She drools, and she’s getting old. Our English Mastiff is eight. As with any large breed, we are well aware of the ticking clock announcing the short lifespan of big dogs. My wife, kids and I try to ignore it, but it’s ever-present with every painful step we watch Ruby take.
Admittedly as I think of Ruby or Henrietta before her, I question the wisdom of a big dog with a life expectancy of less than 10 years. According to pets.webmd.com, only 13% of giant breeds have a life expectancy that exceeds 10 years.
When I write that “I question the wisdom,” what I really mean is can I handle the loss when this big, lovable, tongue-too-big-for-her-mouth, drooling mass passes on? Even with four kids, at 6’3″ and 225 lbs I am by far the biggest baby in the house when it comes to loosing a pet. Yet, I’ll still insist we commit again with an eye on how we extend the next Ruby’s life and improve her quality of life for the few years we have left with her.
There are several methods for managing hip, leg, and other problems that come with a large dog. Chief among them is to start early by considering your dog’s future adult health even at puppyhood. According to Dr. Kim Gostyla, DVM, a veterinarian in Arnold, MD, There are many responsibilities to consider with keeping your large breed healthy.
- Maintain Weight
- Provide the Correct Diet
- Maintain Dental Health
“The biggest concern we see is obesity in dogs, especially in large breeds. It’s true in all breeds and especially in large breeds that don’t carry the weight well and can have a significant impact on their hips and joints later in life,” says Dr. Gostyla. “I see obese patients everyday. Many of their caretakers see a funny, fat, little puppy. I see a dog with future health problems.”
Getting the diet correct early will help reduce future problems.
Provide the Correct Diet
A correct diet is critical in the puppy stage and changes throughout their life. With respect to the many aspects to “life-stage nutrition,” providing the proper calcium:phosphorous ratio in your giant’s food can play a significant role in lessening the chances of developmental orthopedic disease (DOD) to which large breeds are predisposed, says Dr. Gostyla.
Typically, that ratio shouldn’t exceed 1.5:1 for larger and giant breeds, according to the Pocket Companion to Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition; Mark Morris Institute 2002.
Natural and raw food diets have increased significantly in popularity and can certainly provide proper nutrition. Consult with your veterinarian to ensure you’re providing the correct balance of raw foods, not just excessive proteins.
Maintain Dental Health
“Proper dental health, especially in large breeds, can influence the rest of the body,” says Dr. Gostyla. Dental health in dogs can and is so often ignored. When inflamed gums and tooth decay go untreated, that inflammation can affect inflammation in hips and joints in Mastiffs and other giant breeds, according to Dr. Gostyla.
Early planning and consistent care for your gentle giant starting from puppyhood, can reduce the overall fatigue on your dog’s aging body. This constant awareness of a healthy weight, a proper diet, and good dental care can add years to your pet’s life and significantly improve their quality of life.
Even with the threat of a short lifespan, it is difficult to resist the gentle, sweet, and unconditionally loving nature that Ruby brings to our home. Head at dinner table level, foot-crushing weight under the coffee table, or 200 lbs of furry mass leaning in for hug. That is the big reward.