World’s oldest dog turns 30

Bobi, a Rafeiro do Alentejo, was born on his family’s farm in Conqueiros, Portugal, on May 11, 1992. Guinness World Records says he’s not only the oldest dog but also the oldest to have ever lived. PICTURE: Guinness World Records

Bobi, a Rafeiro do Alentejo, was born on his family’s farm in Conqueiros, Portugal, on May 11, 1992. Guinness World Records says he’s not only the oldest dog but also the oldest to have ever lived. PICTURE: Guinness World Records

Published Feb 11, 2023

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Andrea Salcedo

Walk, eat, play, sleep. Repeat.

That’s how Bobi, recently deemed the world’s oldest living dog by Guinness World Records, who Guinness says is the oldest ever recorded, spent much of his 30 years on his family’s farm in the village of Conqueiros, Portugal.

Unlike the owner of the Rafeiro do Alentejo, the rest of the world hasn’t had the chance to watch their furry friend age three decades with them.

“That really is an unusual thing,” said Erik Olstad, an assistant professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

“Owners will always ask me: ‘How can I make my dog live the longest life that they can?’ That’s a loaded question because there are so many variants that go into life expectancy.”

A lot of it was genetics. Life expectancy and predisposition for diseases varied by breed, Olstad said.

But there were things dog owners could do to give their pets the opportunity to live a long and happy life, said vets.

“Dogs are very much like people,” said Natasha Olby, a veterinary professor at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “They need healthy diets, exercise, community, engagement and regular health care.”

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial. Dog owners should strive to give them quality dog food and avoid overfeeding because, as they age, the extra weight will make it much harder to treat mobility conditions such as arthritis or ruptured ligaments.

“If I see dogs entering senior years overweight, I can always bet money that we are going to have some serious mobility conversations moving on,” Olstad said.

Preventive care is a must. Keep their vaccinations up to date, take them to the dentist and visit the vet once or twice a year for a regular check-up.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to raise a senior dog, you should not conclude that certain behaviours or conditions are just ailments that come with age, said Nicole Ehrhart, director of the Columbine Health Systems Centre for Healthy Aging at Colorado State University.

“One thing we should not assume as a pet slows down is, ‘Well, it’s just getting old’,” Ehrhart said. “If you are seeing your dog slowing down, that should be a warning flag for you to seek veterinary assessment.”

Physical and mental exercise are also key. Take your dog on regular walks and runs that stretch out as long as your dog’s breed and age allow.

The 5km run that works well for your 1-year-old border collie will not be the same workout your bulldog with arthritis will require. In that case, experts said, you are better off with giving your dog 15-minute walks four times a day, for example. For mental stimulation, hide food and treats inside their toys.

As much as one wants their dog to live a long life like Bobi, experts said the focus should be on giving pets the most quality of life possible. Life expectancy is not a contract, said Olstad.

“My job as a vet is not to get your dog to live as long as possible if it compromises their quality of life,” Olstad said. “Their happiness is much more important to me than the longevity.

“Try to not focus on that life expectancy, and look at your dog as an individual. I have some (clients) who say, ‘Hey, I heard that someone’s great Dane lived to 15!’ (great Danes live an average of eight to 10 years.) That can be a really tough thing if your expectations aren’t managed.” - The Washington Post

The Independent on Saturday

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