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* 10 Reasons Senior Pets Are Perfect for Kids

westie and cairn terriersBy Jessica Remitz |
Celebrate Senior Pet Month!

Adopting a dog or cat is an exciting time for every member of the family – especially for the kids. While they may want to take home a puppy or kitten (who can resist those little faces?), there are a lot of excellent reasons to consider adopting a senior dog or cat. Here are just a few of the many reasons older pets are great for families.

They’re a Well-Kept Secret
“Compared to the huge undertaking it is to raise a youngster, I find that the pleasures and joys of an adult pet are so underrated,” said Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA adoption center. “The best kept secret is getting a pet that’s already an adult.”

Families with busy households and parents who work full time will find it a joy to have an older, experienced dog or cat compared to starting from the beginning with a puppy or kitten.

Most Are Trained
As many older pets are already acclimated to living in a home, they’re likely to know certain skills. Dogs my already know how to perform a “sit,” “down,” and “come,” while cats will already be comfortable using a litter box.

The best thing you can do for your new pet, of any age, is to establish a routine to help it to feel more comfortable in your home, Buchwald said. Providing pets with a consistent feeding, walking, and exercise schedule will help settle them in and bring order to your family dynamic.

Their Temperaments Are Stable
According to Buchwald, once an animal has reached adult maturity, what you see is what you get. You won’t have the same surprises as you might have had bringing home a puppy or kitten whose personality is apt to change as they grow up. These non-surprises are great benefits for families with kids. While there are things you can do to help cautious or frightened dogs become comfortable with children or people of all ages, there are certain genetic predispositions we can’t control.

“Kittens and puppies can only be molded to a certain point; they have a genotype which is influenced by their environment but is unable to be completely changed,” she said. “Puppies and kittens are more unknown, but with an adult [animal], you have a known entity.”

They’re Patient
Older dogs can be especially tolerant and soft towards children, Buchwald said. If they have a painful condition like arthritis they may not like being pushed physically, but if they’re generally healthy they can be a great match for kids without being a hazard to them.

“You can have a nice, respectful balance between children and an older pet and have quality time together without the child or pet being overwhelmed,” Buchwald said. “If you teach a young child to live with and understand a pet’s personality … many animals will use more restraint around children.”

They’re Easy
When juggling family responsibilities that include after-school activities, summer camps, and countless year-round obligations, it may be harder to work in the labor it takes to properly raise a puppy or kitten versus an older animal, Buchwald said. Young puppies especially require a tremendous amount of responsibility – from needing a great deal of housebreaking, training, and exercise to preventing them from being destructive. An older animal is much easier to handle from busy day-to-day.

They’re Adaptable
The thought that you “can’t teach an old dogs new tricks” is absolutely not true, Buchwald said. This thinking unfortunately keeps people from adopting older animals. Dogs and cats of any age can continue learning, growing, and expanding their cognitive development. Older pets can easily assimilate new behavior and training and adjust to a new environment.

The thought that older pets are too mellow or don’t have much personality is also a misconception, Buchwald said. While older animals don’t have the same bursts of energy young animals do, they will still play with your family members and engage in behaviors typical of a young dog or cat.

They Have a History
Older pets have most likely had the experience of living in homes with people and have adopted certain rules that will likely stand true in your home, Buchwald said. Many shelters also complete a thorough behavioral analysis of your potential dog or cat and can give you some background information on the animal’s personality, energy level, and behavior before you take it home.

The ASPCA’s “Meet Your Match” program helps potential adopters – who have filled out a survey and assessed their wants and needs for a pet – find the dog or cat that is right for them. These analyses pair adopters who have children with pets that are kid-friendly.

They’re Full Grown
While a puppy may seem manageable in size for the first few months after he comes into your home, he may not finish growing until after about a year, and can likely bowl a baby or young toddler over in a fit of excitement.

“At times, you’ll see a puppy go home with young children who are unaware of the size and structure of a growing dog,” Buchwald said. Taking home a fully-grown adult pet will ensure that you know what you’re in for when it comes to its size.

They’ll Help Kids Take on More Responsibility
Playing a role in care-taking and training can be extremely rewarding for the kid who’s already happy to take on responsibility, Buchwald said. While a pet won’t necessarily make the kind of kid who doesn’t clean his room responsible overnight, older dogs and cats can certainly help foster a sense of self-esteem and confidence in a kid, which in turn will encourage responsibility.

Letting a child of any age participate in care-taking is a great way to build care-taking skills in a way that gives a child a sense of involvement in his or her family, Buchwald said, whether it’s giving an older dog or cat their premeasured cup of food or daily supplement, taking the dog on a walk, or changing the cat’s litter box, all of these actions contribute to the well-being of the family.

They’re on Your Time frame
While some families shy away from taking a pet home that may not live more than ten years, there are some advantages to adopting a shorter lived pet. Some puppies will grow up to live on long after your kids have gone to and graduated from college. Not every parent wants to sign on for that length of time, making older age in a pet a much more desirable trait, Buchwald said.

The best thing you can do is make sure everyone in the house has the same idea and vision for what living with the pet will be like. Potential adopters will need to make sure they’re prepared to keep up with any health conditions or concerns that come with a senior animal, Buchwald said. Make sure you know the length of time you’ll be able to devote to a pet and commit to finding the perfect senior animal for you. And remember that one of the greatest rewards is in knowing that you gave your senior pet a wonderful home to grow old in.

* Traveling With A Senior Dog

chiens de compagnieGuest blog by Paris Permenter and John Bigley of DogTipper

Is Adopt a Senior Pet Month inspiring you to adopt a senior dog? If so—or if your dog is reaching senior status—you’ll find that many dogs enjoy spending their retirement years just like we humans do: on the road!

We enjoy traveling with our rescue dogs, Irie and Tiki, now six years old, and intend to continue traveling with them as they mature. Healthy senior dogs can enjoy an active lifestyle that includes exploring new destinations.

Regardless of your dog’s age, you’ll want to do plenty of planning to keep your dog comfortable and safe.

Preparations we always take include:

  • Bringing the comforts of home. A cushioned dog bed is especially important for older dogs to keep pressure off of joints as they ride.
  • Packing for success. Tummy troubles are no fun on the road. We help avoid stomach stress by packing our dogs’ usual food and treats.
  • Planning, not over-planning. We plan hotel stays and attraction stops, but we don’t try to stick too closely to a timetable. It’s important to leave plenty of time for frequent bathroom breaks, especially for seniors, and for walks to just sniff around and enjoy the new destination.
  • Preparing for problems. We pack a list of veterinarians along our route and at our destination. We plan for more routine issues including potty accidents. Along with paper towels and waste bags, we carry a urine remover like Rug Doctor Urine Eliminator™. (Rug Doctor also supports the ASPCA!) Thanks to quick cleanups, we’ve never lost a pet deposit on a hotel stay.

Perhaps the best preparation we make is to slow down and anticipate the pleasures of traveling with our canines. After all, taking time to stop and sniff the roses is what travel’s all about—regardless of our age.

Paris Permenter and John Bigley are the publishers of the award-winning The authors of 32 pet and travel books explored the Lone Star State with their dogs Irie and Tiki to fetch dog-friendly destinations for their latest book: DogTipper’s Texas with Dogs. Follow Paris and John on Twitter.

* How to Boost the Quality of Life for Your Aging Pet

By Dr. Marty BYawning Puppyecker

We all know how hard it is to see pain, illness, or just the aches and stiffness of old age affect someone we love. That’s just as true when it’s our pets who are suffering – they are beloved family members, after all. There are some simple things that you can do, though, to help a sick or elderly animal feel better.

Encourage Eating and Drinking

Is your cat or dog underweight or uninterested in his food? Many illnesses can cause pets to lose their appetite, and age can decrease the sense of smell. To encourage your pet to eat, warm his food slightly to make it more aromatic. If he can smell it, he’s more likely to eat it. Additionally, scratching your pet’s head and neck or feeding him by hand can also increase his interest in food. The extra attention from you may be just the incentive he needs to chow down.

Medication may work for cats or dogs who don’t respond to warming food and feeding it by hand. Ask your veterinarian whether an appetite stimulant is an option for your pet. With that as a jump-start, many pets start eating again on their own.

If all else fails, talk to your veterinarian about a feeding tube. It sounds drastic, but pets often do very well with feeding tubes. A feeding tube can be placed very quickly under anesthesia, either through the esophagus or directly into the stomach. You can put food into a blender to make a slurry that is given through the tube. (For short-term help with feeding, some tubes can also be placed through the nose and into the stomach, and a liquid diet may be used.) If your pet regains his appetite, he can still eat on his own, even with the tube in place. Once he starts to do that, you can decrease th e meals through the tube and have it removed when it’s no longer needed.

Make sure your pet drinks enough water – he might not feel well if he’s dehydrated. I recommend pet drinking fountains for a couple of reasons. Some pets, especially cats, prefer to drink running water, rather than water that has been sitting in a bowl. A fountain can make drinking more appealing for these pets.

If your dog or cat turns up his nose at drinking more water, you may need to learn to administer subcutaneous fluids at home. They can be a lifesaver, especially for cats with chronic kidney failure.

Focus on Physical and Emotional Comfort

We always think of cats as self-grooming machines, but stiff joints or oral cancers can make it difficult for them to clean themselves. And dogs who are incontinent may also need help keeping themselves clean and dry. Gently brush or comb your pet daily, bathe the urogenital area so urine doesn’t scald the skin if your pet wears diapers and check for dingleberries on fur around the rear end.

Can your pet get around without assistance? Portable steps and ramps are an easy fix to allow dogs and cats to climb in and out of the car, or get over the edge of the litterbox. For a dog who still enjoys getting out and about but doesn’t have the get-up-and-go of his younger or healthier years, consider purchasing a pet stroller or a child’s wagon that he can ride in. A harness with a handle to lift the chest or rump or a mobility cart can also help your pet move around better.

We know our pets are enjoying life when they greet us and welcome petting or other interactions. If your dog or cat seems depressed or anxious or shrinks from your touch, ask yourself if there have been any household changes that could be causing the problem. Dogs and cats like routines, especially when they are older, so try to keep them on a regular schedule of meals and activities. If a sick pet has been isolated because he needs to rest but is normally social, try moving his bed or crate to an area where he’ll feel more involved in family goings-on (as long as he’s not contagious to other pets). Conversely, make sure he has a quiet place to recuperate if he’s more of a loner.

Don’t forget that physical problems such as osteoarthritis or hip dysplasia could cause your pet to suddenly dislike being touched. Ask your veterinarian about pain-relief medications that can help.

Helping your dog or cat out in any of these areas can give a big boost to his quality of life. It’s special for me to be able to help you do that, and I know it will be extra special for you when your pet once again expresses joy and interest in life.