Preventative medicine is key for the long-term health of your dog. Here are 9 steps you can take to help your pets live long and healthy lives.

1. Feed Well-Balanced, Good-Quality Food

Good nutrition contributes to healthy skin, strong bones and ligaments, and optimum health and longevity. It allows your dog to maximize nutrients while eating less, so your wallet benefits too.

2. Limit Snacks

Most pre-packaged dog snacks are not nutritionally complete and can unbalance a balanced diet. Limit treats to less than 10 percent of your dog’s daily caloric intake so he/she doesn’t gain weight.

3. Keep Your Canine Fit and Trim

This is a biggie! Exercise goes hand in hand with good nutrition. Studies indicate that keeping your dog at the right weight can increase his lifespan by nearly two years. Overweight dogs are subject to diabetes, heart and respiratory problems, arthritis, increased surgical risk, decreased immune function and increased damage to joints, bones, and ligaments.

4. Spay or Neuter Your Dog

Altering your dog decreases unwanted pregnancies in females and prostate issues in male dogs. Neutering usually decreases a male’s tendency to roam, which, in turn, decreases the chances he will ransack trash cans—eating potentially harmful stuff such as rotting garbage, poisons, animal carcasses, and so forth. If your dog isn’t roaming, he won’t fight with other dogs, get lost, or, heaven forbid, get hit by a car. For females, spaying at an early age eliminates the possibility of breast cancer, along with numerous reproductive diseases. Plus, you’ll be doing your part to help prevent pet overpopulation!

5. Keep Parasite Prevention and Vaccines Current

Internal and external parasites, such as fleas, ticks, and heartworms, and diseases like canine parvovirus, distemper, and hepatitis can wreak havoc with your pet’s health. When left untreated, many diseases require intensive hospitalization treatment, which is a great deal more expensive than the cost of flea medication or vaccinations.

6. Brush Your Dog’s Teeth Daily

Preventative care includes keeping your dog’s teeth and gums clean and healthy. Daily brushing prevents tartar build up, which is the primary cause of periodontal disease—a progressive disease that can, in advanced cases, lead to decayed gums, infection, and liver, kidney and heart damage. The American Veterinary Dental Society estimates more than 80 percent of dogs develop gum disease by 3 years of age. Don’t forget yearly professional dental cleanings for your dog. This helps to reduce or eliminate the need for advanced periodontal treatment.

7. Schedule (and Keep!) Regular Veterinary Checkups

Wellness exams are the cornerstone of preventative care. Preventative care—including dental cleaning, blood work, urinalysis, etc.,—helps to detect diseases early on when they are likely to be easily treatable—thereby extending the quality of life before more expensive procedures become necessary.

8. Dog-Proof Your Home and Yard

Take a few minutes to store all medications and toxic products, such as herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, etc., as well as poisonous plants in a safe place. Keep cell phones, remote control, slippers, marbles, paper clips, thumb tacks, and so forth out of reach. Secure all fences and gates to be sure your dog can’t escape and be injured by a car or attacked by other animals.

9. Consider Pet Insurance

Pet insurance can act as a safeguard against the cost of unexpected illnesses and accidents.