Sometimes I’ve wondered why dogs have such short lives, and I’m pretty sure it’s out of compassion for humans. Because if we suffer so much because the dog dies after a friendship of ten or twelve years, how about if he lived twice as long? ”This quote from Sir Walter Scott, a great dog lover, sums it up : The longer we are with our four-legged companions, the deeper and more intimate the bond becomes.
Our pets are clearly getting older, the average life expectancy for dogs has increased by 3 years in two decades, and the trend is increasing. For Professor Wilfried Kraft from the I. Medical Veterinary Clinic of the LMU Munich, the reasons for this age boom lie above all in “better, species-appropriate nutrition, in more frequent veterinary visits and in systematic health care through vaccinations”.
The famous Welsh Corgies of the English Queen Mother should not lack that either. Ranger, Queen Mum’s favorite animal, lived for over 15 years and was, in terms of dog years, older than his mistress, who saw the light of day at the turn of the century. The two were practically inseparable, be it at receptions, at the table or even as a foot warmer in the royal four-poster bed. Since Ranger’s death, Minnie, also a Pembroke Welsh Corgie bitch of the noblest descent, has been the queen mother’s closest confidante.
The prominent castle dogs, however, also show the limits of geriatric medicine in animals: although one can confidently assume that they lack neither veterinary care nor a balanced diet, it becomes clear that even their dog’s life cannot be extended indefinitely. However, what exactly is behind the “clock of life”, which processes are responsible for the fact that sooner or later the hour strikes for everyone, whether human or animal, the researchers are not yet entirely in agreement.
What is certain is that chronic diseases in particular increase with age: joint damage, hormonal disorders, kidney damage, cancer – problems that are particularly troublesome for older animals. “In addition to these typical age-related ailments, there are diseases that have grown old with the animal, which it acquired as a young animal, which have not been completely cured and which now lead to problems again,” says Wilfried Kraft.
The best chances to experience long golden years with your pet are therefore those who pay attention to the first signs of illness and – as far as possible – have them treated consistently. But exercise, sport and play also contribute to fitness, balance and thus a high life expectancy – and give owners and animals alike many unforgettable hours full of fun and exuberance.
Children, for example, instinctively deal with dogs in this way – they frolic with them, go on excursions, and have adventures. This will give them a friend for life and the dog a real pack mate. Nothing can shake this tight-knit community so quickly – neither bad grades nor a broken voice or puberty. Even then, Bello remains loyal to us, comforts us with his cold muzzle, and Minka purrs confidently in our ears. Anyone who was able to experience this as a child will find it again in every new pet – and are happy about the common path that lies ahead, regardless of whether it is short or long. Some animals live forever – at least in our hearts. (Text: Dr. med.vet.Thomas Görblich)