Resources for Senior Pet Owners & Adopters
Owning an aging animal comes with special considerations. Below are some tips to help senior pet owners appropriately care for (and keep!) their senior pets. If additional help is needed, please visit the Citizens for a No-Kill Philadelphia Community Pet Help Desk, which is designed to help keep families and their pets together during times of hardship.
Common Medical Considerations
Frequency of Veterinary Care
As your pet ages, it’s a good idea to make vet visits more frequent. Many experts recommend that a healthy senior animal see the vet every 6-12 months for a thorough examination and early detection screenings. Remember to explore the low-cost veterinary care options in the Philadelphia area.
Watch their diet! Obesity can have damaging effects on joints and can take as much as two years off your pets’ life! Consider feeding your pet a food formulated just for seniors and be sure not to overfeed or spoil your senior with treats and table food.
Physical exercise is important for dogs and cats of all ages in order to maintain a healthy weight! Since every animal is different, energy levels will vary. It's important to find the level of activity right for your pet so he or she is remaining active, but not overdoing it which may cause injury.
Some senior dogs may need more exercise than others and will enjoy taking long walks with their families. Others may not have the energy to pull off a long trek and would prefer a cruise up and down the street. While adult and senior cats still love to play, chase and even fetch, it’s important to remember that they may not be as flexible as their younger counterparts.
Just like in humans, with age comes stiff joints and arthritis. It’s a good idea to start your older pet on a daily joint supplement to keep joints loose and feeling good. Stairs may be difficult for your senior to maneuver. If you notice him avoiding the stairs or going to the bathroom in lower levels of your home, he or she may be trying to avoid having to go up or down stairs. Consider moving his food bowls, beds, and for cats, their litter box, to the first floor of your home.
Old pets have old teeth. Dental health is very important and cracked teeth can be very painful and may cause your pet to stop eating or act out. Be sure to check in with your veterinarian to see when your pet may need a cleaning or tooth extraction.
Grooming is a must. Long nails can be painful for dogs to walk on. It’s important to keep your dogs’ nails trimmed. Matting on cats can also be very painful and cause your cat to not act like himself. If you’re not comfortable with grooming your pet yourself, ask your veterinarian to do it during office visits or visit your local groomer! Remember, a dog and cat usually won't stop grooming himself out of the blue. If your pet has stopped taking care of his or her coat, a trip to the vet is in order to rule out a pain or mobility issue.
Stress levels can play a big part in your pets' overall health and behavior. Additionally, pets, especially cats are creatures of habit. Personal grooming and using the litter box or yard comes as second nature to adult and senior pets. If you notice your dog or cat not doing these things, remember that he is not doing these things out of spite. Take some time to determine what has changed in your household that might be causing stress to your companion, such as new or rearranged furniture, addition of a new family member, change in schedule, and so on. Take a visit to your vet to rule out any medical issues.
Let sleeping dogs (and cats) lie! Remember, your pet is aging! Even we humans don't have the same energy level we did during our adolescence. As your pet ages, he may need longer nap times in between playtime with your children or other pets. Be sure they are mindful of his space and give him the time he needs to rest. He’ll let you know when he’s ready for the next play session!
Remember to always supervise pets and children to ensure appropriate interactions and to avoid injuries!
Potential Behavioral Changes
Medical issues and behavior changes tend to be one of the most common reasons owners feel the need to give up their pets as they age. There is a very good chance that behavioral changes can be attributed to one of the medical considerations above. Oftentimes, these medical and behavioral needs can be addressed and remediated quickly and inexpensively. Before re-homing or surrendering your older pet to the shelter, consider consulting a veterinarian to rule out any new medical issues.
You can seek behavioral assistance through the Citizens for a No-Kill Philadelphia Community Pet Help Desk.
Re-homing or Surrendering a Senior Pet
It can be traumatic for both pets and their owners when having to surrender a pet to the shelter. Senior pets tend to be the most "at risk" once in the shelter and may face euthanasia due to their age or health. But oftentimes, families do not feel they have any other option. Before surrendering your pet to the shelter, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (484) 466-2913. Citizens for a No-Kill Philadelphia would be happy to help try to find a solution or alternate arrangement that works for both you and your pet.
The Community Help Desk can provide:
Surrendering a Pet to City of Elderly Love
Please note: City of Elderly Love does not have a physical shelter location, but instead uses a network of experienced foster homes to house our adoptable and hospice care pets. The rescue can only accept a new animal when a foster home spot is available. Please complete an owner surrender request form here and a City of Elderly Love representative will reach out as soon as possible.
Beau was adopted at the age of 11 without entering the shelter system.