When you have a service or emotional support animal in your life you know a bond that many other emotional support animal owners may only dream of. The service dog is there to comfort you and often times are in tune with your emotions and physical status. These service dogs are trained from puppyhood to be there just for someone like you. They often will protect you from danger and be the ultimate shoulder to cry on when it feels like the world around you is coming apart just a little more than normal. So, it's no surprise that you'd want your service animal to be healthy if possible.
As with anything, keeping your service dog alive for longer is going to require a bit of research on your end. For starters, just what breed is your service dog? Each different breed of service dog requires different needs to reach their peak health daily. Just like humans, service dogs have their own individual needs that change based on a bunch of surrounding factors in their life. By learning the breed of your service dog, we can begin to pinpoint a starting point for their particular needs, and we can get a better grasp on what health conditions may be most likely to pop up in their lifetime.
We also are going to want to figure in the age of the service dog, as well as their current daily activity levels. Each service dog has a different personality, even within its own breed standards. To figure this out it will take less breed research and more of paying attention to your service dog's individual habits. Try to record the amount of time your service dog is up and moving around compared to how much they are laying around or sleeping. Also, be sure to get their current weight, as well as write down how much food they seem to eat during the day.
Lastly, make note of what you do with your service dog. How much do you guys go out or do you give your service dog frequently treats throughout the week? By taking about a week or two to fully record your routine with your service dog and their habits, we will have a clear picture to start with. During this also consult your vet to see if the patterns you have noticed seem to line up with your service dog's needs. Your vet can give you the best idea of what your emotional support animal may be lacking or needing to cut back on.
Keeping Them Nutritionally Sound
The diet of each service dog is going to vary greatly from individual to individual. Still, there are quite a few tips we can offer you to help you extend the life of your service dog through base nutritional knowledge. We will also be able to properly tell you some things you may not know about your canine companions' dietary needs, such as the fact that service dogs are not full-on carnivores like many people believe. We can also give you a pretty good idea of just why table food is such a bad idea for any emotional support animal, especially a service dog.
First things first, dogs are not full carnivores. In fact, you may be surprised to know their mortal enemy the cat is actually more of a carnivore than a dog could ever hope to be. This is because over time a dog's intestinal tract has grown longer to be able to better digest things like grains or vegetables depending on what food was available to them. This was most likely due to dogs adjusting to being domesticated creatures over such a long period of times. Thanks to their domestication their bodies have changed some of their nutritional needs from that of their wild counterparts to better help them survive in a human filled environment.
This means that while your service dog could use some vitamins from a few veggies mixed in with their food, they are not able to be vegetarian. If your service dog's food doesn't mostly seem to be meat, then you are going to want to change their brand. In order to check this pay attention to the first three ingredients on the back of your bag of service dog food. If they aren't meat related, then you may just be better off with going to a more expensive brand that offers a more protein driven ingredient list. Many brands have come out in recent years to support better emotional support animal health. Of these brands, a lot of them are now even affordable for lower-income families due to their large market success.
Dietary requirements will also change depending on your service dog's stage in life. This is because much like us, dogs will have changing nutritional needs throughout different parts of their life. Older service dogs may need more calcium in their food if their bones have begun to weaken. Likewise, when a service dog is younger you may need to give them a food containing higher calories to support healthy growth. Some breeds may even have special mixes available to them if they have strange requirements, and you can get yourself to an emotional support animal specialty store.
Hydration is really the last thing you're going to need to worry about in the nutrition department. You should always have water available for your service dog and frequently take hydration breaks when on the go. While your dog may not seem like it, they can work up quite a thirst throughout the day. Since service dogs are also more patient creatures, they may not always let you know how thirsty they are unless they are desperate. Simply keep access to a clean source of water available for your service dog as much as possible to meet this need.
Activity is Key
While you may have nutritional needs down, this next part of service dog health lessons will require a lot more effort from you. To truly make sure your service dog is staying as fit as possible, they are going to need a lot of activity in their lives. Even for low energy breeds your going to find that a daily outing may just be needed to properly keep your service dog at a healthy weight and keep their muscles from growing weak over time. In truth, a service dog that just lays around all day is likely to develop a lot of physical, as well as, a lot of mental problems like depression. These can be detrimental to the long-term health of your emotional support animal.
This is where knowing the breed of your service dog is going to be a huge part of figuring things out. If we have a breed to start with then we can tell if they were originally bred to be a working-class service dog or not. Working class breeds need a lot of time to run around each day in order to properly balance their high metabolism and keep a healthy weight. This is because these breeds were originally bred to work all day doing thing such as corralling sheep. Some service dogs may even develop problems resting well if not properly exercised due to their high amounts of unspent exercise throughout the day.
One good way to keep your service dog active is to cycle in new toys. By introducing new toys to the environment, you can keep their interest peaked you encourage play. The more your service dog is encouraged to play inside, the more you can take a break from extra-long walks. If possible, you should consider getting a playmate for your service dog. Another dog can promote play in a way we could never hope to with our dogs. If another dog isn't possible, then trips to the local dog park can make a great bi-weekly workout for your pet!
Lastly, make sure your dog is going out for at least 30 minutes each day or what their breed requires. If you don't take your dog out for proper exercise each day, then health problems can quickly rise in the future. Sedentary lifestyles are not good for most any creature on earth including your dog. On the other hand, if you must take your dog out more a lot, be sure to allocate the proper time to rest each day.
Keeping The Veterinarian Happy
While keeping your veterinarian happy can seem like quite the daunting task, fear not! The truth is that a lot of people skip out on a lot of the health needs of their pets or may even put them off for longer without realizing the dangers it can pose to their dog's health needs. While we can't speak for any special cases of dog health, there are a few things that you can do to extend the life of your pet while making your veterinarian proud as well.
Keeping your service dog on a schedule may be a little troublesome. However, when it comes to properly getting your dog checked up, having a good schedule is a huge help to stop these health problems early on. If you can keep a good relationship with your vet and take your dog in regularly for check-ups, then it can end up making most health problems go away in their earlier stages. The vet can catch the signs of things that may be affecting your dog's health with a regular check-up, and by just doing things like simple diet changes they can prevent bigger problems that would come up later on.
Another great way to keep your vet smiling is with flea, tick, and heartworm medicine. Always make sure your dog is up to date on their worm medicine no matter the time of year. The worms don't just go away with cold weather, and are easily catchable during all times of the year. While this may be rarer for pests such as fleas. If you notice the weather starting to warm, be sure to immediately start your flea treatments if you have decided to forgo them in colder months. Many owners can avoid a bunch of transfer diseases just by making sure their dog is properly protected year round from pests that would love a taste of their blood.
Another much-overlooked part of your pet's health, is their mental status. Your emotional support animal is going to deal with much more than just a normal dog. Thanks to this you are going to need to make sure they have proper time to unwind throughout the day. If your dog seems too stressed or to be going slower each day, then consider taking a break from going out if possible. Also, make sure to properly show your appreciation to your dog through spending downtime with them as well. The less stress your dog feels, the better their heart and brain will do throughout the years.
Finally, be sure to stay with the same vet, if possible, throughout your dog's life. By keeping the same vet you are guaranteeing that your dog can get some of the best care. That vet will know the ends and outs of your dog's medical history. This means that your vet will be able to more correctly diagnose your dog or notice any differences in their labs or blood work more quickly.
Keep Them Close
By mixing all of this together you can help your pet live a longer life. Service Dogs may need more care than some other pets due to the amount of stress we put on them. By providing them with great medical care and nutritional requirements though, we can make them have much longer lives. Never skimp when you have the choice of buying your dog better food or medication. With each dollar you are willing to put into your dog, you are a step closer to giving them the longest life possible.