What can I do to help my dog or cat live a longer life?

Q&A with Dr. Erika Sullivan, Because Animal’s Chief Veterinary Officer.

The animals in our lives are often our closest companions, what things can we do to help them live longer lives?

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Regular health exams every six months wherein a vet will assess the health of the animal, check their hearts, check that they have a healthy body weight, that their hair coat is good, teeth are doing well and look at genetic and lifestyle factors. And, they will be able to pick up on early signs of declining health before they become more advanced. Regular visits are one way to ensure an animal is healthy and it also gives you an opportunity to ask questions to the vet that you might not if you weren’t seeing them regularly. Make the commitment to regular assessments.

Regular blood tests are really important, especially for middle-aged and elderly animals. Blood tests are a great way to detect the beginning of disease process where symptoms may not yet have appeared externally (so-called latent symptoms). Should abnormalities be picked up at this stage, often the disease state can be amended or delayed by treatments like diet, supplements, and treatment modalities or lifestyle changes alone. A wellness blood test is also a good baseline should your pet later develop disease to allow the veterinarian to track its rate of progress.

And, of course, a balanced diet is important as well as creating a healthy lifestyle for that specific animal. For example, if you have an older dog, a small breed that doesn’t like other dogs and has a heart condition, going to the dog park everyday isn’t going to be a good choice for that dog.

But if you have a one-year-old Weimaraner with boundless energy, keeping that dog healthy means doing things to support his needs such as employing a dog walker during the day.

So many people don’t take these specific lifestyle issues into account. For example, I don’t have a dog because I work 11 hour shifts and sometimes go out for dinner after work. I don’t have the lifestyle to responsibly have a dog. You have to ask yourself why you want a pet - is it for them or for us?


Dr. Erika, also known as The Globetrotting Veterinarian, graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College, where she led a successful campaign to end the euthanasia of animals used in surgical training. Erika makes routine visits to Thailand where she treats disabled elephants; leads a yearly spay-neuter clinic in India; and is a PADI Open Water Scuba Diving Instructor, which allows her to better promote the protection of marine life. She currently lives in Adelaide, Australia, where she works at a vet clinic that sees tropical birds as some of her patients, a few of which she brings home!