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Senior Pets 101 by Dr. Brown

The Paw Print

Essential Pet Blog

boxer on couch

Will you still need me, will you still feed me,

When I’m sixty four?

The Beetles When I’m Sixty Four

Senior pets – dogs over 7 years of age and cats over 9 – are frequently overlooked in shelters in favor of younger animals in spite of their wonderful qualities and the best efforts of shelter personnel.  That shouldn’t happen because, as an oldie myself, we all know that “old is cool”.  At least that what’s it says on my Royal Enfield t-shirt.  So what makes a senior so adoptable?

No surprises

A mature pet’s size, personality and temperament have already been established, and you will know immediately how well they can fit into your family’s lifestyle. Be sure to ask for past medical and emotional history.  Of course, older pets may be a little overweight (what senior isn’t), but what better way to bond with a new family member than a walk through the countryside or neighborhood.

No chewed slippers or swallowed socks.

Most older dogs are past their chewing phases, and senior cats certainly can’t be bothered with shredding couches, attacking plants or climbing drapes. But don’t let them develop new bad habits just because they are in a new setting, i.e., don’t coddle them too much.

You won’t have to endure housetraining. 

Typically, older animals come with established routines and understanding of basic commands, such as come, sit and stay, and older cats usually are fastidious in toilet habits.  Just be firm in what you require of them.  The adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is not true, and older pets – even cats – can be willingly trained.

You won’t loose sleep

Unlike puppies and kittens, older animals are accustomed to sleeping through the night.  Provide a safe, secure place, such as a suitably sized dog crate or a cozy hiding place for a cat to help them feel right at home.  Treats help too.

You needn’t bring out the Pilate machine or treadmill. 

Typically, older pets will not need to burn off steam like puppies, although an exercise routine is important for joint flexibility, bone health and weight management as animals age. Any pet loves to sniff around the neighborhood while you enjoy sunsets and walk with a non-judgmental companion.

You shouldn’t have to create exotic haute cuisine. 

Older pets have adjusted to regular eating habits – and that should NOT include table foods.  Find out what the animal has been accustomed to eating and stick to it because any abrupt dietary change could cause digestive upsets, aka, diarrhea.  Arrival into a new household could cause anxiety and slow appetites, but a little chicken broth added as a topping can help.

You will find that adopting an older dog or cat is a lot of fun and a very worthwhile way to extend animals’ lives.  Of course, older animals do require added awareness of routine behaviors.  Are urinary habits okay – not drinking too much water or urinating large volumes? Any urine leakage?  Any stiffness after exercise or difficulty getting up or down?  Vision and hearing okay?  Any confusion or forgetfulness?  And if any of this sounds familiar to you oldies, remember your partner agreed to need you and feed you when you’re sixty four……and you can do that for a new senior dog or cat.


a vet and his dogABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Brown holds a Doctorate Degree in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from the University of California at Davis, a Master of Science Degree in Animal Science and Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Physiology from the University of California.  Following discharge from the Air Force as a Captain, he owned and operated the largest veterinary hospital on Cape Cod for almost twenty years. Brown is the past President of the Yavapai Humane Society Board of Directors, Branding Committee Chairman for National Animal Supplement Council and member of the American Veterinary Medical Association.  He writes and lectures frequently on the benefits of natural and organic foods and supplements for animals and lives with his wife and a Golden doodle named Charlotte.

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