There is a lot of discussion these days on what you should or shouldn't do, when or how often you should do it, etc in order to keep your pet healthy for a long time. At least a portion of this is based on google, popular opinion, or studies of which the validity is somewhat questionable. But regardless of my opinion on these trends-both the good ones and bad ones, it did get me to think-what does make a dog (or cat) healthy? If you toss aside certain genetic predispositions and, of course luck, are there factors that contribute to overall health across the board?
Now, I see more animals in a day than the average person. Perhaps more than the average veterinarian. And these animals come from all walks of life. And there are some dogs who look or act much older or younger than they really are. So I began to think about what the "healthy" pets, especially the ones who are middle aged or geriatric, had in common. Here is what I came up with. They are all a healthy, lean weight, have a clean, well groomed coat with clear skin, good teeth and/or regular quality dental care, and are free of parasites.
I know, at first glance these seem like things that just make a dog pretty, not necessarily healthy. But when I thought more about it, the important link here is the lack of inflammatory conditions. Obesity, dermatitis, dental disease and parasitism are all common causes of chronic inflammation.
It has been well established that adipocytes (fat cells) have normal function in the lean person or animal but in obese individuals the adipocytes transform to an endocrine organ, promoting inflammation as well as other diseases. Not to mention obesity predisposes to arthritis which is inflammation and degeneration of the joints which leads to pain, inactivity and more weight gain.
The skin is the largest organ of the body and the health of which can often be used to assess the general health of the animal. So keeping it disease free would seem to be of importance. For some pets this just means regular bathing and grooming. For pets with allergic or endocrine conditions or in parasite endemic areas more effort must be taken to achieve skin health.
Dental disease can certainly cause pain and inflammation in the mouth But also as the animal chews that bacteria enters the bloodstream it can end up places like the heart or kidneys and now all of a sudden you have disease and inflammation in those organs as well.
And parasites, well those are kind of a no-brainer. They tend to cause to inflammation and damage in whatever their target organ is and sometimes others as well.
Now, if you want to google something, here is your chance. Try "inflammation and aging" or "inflammation and cancer" and you will see this is a hot topic in human medicine these days. There are no shortage of links to studies and theories on this concept. So apparently I wasn't the only one with this hypothesis which I think gives some weight to what I have written. So go forth, reduce inflammation, and live forever!