Health lessons we should take from man’s best friend

Black labI’ve loved animals for as long as I can remember. I spent much of my time in college paying for tuition by working at an animal hospital. I did a variety of different tasks from cleaning up after them, helping the vets to treat them, and sometimes just spending quality time loving them while their parents were on vacation. We spend a lot of time and money pampering our pets. In fact, according to AVMA’s U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, about 67 percent of dog owners say they view their canine as part of the family. Our dogs give back to us as evidenced by emerging research, which has told us that pets may help to lower our blood pressure, help immune function, reduce stress, and increase exercise. One study even suggests that dog owners walk 19 more minutes per week, than non-dog owners do.

It seems our dogs want to inspire us to stay healthy! If dogs could talk, here are a few tips I think they would want us to know:

1.) Age is just a number. I currently have a 12-year-old black lab. From what I have read, this means she is about 84 years old in human years, but she doesn’t let that slow her down. Despite the fact that her muzzle is now, nearly, entirely gray, she doesn’t take offense to people pointing out that she is getting older. She has no idea of how long she is “supposed” to live and just does the things she enjoys, “walk, sniff, eat, sleep, and repeat!”

2.) Don’t over think exercise. From most dogs’ perspectives, if you even mention “go for a…” or “w-a-l-k”, they are in, 100 percent and probably already waiting for you at the front door. They aren’t going to think about the other things they thought they were going to do with that time, they just go for it. You can make the time for exercise! You will be so happy you did after. Wag, wag, and wag!

3.) Remember exercise can be fun. It always makes me smirk when I’m out for a run, to see someone running with their dog. Generally, the dog has a big grin on his face and tongue hanging way out as if to say, “this is the best time, ever!” Canine tip here, is to tell yourself you are having a great time and you might actually find you are! Exercise is meant to be enjoyable and I can’t think of a better demonstration of that than watching a dog run on the beach, go for a swim, or chase his tail, a squirrel, or a ball!

4.) Don’t skip meals! In order to think clearly, stimulate our metabolisms, regulate our blood sugars, and have the energy to do our daily tasks, it is vital to ensure we give our bodies the nutrients it needs to get us through the day. I could swear my dog can tell time by her ability to precisely know her feeding times. She will wake up out of a deep sleep to stare me down as if to say, “Shouldn’t you be feeding me now?” Eating every 4-5 hours (or more often if you are very active) is key to fueling the human body.

5.) Go to the doctor (there may be treats there). Okay, so this one may be a bit of a stretch. Just like their human buddies, dogs may not choose the vet/doctor as their preference for their favorite destination, but generally it isn’t so bad once you get there. Keeping that appointment once or twice per year, for some good preventative medicine, can certainly help keep things running like they should.

How does your dog inspire you to be healthy?

Photo credit: Jeff Futo

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