5 Lessons We Can Learn From Senior Pets

Our culture highly stigmatizes aging. In honor of Adopt a Senior Pet Month, here’s how elderly pets can teach us to embrace old age and live life to the fullest.

1. Aging is natural.

Everyone ages. Because most pets live shorter lives than humans, we get to see our pets age — and yes, die — a lot more often.

After all, it’s a natural process for our animal companions to undergo change as their lives progress. And as David Dudley notes in AARP, dogs even develop a lot of the same age-related diseases as humans, including cancer, heart disease and arthritis.

Watching our pets grow old reminds us that aging isn’t something we can slow or stop — and that’s OK.

2. We should do what we can with what we have.

As pets age, they may not have that puppy energy anymore, but many still come out to greet you when you come home.

My family has a 12-year-old pointer who still runs through the woods, despite his congestive heart failure. When he struggles to breathe, he slows down.

“‘Dog years’ are fluid things; smaller breeds live longer than big ones, and none seem to really get older and wiser, like we are supposed to do,” Dudley writes. “Emotionally, a domestic dog exists in a kind of perpetual adolescence, a long summer twilight of play and napping and happy routine in the company of parents who never get old, and never let you grow up.”

Despite their energy, senior dogs work within their abilities, rather than hoping for more. We should strive for the same.

3. People love you.

Aging is too often equated with ugliness and abandonment. If a senior animal is lucky enough to have a family, they run counter to that assumption.

If you want to share some of that love with an animal but can’t commit long-term, consider bringing home a hospice foster. These are senior shelter animals that people bring into their houses, so they don’t have to die alone in the shelter.

If senior dogs have and deserve love, so do you.

4. Let others take care of you.

The American ideal stresses independence. Depending on someone else is highly stigmatized. At the same time, most of us need the help of other people to succeed.

Senior animals don’t come with that presumption. In fact, pets, in general, depend on their families for food, water, shelter, exercise, socializing and medical care.

You don’t think less of your animals for needing help. Why does this change when it’s you?

5. Take your vitamins.

My 8-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier mix was just diagnosed with arthritis. After the vet suggested he take glucosamine and a dog aspirin, he’s already moving better.

Sometimes, taking your vitamins comes literally in a supplement. Other times, it manifests in eating better, sleeping well or going out to exercise.

Self-care is essential.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing

Jennifer H
Jennifer Habout a year ago

When the dogs are older I just get to spoil them even more! They just get better with age and adapt to the aging process better than humans do.

Sonia M
Sonia M1 years ago

Good article thanks for sharing

Christina M
Christina M1 years ago


Nita L
Nita L1 years ago

All so true. Thank you.

Nicole H

The big difference between our pets going old, and us going old is mainly a human problem. My last dog Sheba was over 16 when she passed away. Since a couple of years she became more and more blind, we also had to speak louder, o'wise, she did not hear us any more, she was a lot slower than years before, well ........ she just was an old dog. Nobody bothered about it. She was nearly blind, but found her way all over the apartment. She did not hear as well, but when I took out her platter with her warmed up, self made dinner, she "knew" it. May be she could still smell it. She was still playful, however after 10/15 mins. she stopped and had to rest for a while. Long walks : part of the way we had to carry her for a while... there were more of such little things that we effectively noticed she was becoming an old lady. But she still was very loving, and lovable, begged for some petting and playing, etc ... just as her previously. We on the contrary think we have to stay young ! No wrinkles, more exercising, more diets, dying our hair, buying "younger" clothes, more and more of this or that and less and less of other things... Aging is just as normal as breathing. Cats and dogs understand that. We are fighting against it.

Teresa A
Teresa Antela1 years ago

Almost all my pets have lived quite a long life and they always surprised me with their way of facing aging. They are indeed smarter than us.

Adeline W
Adeline A1 years ago

My 11-year-old sleeps more and plays less, but he still does his jobs of watch dog and companion dog.

Leanne K
Leanne K1 years ago

I prefer to adopt animals that otherwise would not be. The big, the naughty, the elderly. Its like doing 2 kinds of good and I know Im making a difference. All pets give us joy, more so if we have the right attitude and understanding. (Those problems that people have with their pets, are not problems. They are indicators that you are not a good pet owner and you need to do things differently.... )