are out of our hands.
The breed of your dog certainly makes a big impact, with scientists even discovering that smaller breed dogs tend to live longer than large dogs. These scientists even concluded that every additional 4.4 lbs of body mass reduce a dog’s life expectancy by one month. This variable is important to think about, but choosing your dog often comes down to an emotional preference. That’s why if you are looking to extend the life of your dog, you should focus on other factors besides breed.
It starts with their bowl
It doesn’t take a PHD degree and 12 years of research to tell you what you put in your body affects your quality of life. If I live off of heavily processed fast food like Super Size Me for my whole life, I can expect a short one.
Similarly, what we feed our dog also has a large impact on their everyday life and on how long they will live.
One thing is for sure, if your dog is overweight, their lifespan will be affected. Just like any living organism, obesity and added weight put your dog at risk for tons of adverse health effects. Research from the University of Liverpool found that overweight dogs are more likely to have shorter lifespans than normal weight dogs. That means feeding your dogs the right stuff can directly affect their quality of life and their overall lifespan. Pet obesity is a real issue, and a lot of it has to do with owners giving their dogs food that is high in calories and carbohydrate levels.
Kibble is Not the Solution
If you take a look at what dogs have been eating historically, you begin to realize that for thousands of years, dogs have been primarily fed meat, bones, and fresh food. These fresh food options provided dogs with the protein, nutrients, and fats they needed to thrive. However, a new norm has been created over the last century that unfortunately trades our dog’s well-being in exchange for our own convenience.
Dry pet food, also known as kibble, is the most common choice owners make for feeding their dogs. Sure, it’s convenient, as you can buy it in bulk and simply pour it into a bowl for your dogs to devour. The important thing to consider before feeding your dog kibble is that it’s shaving precious years off of your beloved dog’s lives.
From Cereal to Kibble
Kibble was created in the 1950s when dog food manufacturers learned they could heat and dry grains, scraps of meat, and grains into bite-sized bits. This was a great way for pet food manufacturers to profit off of the food that was not fit for human consumption. Most successful businesses find a way to take a waste product and turn into revenue, Big Kibble wasn’t shy of this concept.
Did you know that kibble is typically processed multiple times at high temperatures that essentially kills all of the nutrition in the food? Manufacturers also often have to spray their kibble with a “nutrient mix” and flavor enhancers after it has been processed to increase the appeal to pets.
The nutritional makeup of kibble simply doesn’t provide dogs with the amount of nutrition they need to live long. Kibble products typically contain a minimum of 30% carbohydrates and/or starch to bind the ingredients together. Dogs are animals that are meant to live off of a protein heavy meat-based diet so you can imagine what a diet of processed food and high carb intakes does to them over their lifetime.
I remember staring at all the nicely packaged kibble bag at PetSmart reading all the key buzzwords ensuring me that the extremely processed kibble contains all the required nutrients, but in reality loose regulations and low standards have made it easier for claims to mislead consumers. You can think of Big Kibble as the OGs behind clickbait.
The Anatomy of Man’s Best Friend
If we want to get to the bottom of this, we need to understand a little bit about how a dog’s anatomy works. Dogs simply aren’t biologically designed to be able to digest heavy amounts of carbohydrates. They really don’t have a nutritional requirement for grains and their bodies don’t produce the right enzymes to properly digest foods that are heavy in grain content. Heavily processed commercial dog food is filled with additives and chemicals and cooked at extremely high temperatures which results in a loss in nutrition and important enzymes.
If it’s one thing you take away about the anatomy of a pupper, it is their need for moisture. A dog is biologically suited towards absorbing moisture and nutrients directly from their food. Commercial dog food is so heavy in carbohydrates that it dehydrates our dogs and causes them to consume large amounts of water in order to compensate. This in turn forces their kidneys and bodies to work extra hard to distribute the nutrition and hydration that they need to survive. A dog’s stomach is large and has a very short digestive tract. That means that their stomachs are not designed to withstand heavily processed foods with no moisture content.
The #1 Change to Make That Will Extend Your Dog’s Lifespan
Imagine what your own health would be like if you primarily ate processed foods for your entire life. Now take that same thought and apply it to your dogs. It’s evident the #1 change you can make that will extend your dog’s lifespan is switching up their diet.
In 2003, two Belgian doctors gathered doggy data for over 500 domestic dogs over a five year period. They discovered that the dogs that had been fed a high-quality diet of non-commercial food had a life expectancy of over 32 months longer than the dogs that were fed commercial pet food. It is crazy to think one variable, such as diet can potentially impact the lifespan of your furry family member by 2+ years!
Feeding your dogs a fresh food diet can help them live a better quality life and for a longer period of time. A study from Purdue University found that you can reduce the risk of your dog developing cancer by 90% just by adding leafy greens to your dog’s diet three times a week.
It’s not rocket science (even though Big Kibble would like us to think it is). Fresh food provides your furry friends with more nutrition content in the most effective form. As we learned in the TEDx video: How to Build the Forever Dog, the world’s oldest dog, Molly, lived to age 30 in part due to a healthy diet and regular exercise. If you want to maximize your time with your beloved pets, incorporating real fresh foods into their diet is a must. Home cooked diets might seem like a little bit more work for you, but your dogs will benefit immensely from such a simple effort and you will be able to enjoy their companionship for many more years to come.