When most people become pet parents, they consider adopting or going to a breeder for a puppy. Of course, there are pros and cons to both options. With a breeder, you can choose the breed of dog you want that may not be available in a shelter. However, when you adopt a shelter pet, you're changing a life for the better, improving a dog's quality of life. Pet adoption statistics show that over 6 million pets are in shelters. Still, many people want to adopt puppies or younger adult dogs, leaving many senior dogs in shelters.
Senior dogs may be in shelters for many reasons, including owner surrender or their owners' death. Others may have spent their whole lives in shelters. Whatever the case, senior dogs can be a great addition to your household and give your life more purpose by allowing you to make the last few years of a dog's life more enjoyable and comfortable.
- At What Age Are Dogs Considered Seniors?
- Senior Dog Adoption Statistics
- What To Know Before Adopting A Senior Dog
- 4 Benefits Of Adopting A Senior Dog
- How To Care For A Senior Dog
- Senior Dog Adoption: Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Notes
At What Age Are Dogs Considered Seniors?
Dogs are considered seniors at different ages, depending on their breeds and sizes. Dogs with long lifespans are typically smaller and may be considered seniors when they reach the age of 11 to 12. Meanwhile, large dog breeds may be considered senior when they're around 8 years of age. No matter a dog's age, you'll know they're reaching their golden years when they have a gray muzzle or experience age-related health issues like joint problems and arthritis.
Senior Dog Adoption Statistics
Over three million dogs are surrendered to shelters annually in the U.S., with almost 400,000 being euthanized.1 Dogs can be euthanized when they reach a certain age or if the time spent in the shelter is too long and they need to make room for new arrivals. However, many no-kill shelters in the U.S. continuously find new ways to care for pets, whether through foster systems or by working with other shelters.
There are many reasons why senior dogs are in shelters, including owners surrendering them when they can no longer care for them such as when they move to an assisted living facility. In addition, families may surrender their senior dogs when having a new baby, and many dogs are found in hoarding situations by rescuers. Unfortunately, many senior dogs have spent time in loving homes and don't understand why they've been placed in shelters. In particular, dogs that have lost their elderly owners may be more prone to depression, fear, and anxiety.
Senior dogs are typically the last to be adopted because most people want puppies or young adult dogs. Senior dogs have a 25% adoption rate. Meanwhile, puppies and younger adult dogs have an adoption rate of around 60%.2
What To Know Before Adopting A Senior Dog
Adopting a senior dog can be a rewarding experience, but they may require more care than younger adult dogs and puppies. Luckily, most senior dogs in shelters are house-trained and know basic commands, especially if they've lived in a loving home before. Therefore, you won't have to worry about a rambunctious puppy destroying your home. Instead, senior dogs prefer to stay calm and cozy, often spending their days lounging around the house.
Unfortunately, senior dogs experience health issues you should be aware of. Senior dogs often experience:
- Vision and hearing loss
- Weight gain
- Weight loss
- Less muscle tone
- Less skin elasticity
- Loss of energy
- Joint problems like arthritis
- Serious health issues like heart, liver, and kidney problems
- Dental issues
- Gray coats
- Lumps and bumps
You should be aware of any potential health problems a senior dog can have and be prepared to pay medical bills to improve their quality of life. When adopting a senior dog from a shelter, ask for as much information as possible about them so you can get to know your dog and accommodate them to the best of your ability. You should know everything from their health history to temperament and age. Unfortunately, shelters don't always know much about their dogs because dogs can be dropped off at any point, so as soon as you adopt them, take them to your vet for examination.
Of course, along with senior-specific health conditions, you must continue to take care of other aspects of your dog's health and wellness. For example, you'll need to keep your pet safe in cold weather and prevent dangerous situations.
4 Benefits Of Adopting A Senior Dog
Every dog is different. Senior dogs have had different life experiences that may affect their temperament. However, these are the four benefits you can typically expect when adopting a senior dog.
1. Senior Dogs Tend To Adapt Easily
Senior dog adoption allows you to find a dog that can adapt easily. These dogs have already lived long lives in which they've met many people and animals. In addition, some dogs in shelters may have already entered other homes and environments. Therefore, these dogs typically adapt easier to new surroundings and have developed coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and anxiety.
2. Senior Dogs Are Typically Laid-Back
Senior dogs have already-developed personalities, so as soon as you spend a few days with them, you'll know what they'll be like for the rest of their lives. Since senior dogs have much less energy than puppies, you won't have to worry about a dog running around the house or jumping on guests. Instead, they don't need to teethe, and many of them no longer have the energy to engage in destructive behaviors.
In addition, senior dogs typically have low energy levels and require less exercise than adult dogs or puppies, which may be better for your lifestyle than adopting a puppy. Since you won't have to go on multiple walks to keep them tired and content, your dog might enjoy lounging on the couch with you.
3. Senior Dogs Need Less Training
Senior dogs typically come from homes where they've had at least some level of training. Many adult and senior dogs in shelters are house-trained, and the older a dog is, the more exposure they've had to different commands and training. However, forget about the myth that you can't teach an old dog new tricks; these dogs can still learn new tricks and commands, and many enjoy the mental stimulation that comes with learning new things.
4. You Are Giving Them A Second Chance
One of the most significant advantages of adopting a senior dog is that you give them a second chance and allow them to live out their lives in a loving, comfortable home. So while you may only have a few short years with your senior dog, you'll look back on those years with joy because of the time you got to spend with your best friend.
Adopting a senior dog is rewarding and will improve your life by giving you a purpose. Every day you wake up, you'll look at your loving companion and know that everything you do is so they'll have a better quality of life. Having a dog who loves you at home will make you work harder and be happier while you do it because you get to share your life with a loyal companion.
How To Care For A Senior Dog
Caring for a senior dog is much different than caring for a puppy or healthy adult dog because they have additional needs. For example, while your dog may not need as much exercise, they may experience several health or behavioral problems like separation anxiety or general anxiety about entering a new home. Here are a few tips to help you care for a senior dog:
- Nutrition: Senior dogs require a diet developed specifically for their age. However, some dogs may have health conditions that require a special prescription diet. For example, diabetic dogs may need weight management food, while dogs with arthritis may benefit from anti-inflammatory ingredients.
- Exercise: Senior dogs need less exercise than puppies, but they'll still need some activity, depending on their mobility. Luckily, a short walk around the block should be enough to keep your senior dog happy and healthy. However, if they have mobility issues, you can use a dog support sling to help them stay active.
- Home improvements: Small home improvements can improve your dog's quality of life by allowing them to get around easier. Luckily, you don't have to use nails or a hammer to make your senior dog happy. Instead, you can purchase an orthopedic bed and ramps and install non-slip pads to ensure they can easily make their way around their new home.
- Enrichment: Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. Since senior dogs may not be able to move around as well as they once did, they'll appreciate more mental activities to keep them occupied. Senior dogs may no longer have the urge to play and chew, but you can still find senior dog toys or exercise their minds by letting them sit in front of windows or watch videos of nature.
- Checkups: Senior dogs should visit the vet more often because they often have health problems. Your vet will want to examine your pet's teeth and do blood work more often to prevent serious health conditions that can cause pain or reduce their lifespan.
Senior Dog Adoption: Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to adopt a senior dog?
Shelters typically charge less for senior dog adoption because they have less demand. However, senior dogs may become more expensive because they have more medical costs, especially if they have underlying health conditions.
What are the must-haves for adopting a senior dog?
When you adopt a senior dog, you should be prepared with everything they'll need to stay healthy and happy, including:
- A comfortable orthopedic pet bed
- Premium food
What are some common health issues senior dogs face?
There are several common health issues senior dogs face. Some are breed specific, while others can affect any dog. You should be prepared for the following:
- Hearing and vision loss
- Joint problems
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Heart or kidney problems
After adopting a senior dog, it's always best to have them examined by your local vet to help you prepare for any health issues. In addition, even if you adopt a completely healthy senior dog, their health will likely deteriorate over time, so you should continue to consult your vet on potential health issues your senior dog might face.
Senior dog adoption is a rewarding experience, but pet parents should be prepared. While a senior dog has less energy and typically requires less training than a puppy, they may have several health conditions that can be costly and require more constant care. Considering adopting a senior pet? You'll need a trusted vet by your side.
Dutch veterinary telemedicine can help you take better care of your senior pet from the comfort of your own home. Dutch vets can diagnose and treat several health conditions in dogs, ranging from behavioral problems like aggression and anxiety to health conditions. Try Dutch today.