Dogs and Life Span: Help Your Dog Live Longer

Marianne Wait
WebMD Pet Health Feature

Reviewed By Amy Flowers, DVM

If you’re like many dog parents, your pooch is part of your family and may even be your best friend. To help him live the longest life possible, bone up on this advice.

Put Your Dog on a Diet

“Keeping dogs trim is the one thing we have great evidence for that leads to an increased life span,” says Deborah E. Linder, DVM. She's head of the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals.

  • Step 1: Rethink what a healthy-weight dog looks like.

“We watch commercials and the fat, roly-poly puppies are the cute ones,” says Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM, PhD, of Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine. But you should be able to feel your dog’s ribs easily.

Your vet can tell you your dog’s body condition. About half of dogs are far above their ideal weight, Wakshlag says.

  • Step 2: Find out how many calories he really needs.

Start a journal and log everything that passes your pooch’s snout, including treats. Extra calories show up in places like rawhides, which can pack 75 to 100 calories. That can add up, Linder says.

Your vet can help you figure out how many calories your dog is getting per day -- and how many he should be getting.

  • Step 3: Figure out a feeding plan.

Switching to the “healthy weight” version of his regular dog food may seem like a good idea, but it may not be enough. The words "healthy weight" aren't regulated. So, one brand's "healthy weight" formula may have more calories than another brand's regular version. On the other hand, there are limits on the amount of fat and calories food labeled “light” can have. So it may be a better choice. Also, talk to your vet before you follow the serving instructions on the bag. “You could be feeding up to twice what your pet actually needs,” Linder says.

Feel guilty about feeding Fido less? Chew on this: A landmark study showed that Labs fed 25% less food than their counterparts lived almost 2 years longer. And if that doesn’t convince you, this might: Thinner dogs may have more fun. In one small study, obese dogs who lost weight scored higher in happiness and vitality measures than ones who stayed stout.