The day a family adopts a new dog is exciting for everyone as dogs get a second chance at a happy life and owners find a new best friend. For older dogs especially, adoption into a comfortable home can make a huge difference to their health and happiness.
Harmony Peraza, veterinary technician and project manager for the Dog Aging Project at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says older dogs are often overlooked in the shelter for adoption but have the potential to make wonderful pets.
“You will save a life and give a sweet companion a wonderful next chapter,” said Peraza.
Depending on their size, dogs are classified as senior citizens at different ages. In general, the bigger the dog, the sooner they will reach their age.
Larger breeds such as Labradors, Boxers, or German Shepherds are considered seniors around the age of 7, while smaller dogs such as Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, or miniature poodles are considered seniors around 8 to 9 years of age.
As older dogs are fully grown, their personality is much easier to see than that of a puppy, making it easier for them to be paired with a compatible family.
“If you are adopting an older dog, it is important to discuss the details of your household with the shelter or rescue staff,” said Peraza. “This conversation is the first step in finding out which adoptees fit better into a household with children or other pets.”
It is good practice to slowly introduce new dogs to other pets, family members, and other parts of the house, as dogs can take about three weeks to adjust to a new environment. It is also important that these introductions always take place under close supervision to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
“Many older dogs have lived in homes before and may be ahead of the curve in good manners and some level of training,” Peraza said. “This ability, combined with the calm demeanor and larger attention span of an older dog, can make them more receptive to training.”
However, because older dogs are more prone to restricted mobility, it is important for owners to be careful of stairs or other potentially dangerous areas by using pet guards. Owners may also consider investing in pet stairs to help older dogs onto permitted furniture, as well as a pet ramp to make getting in and out of the car easier.
Similarly, every older dog has their own particular health issues.
“It’s a good idea to have your older dog checked by a veterinarian soon after adoption,” said Peraza. “Since our seniors age faster than younger dogs, it is a good start to have a baseline for their current health.”
Daily exercise is vital to the health of an older dog, apart from physical disabilities. The intensity of their activity should be appropriate to the dog’s stamina, general condition, and health.
“Exercise also keeps your older dog cognitively engaged and mentally sharp,” said Peraza.
With just a few extra considerations, an older dog can offer as much joy, excitement, and love to his new family as a younger dog or puppy. In return, you can give your new friend a loving and supportive home for their golden years.
“Older dogs have as much ability to bond with new families and make great memories as a puppy,” said Peraza. “Consider adopting an older companion; You have a great story to tell and so much love to give! “
The Dog Aging Project at Texas A&M works to understand how genes, lifestyle, and the environment affect dog health and aging. To learn more or to register your dog, visit https://dogagingproject.org.
Pet Talk is a service provided by the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Internet at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.