Pet Therapy

Pets can offer many benefits to a senior’s life, including joy, fun, exercise and a sense of purpose. Here are some considerations for those who are thinking of getting a pet, or who are interested in pet therapy. 

The Joys of Pets

One of the great joys of life is to own a pet.  One that you spend time with, play with and nurture in whatever way you can.  In return they nurture you, provide you with company and love you unconditionally.  Many people would attest that one of the best times to have a pet seems to be once you are retired and have the time to spend with them.  However, pets can definitely be right for someone at any age!

If you are thinking about getting a pet, the big question is what type of pet you would like to own and what breed?  There are various places you can look for a pet but it should be done with your health and stamina in mind.  Most dogs need daily exercise which means you must walk them every day.  There are higher energy breeds, and lower energy breeds, and certainly age plays a big factor as well, so it is important to do your research before making a decision.  What breed and age of a pet fits into your lifestyle and energy level?  We mentioned dogs above but how about a cat?  Cats don’t require walks outside and so some people may feel that cats are more suitable especially for seniors.  Cats can be equally affectionate, fun and cuddly.

Another planning factor is to talk to a vet or another pet owner about the expected costs of owning a pet.  What are the expected monthly costs associated with basic needs such as food and vet or groomer visits?  Then add on things that you may want to get such as toys, pet bed, treats, etc.    It may also be a good idea to have a health emergency fund for your pet.  Like humans, pets can experience unexpected health issues.

Next, the question is where exactly to look for a pet.  Generally speaking, you may buy from a breeder or rescue a pet from a local shelter.  There are certainly pros and cons to each option.  Buying from a breeder usually involves a much larger expense.  Rescuing a pet from a shelter could be a good option but there could be some unknowns that you will have to accept.  Shelter employees often know a pet’s personality, some aspects of the pet’s history, and can help you to make a good match.   Animals benefit from adoption too, particularly older ones.  They appreciate going from the shelter to having a furever home.

To browse for available adoptable pets, there are various online sites.  One of those is  www.petfinder.com but before adopting a pet through any online source, it is a good idea to meet the pet in person.  Many shelters such as SPCA and other non-profit shelters have websites where they post photos of their adoptable pets, and if you are adopting from a local organization, you should be able to arrange to meet the pet first.

As for ongoing walks and other pet responsibilities, fortunately there are agencies that can provide help to seniors when needed.  One agency named ElderDog.ca will exercise your dog when you can’t, will pick up dog food, transport your animal to the vet and provide temporary care if you are hospitalized.  These services are free!!  There are also many dog walker services that you can find through the internet or by word of mouth.

Lastly, maybe pet ownership isn’t for you but you may benefit from pet therapy?  There are organizations that offer pet therapy services such as Pet and Friends, and Vancouver Eco-Village.  Check them out!

We hope this has been helpful and we wish you happy days with the pet of your choice!