Texan Jake Perry has broken the Guinness World Record for raising the oldest cat — twice. In 1998, Perry’s cat Grandpa Rex Allen lived to the ripe old age of 34. In 2005, his tabby, Creme Puff, lived to 38, roughly double the average lifespan of an indoor cat.
Perry’s secret? He gave his cats an eye-dropper of red wine each night.
“Could the little dose of resveratrol in the wine have big effects on the cats’ longevity?” ask Rodney Habib and Karen Shaw Becker in “The Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help Your Canine Companion Live Younger, Healthier and Longer” (Harper Wave).
No wonder dog owners might wonder if a little vino could help their pooches live longer, too — after all, they’re willing to spend go to great lengths and spend big in that quest.
In their new book, Habib, a pet influencer, and Becker, a veterinarian, look at the things people can do to add years to pets’ lives. And they’re not all wallet-busters.
The authors don’t advise giving Fido merlot every night. But they do note that resveratrol (derived from Japanese knotweed, not grapes, which can be toxic to dogs) is starting to be used as a supplement for dogs because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, along with neurological benefits.
“Supplements are powerful tools when used properly,” they write, noting that, in addition to resveratrol, they favor supplements such as curcumin, probiotics and milk thistle.
Other advice in the book means going against conventional wisdom — like that dogs should be spayed or neutered as soon as possible.
Studies “indicate that the earlier a puppy is spayed or neutered, the greater likelihood of health problems later in life, from abnormal bone growth and bone cancer to an increased incidence of adverse reaction to vaccines and behavioral challenges like fear and aggression,” the authors write.
Instead, Becker recommends that when sterilizing a pup before puberty, less invasive methods — such as a vasectomy or hysterectomy — be used, as they tend to have fewer negative side effects.
As for diet, the authors echo recent reports about the dangers of commercial kibble, which tends to contain too many carbohydrates and be overprocessed, lacking in nutrients and, potentially, full of additives. The dangers are similar to a person eating fast food every day.
“Studies now show that the more kibble dogs eat, the greater her likelihood to be overweight, or obese, and to show signs of systemic inflammation,” Habib and Becker write. Homemade dog food is ideal, and raw or freeze-dried dog foods also tend to be healthier.
If you can’t afford to feed premium dog food 100 percent of the time, upgrading 25 or 50 percent of the base is a great option, as is regularly topping off meals with fruits, vegetables and oily fish.
And just as intermittent fasting and its supposed benefits have been all the rage in human wellness circles in recent years, it’s a growing trend in doggie world, too.
“Healthy dogs do not need to eat three square meals a day with treats given liberally in between,” the authors write. “A growing number of animal experts recommend fasting healthy dogs (that weigh more than 10 pounds) one day a week” to help with rest and recovery. (Fasting here means withholding food but never water.)
Given that they’re not elite athletes, what the heck are canines recovering from?
“Dogs should get a bare-bones minimum of twenty minutes of sustained heart-thumping exercise at least three times a week,” and ideally more, the pair write. Two of the longest-living pups ever — including an Australian kelpie that was 30 years old when she passed away in 2016 — both lived on farms, where they were enjoyed lots of exercise, fresh food and low stress.
But don’t bother serving that fresh fare in a cheap bowl from the pet store. As part of urging readers to reduce exposure to harmful household and environmental chemicals, Becker and Habib suggest avoiding using plastic food bowls. Likewise, it’s good to hide medicines in almond butter rather than peanut butter (less additives) and wipe pups’ paws to remove harmful chemicals and bacteria after they’ve been outside.
The authors cite a study that looked at Scottish terriers and lawn chemicals. The breed is predisposed to bladder cancer, but dogs in the study who were also exposed to certain lawn chemicals had rates of cancer four to seven times higher than dogs who weren’t.
“Although many dogs are indeed living longer, like people, many dogs are dying prematurely of more chronic disease than ever before,” they write.
Much of the book’s advice dovetails with what doctors are telling humans they themselves should be doing to live longer. “The leash is a two-way street,” the authors write. “As the world of medical research becomes more global, the choices for canine health are as vast as those for human health.”