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Pets and the Elderly: Everything You Need To Know

 by jaime on 26 Jun 2014 |
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Many of us know that bringing a pet into your life can be a wonderfully loving and enriching experience. As we grow older we face more and more complications that are just part of the path of being elderly. Health and mobility is not what it used to be and social interactions lessen. If you're an elderly person or know an elderly person - owning and adopting a pet could be the best thing you ever did.

Benefits of owning a pet

The pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to pet ownership for the elderly.

Benefits include:
    •    Visits to the doctor decrease and use less medication
    •    Lower blood pressure
    •    Lower cholesterol
    •    Recover quickly from illness and surgery
    •    Cope with stress better
    •    Feelings of loneliness and isolation lessen
    •    Increase social interaction
    •    Increase physical activity
    •    Helps to build up mental stimulation
    •    Pets help to reduce feelings of fear about "tomorrow" and promotes a sense of 'living in the now.'
    •    Reduce depression
    •    Improve memory loss
    •    Improve motor skills
    •    Builds self-esteem
    •    Can help create new warm and loving friendships and relationships
    •    Provides a sense of purpose
    •    Increase mental alertness
    •    People can brighten up more and feel more inclined to interact and chat

Things to consider

Owning a pet is always a big decision to make, particularly so for the elderly. There's a lot to consider and unfortunately pet ownership isn't going to be the answer for everyone. If you're thinking of adopting a new pet for yourself or an elderly friend or relative, it's important to consider the following before making a commitment to a new pet.

    •    Are you set in your ways? If you are then owning a pet later in life may not be a good idea.

    •    Is the pet the right age? A puppy or kitten can be very demanding. An older animal that's past adolescense is a good option - but remember different breeds have different life expectancies.

    •    Have you had a pet before? If this is your first time owning a pet then perhaps it's not a great idea.

    •    Do you have disabilities?

    •    Do you need a therapy pet?

    •    Does the pet have a good temperament?

    •    Is the pet healthy?

    •    Are you financially able to look after a pet?

    •    Are you able to meet the pets' level of activity?

    •    Does the pet have good social interaction skills?

    •    Are you able to groom to the pet? Remember there are mobile services that van come and visit you at home to perform these duties.

    •    What size is the pet? A very large dog may not be suitable for someone who is quite frail and prone to falls and fractures. However some larger dogs are more placid than little dogs.
   
It's also important to think about what will happen to your pet if you should pass away? It's crucial you have this sort of conversation and express your wishes to your friends, family and support networks.

Recommended Breeds

It's important to note that temperament and age should play a bigger factor in your decision making rather than leaving it up purely to breed.  However, generally speaking the following dogs and cats should be compatible for an elderly person.  Don't forget that there are many animals out there, particularly older pets waiting to be adopted, so shelters should be the first place you look for a new pet - you'll be saving those loving pets from a shortened life by euthanasia if you do.

Dogs
    •    Bichon Frise
    •    Chihuahua
    •    Cocker Spaniel
    •    Fox Terrier
    •    Havanese
    •    Italian Greyhound
    •    Miniature Poodle
    •    Miniature Schnauzer
    •    Lhasa Apso
    •    Pomeranian
    •    Pubg
    •    Welsh Corgi
    •    West Highland Terrier
    •    Yorkshire Terrier

Cats
    •    Persian
    •    British Shorthair
    •    Ragdoll
    •    Himalayan
    •    Russian Blue
    •    Maine Coon
    •    American Shorthair

 

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