Pet Corner: Life is short and pets’ lives are even shorter

Published 11:38 am Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The natural progression of life causes us to begin to realize how precious life is as we grow older. The older we get, the more we tend to appreciate life and regret we didn’t realize it sooner.

I guess it is simply human nature to reminisce about the past and dream about the future. There is a point in our lives when we begin to think about our mortality.

I am sure it is different for everyone depending on their age, life circumstances and state of mind when one begins saying “Life is short.” It is a life realization to understand we are blessed to be here. You rarely hear anyone say, “Pets’ lives are even shorter.”

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Every time you consider health, happiness and the longevity of life, you might want to think one step further realizing pets’ average life span is much shorter than ours. With this in mind, we can deduce their aging process is faster than ours. Essentially, pets’ disease processes progress at a faster pace than human diseases.

One way of looking at pets and their rate of aging is to think their entire life is sped up. Everything happens faster and at an earlier age than in people. For example, puppies and kittens have a full set of baby teeth that fall out and are replaced by their adult teeth by the time they are six months old.

Puppies and kittens, on average, reach puberty at the age of six months.

The age old question is “What do we need to do to live longer?” There have been countless gimmicks and bogus medicines promising to slow the natural aging process. The problem is not one of them has been able to prove they can slow the aging process.

Advances in medical care have been extraordinary with regards to treating and curing diseases that once were devastating. The newest medical research, especially stem cell research, shows promise in allowing people to live longer, but it will take many years to follow the research before making any judgment calls.

With the constant improvements in medical procedures and medicines, people are living longer and longer. Subsequently, dogs and cats are also living longer now than a few years ago. There is no doubt medical advancements are responsible for pets living longer and healthier lives.

One of our dogs, Marlo, is 10 years old, or  70 in dog years. Our children are always asking how much longer will she be here?  The realization is she is on the last part of her life and we always answer with “She is taken care of great so no need to worry.”

Deep down they know the truth; each day is precious with her.  Her facial hair is turning white, and her eyes are getting cloudy. We treasure each moment with her.

On average, dogs and cats live approximately one year to people’s seven years, which means one year gone by for a dog or cat is like seven years gone by for you or me. If your pet goes two years without a checkup by your veterinarian, it is like a person going 14 years without seeing a doctor. A lot of change can occur in a dog or cat in one year.

By putting pets’ aging process into perspective, justifying annual physical exams for pets is not difficult. It is difficult to prove the effects of preventive medicine. If it  works well, the disease never occurs.

It is much easier to see how treatment works whenever a pet physically improves after being treated medically.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is never a good idea to gamble by not keeping your pet current with regards to their preventive care. All pets should have a comprehensive examination and preventive vaccinations at least once a year.

Life is short and your pet’s life is even shorter. So, make sure to see your veterinarian on a regular basis, at least once a year, to ensure your pet lives a long, healthy and happy life.

Dr. Jeff Castle is a veterinarian at Clark County Veterinary Clinic.