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Adopt an Older Pet for Christmas

Adopt an Older Pet for Christmas

Tampa Veterinary Hospital

As the lyrics go, there is no place like home for the holidays. As Christmas approaches, this could not be more true for the thousands of pets in animal shelters around the state.

The pandemic actually had a positive effect on shelters in 2020, with many shelters or rescue groups seeing record numbers of adoptions. There are still thousands of pets wanting to find their new, loving forever homes in time to greet Santa as he comes down the chimney.

Younger pets — especially puppies — are usually the first to be adopted by eager families looking to give the gift of a four-legged companion for their home. This often leaves shelters or rescues struggling to adopt out older or senior pets looking for a second chance at a happy life with a new family.

There are lots of upsides to adopting a senior pet. First and foremost, it is likely the pet has experienced some type of hardship, and the rewarding feeling is unlike anything else. While a shelter pet’s full history may never be known, their owner may have passed away or faced some other heartbreaking circumstance. The pet is likely accustomed to constant love and attention, which it can only receive in limited amounts in a shelter environment.

Senior pets are full grown, so there are no surprises when that puppy which was supposed to be 20 pounds actually grows to 50 pounds or more. It is a, “what you see is what you get” scenario.

Exercise is important for any pet at any age, but senior dogs typically do not have the same energy levels as their younger counterparts. Keeping them moving at their own pace is great. Younger pets usually only have one speed, and it is full-blast, so senior pets are great for those who want more leisurely walks and fewer brisk runs.

These pets are likely already housebroken. Potty-training a puppy or young dog or training a kitten to use the litter box can be a time consuming and often frustrating process. The time investment for senior pets in this regard is minimal.

Older pets, as a general rule, have put their chewing days behind them. Puppies are notorious for chewing on furniture, shoes and almost anything they can get their teething chompers on. The senior pet is more likely to want to cuddle and chill than hunt around the house for their new chew toy.

Forget about the old adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” It is not just possible, it is likely. The senior pet will have a longer attention span than a younger pet and is likely eager to please.

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When meeting a pet in the shelter, keep in mind that a pet may be nervous meeting new people in the shelter environment. Observe the pet with staff members who are familiar with them, and have a wish list of desired traits. Ask questions of the shelter staff if the pet has the qualities included on that wish list. This will help the shelter find the best match.

This Christmas, skip the presents for older pet like that funny Christmas doggy sweater and instead start carving out a budget for him or her. As pets age, common conditions such as arthritis, cancer and issues with kidneys or the liver can develop. It may be a smart move to get pet insurance, and prepare for higher rates for senior dogs. Senior pets will need bloodwork done annually to carefully monitor their organ function, so be sure to budget for veterinary care to keep them healthy and well taken care of.

During this season of giving, the spirit of helping those who need it most absolutely extends to the four-legged members of the family. One more, two more, three more, or who knows — maybe several more years — of Christmases spent with a caring family just might be the best present an older pet, and their family, ever receives.

By Dr. Melissa Webster

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