Senior Dogs for SeniorsSenior Dogs for Seniors

May is National Pet Month.

Animal shelters have long struggled with finding homes for senior pets. Prospective pet owners tend to go straight for the puppies and kittens and leave the animals that are five years and up for the shelters to deal with. Some shelters and organizations have come up with a novel idea for encouraging more adoptions of older pets: senior-to-senior pet adoption campaigns.

Pets offer a lot of great benefits at any point in life, but these senior-to-senior adoption campaigns really emphasize how much having a pet can do for seniors in particular.

7 Benefits of Adopting an Older Pet

Every animal is different, but senior pets often have a few common traits that make them an especially good fit for most seniors.

1. They’re usually already housetrained.

Especially when it comes to dogs, the hardest part of having a young pet is the mess. Older dogs typically already understand to save their bathroom business for outside, so you don’t have to spend as much time cleaning and training them. They’re also less likely to have chewing habits that leave you with ruined shoes or additional messes to clean up.

2. Less energy = less work for you.

Puppies and kittens have a lot of energy and therefore command a lot of attention. They want to play. Puppies want (really, expect) regular walks as well. Older animals are more likely to lounge around and hang out with you for much of the day. They may want to do a little playing or go for some walks, but their exercise needs will be milder than those of the younger animals.

3. You have a good excuse to go for walks.

This mostly applies to dog ownership, but having a dog is a great incentive for actually getting out of the house a couple of times a day to go for walks around the neighborhood or nearby parks. It can be too easy to go a whole day without going outside if you don’t have a good incentive to do so. Your dog’s excitement every time you walk in the general direction of the door can be the thing that gets you going out more.

4. You get daily companionship.

Many seniors struggle with loneliness. If your family or friends aren’t living nearby (or even if they are, but are often busy), you can find yourself spending many days alone. Unless you have a pet around; then you’ve got a companion all the time.

5. Pets are good for your health.

There’s actual science behind this. They help alleviate many of the effects of depression, contribute to a decrease in blood pressure and cholesterol, and bring stress levels down.  Also, as addressed in #3, they get people outside and active more often. A study of seniors showed that dog owners spent almost an extra hour and half outside each day because of having a dog.

If you read any of our recent articles on heart health, you’ll know that less stress and more exercise are the primary ingredients in avoiding some of the most deadly diseases out there. A trip to the shelter could be just the thing you need to make it happen.

6. You’re not making as long of a commitment.

Some seniors may balk at the idea of getting a pet because they’re not confident they’ll outlive it. What will happen to your beloved animal if you pass first? That’s a responsible way to think about pet ownership, but becomes less of an issue if you get an older pet. You’re not making the 10-20 year commitment you are with a baby pet; you’re giving an animal with only a few years left a better life while it’s still around.

7. You’re saving an animal that is overlooked by most people.

The sad state of things is that shelters are overwhelmed. When they can’t find homes for animals, sometimes their only choice is to euthanize them. Since most pet owners prefer to adopt younger animals, this puts the senior animals at greater risk. By taking one home with you, you could be saving its life.

5 Things To Be Aware Of

Pet ownership isn’t for everyone. Getting a new animal isn’t a decision you should make impulsively. You need to consider what’s involved.

1. They come with a monetary cost

Vet bills, food costs, and things like toys and treats add up. How much a pet costs depends on the type of pet and its breed, but you can expect it to be hundreds of dollars each year, at least. If you have a dog with a lot of health problems, it could be much more. If you can’t afford to have a dog for yourself, you could consider taking up dog walking or dog sitting to get some of those pet-having benefits without the cost.

2. They may have behavioral issues.

Older dogs usually don’t need any potty training, but they may come to you with leftover issues from their time with their last owner. If the animal you get has been abused, you may have to work with it to overcome behavior tied to issues caused by aggression and fear. Usually some good training and a willingness to adapt your behavior to their needs is enough to help with the issues older dogs may have.

3. They’re an all-around commitment.

Different animals have different needs, but you need to be prepared to meet them. Certain things are always true, if you won’t be around much or are planning a trip; you have to find someone to help you take care of them. You’ll have to be prepared to get them to the vet when they need it, make sure they have food and water, and ensure they get the exercise and attention they need.

4. You should be prepared for death.

Sorry to have to bring this one up, but it matters. The death of a pet is a grueling experience and if the senior pet you adopt has health problems or is of an age where it probably doesn’t have much time left, you should try to prepare yourself for what’s coming. It’s not a reason to skip pet ownership altogether though; everyone who has lost a pet will tell you the time you have with them is worth it.

5. You may be able to get a special deal.

To brighten things a bit after that dose of negativity, as the idea of senior-to-senior pet adoption has taken hold in many communities some shelters and organizations try to sweeten the deal by providing discounts or covering some of the fees for seniors. Pets for the Elderly Foundation has a list of participating shelters, see if there’s one close to you.


We’re celebrating National Pet Month on Facebook!

Head over to our Facebook page for more pet-related fun, including our Which Dog Are You? quiz AND our photo contest, where you can submit a photo of your favorite furry friend for a chance to win a $100 Petsmart Gift Card!

Discover pet-friendly senior living near you.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for


  1. Drew May 12, 2015 Reply

    A pet for the elderly can be a huge benefit to both of them. Giving the elderly something to do and more confidence once they can do things like feed and walk the dog. Great idea!

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