Dogs are very popular pets and much loved by those who have them. However, there is one small problem with having a dog as a pet; they usually don’t live long enough. Most dogs have a life span of around 10 to 15 years, and most people accept that as normal. But, did you know that the average dog’s life span in America is decreasing quite alarmingly? In the 1970s it was quite common for a dog to live to 17 years of age. Now, in 2016 that average is down to just 11 years.

There are other alarming statistics on dog health that we should all be paying close attention to. In the US, dog obesity is up by 60% in just five years, and in the UK in the same time span, diabetes in dogs has shot up by a staggering 900%. However, the biggest dog killer is cancer. Today, one in every two dogs can be expected to die from this dreaded disease. These statistics are indeed worrying and depressing, but is there anything we, as pet owners, can do to combat the situation?

In a word, yes, there is indeed something we can do. It’s something very simple and easy to do that won’t cost you anything extra either, and it’s something that could increase your pet’s healthy life span by as much as 50%.

The answer lies in the results of a study conducted by the Broad Institute of Cambridge, Massachusetts. They studied 3,000 Golden Retrievers in a $25 million program, which produced an amazing amount of data. Arguably, the most interesting was the fact that while some 10% of dog cancers are due to genetic factors, 90% of dog cancers are caused by influences and factors that are down to lifestyle and the dog’s environment.

A sedentary lifestyle with little exercise is bad for a dog. Obesity, infections, toxins and stress all take their toll too, but by far the biggest factor contributing to dog cancer is diet. Yes, what you feed your dog has a marked influence on your dog’s health. Processed dog food made by the popular brands isn’t all bad, but if you simply add some fresh, chopped, leafy vegetables to the mix at every meal time, you could literally add years to your pet’s life by dramatically decreasing your pet’s chances of getting cancer.

An Australian Kelpie named Maggie recently died at the age of 30. She had lived her entire life on an Australian farm, and her owner, Brian McLaren, put her long life down to regular exercise and a healthy diet. He said that Maggie followed him around the farm every day, probably walking around six miles a day. She also ate fresh green vegetables that were mixed in with her dog food. She was never given too much food either, so she never got too fat.

There must be something in this diet thing for pets, for Jake Perry of Austin, Texas has had two cats that both have been in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest lived cats. Grandpa Rex Allen lived to an incredible 34 years, while Creme Puff did even better at an amazing 38 years.

When asked how he’d managed to have two cats that had lived for so long, he too said that fresh food was always added to their usual cat food diet. If you love your dog, and I’m sure you do, take heed – give your pet more fresh food and less processed food. You will have them with you for longer if you do!