There are many things to consider before you adopt a senior pet, but the beauty and joy of giving a home to an older animal is immeasurable. However, before embarking on your adoption journey, it’s important to learn about how dogs and cats age, the pros and cons of adopting older animals, and the best way to care for them.
At what age is an animal considered a senior pet?
The senior designation for animals differs between species. For canines, their senior years are the last quarter of their life based on individual breeds’ life expectancies. For felines, the senior life stage is from 11 years old onward (cats 15 years and older are considered “super seniors”).
Much like humans, senior pets tend to sleep more and eat less. They’re generally less active and more susceptible to temperature changes. They may be more anxious and less equipped to handle stress. It’s important to keep this in mind before adopting. Learning ways to manage and reduce stress for your pet can help make their life with you more enjoyable.
Adopting an older dog pros and cons
The benefits of adopting a senior dog are countless, but the cons shouldn’t be taken lightly. Each animal is different, but below are some generalizations that should help guide you in your decision-making process.
- Loyal, loving and grateful
- Calmer and wiser
- Established personalities, so fewer surprises
- Easier to train
- Mental and physical abilities are fully developed
- Longer attention spans
- Older dogs are already housebroken
- Contrary to popular belief, older dogs can learn “new tricks”
- Less active (and less likely to destroy your house!)
- Require less supervision
- May have issues related to previous abuse or neglect
- May require retraining to break bad habits
- Fewer cute, playful moments
- Health issues like arthritis, diabetes, dementia, etc.
Tips for senior pet care
Caring for senior animals requires a different approach than caring for puppies or kittens. Bringing a rescue dog home can be challenging, particularly if they’ve spent time in a shelter, lived as a stray, or been abused or neglected. They’ll need time to adjust to living in a safe, loving environment.
Create a safe and comfortable space
Your new pet should have a place like a crate or small room where they can escape when they feel overwhelmed. In addition to their safe space, provide them with a comfortable bed for sleeping — aging canine and feline bodies can ache just like aging human bodies!
Consider their mobility
Install ramps or stairs for easy access if needed. For cats, consider adjusting the height of their litter box if mobility is an issue. Continue prioritizing exercise, but in an age- and mobility-appropriate way. Spending time together will be key, especially since playtime and training exercises help keep their brains sharp.
Protect them from weather extremes
In deference to their advanced age, older pets shouldn’t be made to live outside year-round. When it’s hot, keep your dog safe in the heat. Older dogs and cats can quickly dehydrate and overheat. The same goes for cold weather. Keep them warm with a sweater and blankets when it gets chilly.
Get regular vet care
Frequent checkups with your veterinarian are integral to keeping your pet healthy — every six months is a good guideline but discuss it with your vet. Pay attention to behavioral alterations like changes in their water consumption, appetite, and bathroom habits. Feed them healthy foods and an age-appropriate diet, again, in consultation with your vet.
Learn more about healthy eating habits for pets.
Keep them groomed
As animals age, their hygiene may suffer. Brushing their fur/hair is important, especially with cats, who may struggle to groom themselves as they age. It also provides much-needed tactile shows of affection! Good oral hygiene is important for preventing heart and kidney issues. As their exercise and play habits change, you may need to trim their claws (especially with cats).
Secure them in the car
Driving with pets in the car can be dangerous for any age pet. If you plan to take your senior dog or cat in the car regularly, invest in a crash-tested pet carrier, crate, or harness. Letting your pet ride loose in the car is a danger to both of you.
Learn more about pet safety in cars.
An important reminder about senior pet adoption
Bringing home a senior pet can be challenging, but with the right preparation, your new pet can prove a loyal and grateful companion. Keep them healthy in their golden years with a pet insurance policy that includes routine and preventative care. You may pay more for senior pet insurance, but being able to treat any ailments can keep your new best friend around for many more years.
This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual medical providers with respect to any information presented. Pets Best and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, (collectively, “Synchrony”) make no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.