Having a pet is a rite of passage for most people. Unfortunately, like people, pets age, but they are often put up for adoption once they reach their senior years and are no longer “cute.” That doesn’t mean that senior dogs can't bring joy to your home (dogs have an average life expectancy between 10–13 years but can live much longer). If you’re planning to adopt your first senior animal, here are some things you should know, courtesy of Curry n Pepper.
Understand the Obligation
According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association, dogs are typically considered geriatric at between six and seven years of age. This means that your new senior dog could easily have another six or more years of healthy life ahead of them. But, these years may bring health problems, mobility issues, and dental concerns. For this reason, before you even adopt, make a point to find care providers in your area that can work with your older pet. An experienced veterinarian and groomer will help keep your pet healthy throughout all of their years.
Pet Care Essentials
Because older animals have unique needs, it’s important to talk with your veterinarian about their specific health and wellness requirements. But, most new senior pet owners will benefit from understanding a few of the essentials. These include:
Getting settled. Regardless of age, when you bring a new pet home, creating a new routine can help them acclimate. If possible, keep them on the same routine they already have and then slowly change their schedule to fit with your own.
Managing health conditions. Older pets may have arthritis, cancer, or any other health problem. Many also take multiple medications. Make this part of your schedule and streamline the process by using a daily pill container to remind you when it’s time for their meds.
Saving money. Animals can get expensive quickly. Ask your local animal shelter or advocacy group for a list of discounted care services in your area. Depending on where you live, you may have access to a veterinary school, free rabies clinic, and discounted spay and neutering services.
Keep the temperature steady. The temperature outside changes, but try to keep your home temperature around 77 degrees. When it’s colder, humans struggle to maintain a constant body temperature and are prone to mistakes and sleepiness. The same can be true for our pets. Senior pets are especially vulnerable to temperature changes, so keep your pet warm and healthy.
Dietary requirements. Older dogs may need something easier to digest with less fat and more protein than their younger counterparts. The added protein helps maintain muscle mass while a lower fat content can help them keep their weight down.
Animals and children. If you have children, you should know that your senior dog may experience issues that can change their behavior. VetStreet cites dementia as one of these. Further, an animal losing their hearing or vision may, understandably, become aggressive around loud stimuli, such as screaming or fireworks.
Reduce your stress. You know that other people can sense when you’re upset or stressed. The same is true for our pets. Look for signs that your dog has taken on some of your anxiety. They may urinate more frequently, exhibit severe attitude changes, or begin biting or scratching excessively.
Bedding. Puppies can pretty much sleep anywhere, and many adult dogs prefer to snuggle up in the bed with their human family. But, older dogs may have trouble getting settled on certain types of surfaces, and they can likely no longer jump up on the bed when you call. Make sure your dog has a comfortable place to sleep that’s warm and supportive and, ideally, washable.
Changes to your home. The older a dog gets, the more likely you may need to make changes to your home to accommodate their needs. Be mindful of sharp edges; many older dogs have deteriorated vision. Additional carpeting, ramps at the stairs, or setting aside a quiet spot for them to relax can help your companion stay safe and comfortable.
The decision to bring home a dog is one that will affect your family for many years to come, even if they’ve already reached their “senior years. Even if you are an experienced animal family, older dogs do require specialized care and attention. It might be intimidating, but don’t let that stop you from adopting your new best friend. You never know, having a senior dog might be the best decision you’ll ever make.
Do you know your dog’s Mind-Body Type? If the answer is no, then Curry n Pepper can help you learn more, and then use that information to select the best foods and products for their unique needs. Visit our website today to discover your dog’s Mind-Body Type.
Author: Jessica Brody
Jessica is a huge dog lover, and has three furry companions of her own (two dachshunds and a black lab). She enjoys spreading love for her dogs with others via stories and pictures, and would never turn down a photo of your own furry family member.