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The importance of pets in our senior years

Caring for a pet can bring countless benefits—and blessings—into your life


Pet ownership, as current pet owners know, comes with a long list of benefits.

Those benefits are especially positive for seniors, even if they have never cared for a pet before

The benefits of pet ownership during one’s senior years include reduced stress and risk of depression. Pets can ease pain and anxiety and lower blood pressure. They also provide protection and security.

Life tends to be much more active when you have a pet. It improves social interaction, as you’re often out walking the dog and chatting with neighbours and passers-by. Seniors who own pets can expect to increase their mobility and independence. Having a pet also encourages sticking to a routine. These are hugely important improvements in anyone’s life.

REALTOR® Gwen Price can attest to most of these, having witnessed them firsthand with her own father. “My mother passed away in 2009 and my father missed her immensely. He decided to get a dog for company and he really like Border Terriers, so he acquired Allie, who was his companion until his death in 2017 at the age of 98. Allie is still alive and is now 13 years old and lives with my sister and her husband,” she says.

“Allie gave him something to do every day, including daily walks and feedings. She gave him a reason to get out of bed and get some exercise. Owning her gave him a purpose and kept him healthy and active.”

Choosing the right pet for you

What kind of pet you choose depends on your health and mobility. Small dogs and cats are always a good choice, as are birds, hamsters and fish.

“A puppy or kitten might be more than some seniors want to go through,” cautions Price. She remembers when her parents were in their seventies, they decided to get a Cockapoo puppy. About a week into ownership, her mother was in tears. She had forgotten what the puppy stage was like—losing sleep because the puppy is crying and all of the potty-training accidents. Price and her husband took the puppy into their own home.

Seniors may want to consider adopting an older dog or cat, rather than a puppy or a kitten. Border Terriers, the breed that her father had, are very active, high-energy dogs, so Price is hesitant to recommend them for seniors.

The 8 best dogs for seniors, according to Fetch by WebMD, are:

  • Poodles,

  • Pomeranians,

  • Pugs,

  • Havanese,

  • Maltese,

  • Golden Retrievers,

  • Labrador Retrievers and

  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi

It’s never too late to own a pet, but there are indeed certain things to consider when deciding whether or not to become a pet owner. Senior Vitality Aid has put together an excellent article: 7 Good Reasons to Get a Pet at Older Age, and 7 Not To.

There are potential downsides to be aware of:

  • Pets can be a tripping hazard and they can transfer infections.

  • Pets can also be a financial burden.

  • Seniors might neglect their own health or hospitalization because they are worrying about what will happen to their pet.

  • They may become depressed if their pet is sick and they are likely to grieve the loss of a pet the same way they would the loss of any loved one.

Start by doing some research

“I would suggest seniors do as much research as possible,” says Price. “Start by asking family and friends what they recommend. Ask veterinarians, go online or visit the library to read about different breeds.”

Thankfully there are a number of excellent local resources that can help. A good resource for adopting a cat or a dog is the local pet rescue. One that Price supports is Pet Save Sudbury; she has interviewed the director, Jill Pessot, for her video/podcast Real Estate with Gwen Price – Gwen Talks to the Experts. You can watch the interview here.

She also follows a few other rescue groups in Ontario on Facebook. These include Good Will Good Karma, Hobo Haven Rescue and Texas Chihuahua Rescue, Canada Inc.

Many pet supply companies in Sudbury can also be a good source of information. Price’s dog Bandit is groomed at PetSmart by Jocelyn.

There are also pet sitters and boarding facilities that will look after your pet if you want to travel or are hospitalized. Price has interviewed Lori Johnston, the owner of one such business, Cachou and Company.

“Be aware of your health and capabilities of looking after a pet. Look for a healthy and social animal,” she says. “Be very cautious of where you are buying the pet and avoid backyard breeders.”

Other important considerations

As a senior, you should consider the lifespan of the animal that you will be taking on as a pet. Some breeds of cats and dogs can live to be 15 years or longer. What happens if you become sick or die: who will be able to look after your pet?

Make sure you have a plan in place before you adopt or purchase a pet. Right now animal rescues are full to capacity because so many dogs have been surrendered or abandoned because of changes in the owners’ life: illness, death, return to work, etc.

Says Price, “Animals add so much to our quality of life. They give us lots of unconditional love and ask for so little in return.”

For more information, visit Gwen Price Homes or call 705-561-2335.

As published in Sudbury.com

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