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13 Risk factors for Premature Death in Dogs

Everyone would love to have their dog live a long healthy life. However, many dogs are taken away from us far too soon. Sometimes it is due to preventable causes, but other times it's the result of a preventable problem.

Taking care of your dog's life is a lot like taking care of your own. There are genetic factors, but there are things in the environment that change life expectancy as well. There are several things we can do to shorten our life. For example, if you were to ask our physicians about risk factors for early human death some would be drug abuse, overuse of alcohol, obesity, low/no exercise, and driving without a seatbelt just to name a few.

Have you ever thought about what the risk factors would be for dogs?

I'd like to share some thoughts about risk factors for a short life in dogs.

1. No ID tag: Dogs without ID tags may be lost and never reunited with their owners.

2. No Microchip: Lost dogs with microchips get a little extra care should they ever run away and get hurt. They will be stabilized and treated by veterinarians and given extra time for their owners to find them.

3. Dogs Allowed to Roam : I believe dogs with fenced in yards live longer. Dogs allowed to roam and not on a leash are much more likely to die form being hit by a car, poisoned, or shot and suffer other injuries.

4. Secondhand Smoke: Risk of lung problems and cancer is higher in dogs routinely exposed to second hand smoke.

5. No Training : Dogs without training are much more likely to get in to trouble. By not knowing when to "come", "leave it" and "stay" can be life changing. I've seen a dog come when called rather than chase another dog into the street...knowing that trick saved his life. I've also seen dogs that "leave it" when they picked up a toxin - again, it saved their life.

6. Access to Trash: Dogs that are allowed access to trash can get into things that can cause life-threatening conditions. Think of everything that you throw into the garbage. What would happen if your dog ate it?

7. Feeding Elevated : There are risk factors that suggest that elevated feeding can enhance the risk for a life-threatening disease called "Bloat".

8. Feeding Table Scraps: Dogs fed table scraps and human foods generally don't have balanced diets and have a higher incidence of nutritional problems and diseases such as pancreatitis.

9. No Vaccines: Dogs not given vaccines are at risk for multiple preventable diseases such as parvovirus, leptosprirosis, kennel cough, distemper and more.

10. No heartworm prevention : Heartworm disease is a very common disease which can be prevented by giving routine monthly medication. It is often lethal if left untreated.

11. Not Being Spayed or Neutered: Dogs that are not spayed are at higher risk for breast cancer as well as a potentially fatal uterine infection called pyometra. Unaltered males are more likely to fight and escape the house to roam - allowing them the opportunity to get hit by a car or shot.

12. No Check-ups: Dogs without routine check-ups can have problems that can be preventable. Early diagnosis can cure many diseases.

13. No Emergency Plan : Owner that don't have any plan or resources to pay for health problems is a common cause of early death. I've seen very treatable problems lead to euthanasia because of lack of financial resources to treat those problems. Problems as simple as a broken leg or infection ended very sadly.

So what can you do? Vaccinate, spay and neuter your dog, microchip and keep him or her on monthly flea and heartworm prevention medications. Keep a collar and ID tag on your dog and keep him or her on a leash or in a fenced in yard. Keep your trash cans covered and feed a high quality food. Train your dog basic commands and see your vet for routine check-ups.

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