Young animals might be small and adorable, but there’s definitely a major soft spot in our hearts for the golden oldies.
As part of our ‘Young At Heart’ campaign, we’ve been digging into just how much joy our pets can bring to our lives. Whether it’s a jolly junior or a sensible senior pet, almost half of people over the age of 65 (42%) said owning a cat or dog helps to keep them young at heart.
However, our results also highlighted that over a third of people over the age of 65 (40%) are concerned about adopting a younger pet, as they worry what would happen to their beloved pet if their own health was to suddenly change.
An older pet could be just the answer. Not only do they often require a little less training and exercise, their senior age means you don’t have to plan as far into the future.
To celebrate our love for older animals, we’ve asked four family bloggers to share their stories about life with their senior pets. We’ve also teamed up with Robin Hargreaves, Agria’s Senior Veterinary Advisor, who has shared his top tips on caring for older pets.
Owner: Laura from Five Little Doves
Oscar is Laura’s first senior pet and she’s reaping the benefits that come with his age. As Oscar grows older, he’s more content with shorter walks, which Laura finds much less time consuming and easier to manage, especially as a sufferer of a chronic illness and with four children who all lead busy lives.
With age, Laura has discovered exactly what Oscar wants and needs, so much so that she can tell exactly what he’s thinking just by his facial expressions. She likes the reassurance that there are no surprises when it comes to Oscar and she can tell if he’s acting out of character or seems a little off-colour.
Breed: Wirehaired Dachshund Cross
Owner: Sarah from Extraordinary Chaos
Sarah rescued Toby when he was just 18 months old. Now aged eight, he is still just as energetic and giddy as the first day she met him. Toby hasn’t slowed down with age and keeps Sarah fit and healthy with daily walks, making new friends everywhere they go.
Toby loves his family just as much as they love him and is always ready to welcome them home and show affection. Over the years, Toby has become Sarah’s little shadow, always knowing how she’s feeling and making sure her, and the rest of the family, are always smiling!
Tin Box Dog
Breed: Labrador Retriever
Owner: Claire from Tin Box Traveller
Tin Box Dog (TBD) joined Claire’s family as a puppy, and over the last eight years has seen the family grow, moving into the role of big sister when her two little human sisters came along.
Age hasn’t slowed TBD down, and at eight-years-old, her enthusiasm for the great outdoors means the family are always on the hunt for dog-friendly days out. Claire works from home and aside from the school run, admits it would be easy to not leave the house all day. However, a nudge from TBD every so often reminds her to take a break and stretch her legs, keeping her active with a bit of daily exercise and fresh air.
Breed: Staffy Cross
Owner: Natalie from Plutonium Sox
Natalie has cared for a number of older pets over the years and confesses that she loves them even more as they age. She adopted her current dog Bubbles as a puppy, and now at five years old, Bubbles is just starting to show a sense of maturity. She’s become the dream dog, and, even though they still run together most days, Bubbles is equally as happy to sit quietly and relax.
Natalie’s previous dog, Pluto, showed her just how much love senior dogs have to give, and she can’t wait to enjoy Bubbles even more as she grows old. Natalie will always have a soft spot for the golden oldies.
Robin’s Top Tips for Senior Pet Care:
If you’re considering getting an older pet, Robin Hargreaves, Agria’s Senior Veterinary Advisor, has shared some of his top tips.
The right pet for you: It’s important to think about which pet will fit best with your lifestyle, to ensure you can look after them and meet all of their needs. For example, if you have mobility or health problems, a more independent cat could be a better choice for you.[h1] You also need to consider an animal’s lifespan; a dog can live into their upper-teens, even 20s, so you will need the ability to still care for them in their later years. An older pet can make an ideal companion, as you don’t have to plan for such a long period of time.
Things to look out for in ageing pets: Age impacts elderly animals in the exact same way it affects humans. As they age, older pets can start to have issues with both their mobility and circulation, affecting things such as their blood pressure, heart and joint health. When caring for a senior pet, the most important thing to look out for is any type of change. Never assume that any significant difference is just due to old age, whether that’s a change in behaviour, activity levels, appetite or smell, these can all be indicators that your pet is unwell.
Managing a senior pet’s diet: As pets age, it’s important to monitor their food intake and ensure their bodyweight remains stable. If your pet is less active than they used to be, but you are still feeding them the same as you always have been, they might start to put on weight which can have an impact on their health. Your vet can advise on a healthy bodyweight for your four-legged friend, as well as suitable food for senior pets, helping you to monitor weight loss or gain.
Appetite is a very important indicator of health and a change in appetite could be a sign that there is something wrong with your furry companion. If your pet’s appetite changes significantly, book a check-up with your vet to make sure all is well.
Exercising older animals: When exercising a senior pet, it’s important to take into consideration their health status. Often, a healthy pet will be just as active as they’ve always been, however, if a dog has a health condition such as arthritis, shorter, more frequent walks are a good idea to keep your pet mobile and active without putting them under too much stress.
As cats and rabbits become older, a good way to encourage them to exercise is by splitting their food up and locating it in different places for them to find. This will keep them active as they will have to walk around and explore to find their food.
Rescuing a pet: If you’re looking for an older pet, a rescue animal could be ideal. However, it’s important to do your research beforehand and have a clear picture in your mind of the type of pet you want and can provide for. If the only animals available are inappropriate for your needs or your circumstances, you must be prepared to wait for the perfect match.
Pet insurance: To ensure your furry friend can receive the care they need in later life, pet insurance is vital for managing any unexpected costs. A Lifetime policy is best, as this will provide cover towards vets’ bills year after year, which is a great help should your older pet develop a chronic condition – which is unfortunately common in senior pets.
*Data acquired from a Ginger Comms survey of 1,500 UK over-65’s.
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