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The Perks of Elderly Pet Ownership

By August 6, 2015Aging in Place

As we age and our friends and family begin to leave, companionship may be harder to come by but that doesn’t mean it is any less important. Quite the opposite is true. Companionship provides emotional support, joy, and stress relief. That’s what owning a pet can offer – constant companionship and unconditional love.

The great thing about a pet is that regardless of the owner’s personality – timid or a social butterfly – a pet will love its owner in the way he or she wants to be loved. Pets have no agenda except to be their owner’s faithful companion. That may be one reason why research shows that older pet owners have lower blood pressure and pulse rates, and 20 percent fewer doctor’s visits than non-pet owners.
br> Dog owners are more active, taking the dog for walks. They are more social, meeting other dog owners and friends at the dog park.

In other words, the right person and the right pet can be a beautiful thing, improving significantly the quality of both lives. When asked about the benefits of having a pet, seniors reported the following:

  • 95 percent talk to their pet
  • 82 percent say their pet helps when they feel sad
  • 71 percent said their pet helps when physically they don’t feel well
  • 65 percent said touching their pet makes them feel better

Here are some things to consider when deciding if a pet is a good idea for an elderly owner:

  • What disabilities does the owner have?
  • Is the owner set in their ways?
  • Will the pet be provided for if the owner passes?
  • Does the senior live where they can easily let a dog in and out?
  • Cognitively are they able to remember to feed the dog and recognize when veterinary care may be required?

If a dog is being considered as a new pet, research the breed to ensure it matches the abilities and preferences of the elderly owner. Dog breeds have distinct personalities and needs. For example:

  • Is the breed lazy or active?
  • Does it require daily exercise like running or is a walk enough?
  • Does the breed need strict training, or does it just need to be housebroken and well-behaved?
  • Does the breed have characteristics that will make it difficult for the senior owner? Will it run if let loose? Is it apt to dig?
  • If it is a mixed breed, consider the level of activity needed, level of aggressiveness and maintenance, estimated cost of food based on size.

A puppy or kitten may not be the best option for senior owners. They can cost upwards of $800 a year (food and veterinary care) and their constant activity can do more harm than good. Adopting a dog or cat that is at least two to three years old, and of modest temperament, is a great option. Owning a pet can extend life and happiness, and it is worth the little bit of work that they bring with them!

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