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Why getting a “pandemic puppy” for seniors might be not the best choice

Why getting a “pandemic puppy” for seniors might be not the best choice

Happy Seniors with their pet

Once life goes back to normal and people are getting out again and returning to work, there could be some post-COVID pet regret along with our new best furry friends facing a lot of unfamiliar alone time. Pandemic puppy purchases may be in the moment, but pet ownership is a long-term commitment.

Puppy demand is soaring. Humane societies and animal rescue organizations across Canada report a spike in new adoptions and fosters, so much so that supply is low. And the tremendous ongoing demand from over-eager consumers has sent puppy prices skyrocketing with several Kijiji listings asking $3,000 and upward for a mutt – with no guarantees of health, breed or temperament.

While craving companionship is understandable, the end result could be more than you bargained for.

According to Dr. Rebecca Greenstein, Canadian veterinary medical advisor for Rover, “while it’s important for everyone to have the opportunity to experience the joy and love of pet companionship, especially during a time of heightened stress and loneliness, it’s also vital that folks consider everything before rushing into a decision.”

Lonely seniors have been disproportionately kept away from loved ones during the pandemic, and the companionship, sense of belonging, and stress relief that pets can offer could be hugely beneficial – but in the right situations, said Greenstein, chief vet and owner of Kleinburg Veterinary Hospital at kleinburgvet.ca.  

Pets have an unmistakable allure, especially in uncertain times and as birthday and Christmas gifts, but they are not a toy or a novelty gift. “Owning an animal is a tremendous responsibility over the entirety of its lifetime – in the case of some birds, this could mean decades of care,” Greenstein said.
 
Seniors need to make an honest assessment of their own mobility and physical fitness: Are you able and willing to go for long walks several times a day? If your large dog gets hurt, could you realistically lift him or her into a vehicle by yourself?

Another key consideration is the cost of pet ownership. Routine veterinary visits, food, and grooming all add up. Emergency medical bills can run into the thousands so it’s essential to consider pet insurance and to set aside funds as early as possible, Greenstein added.

In addition, consider your lifestyle and home circumstances. “Once the pandemic ends and you’re busy socializing again, do you have the time to devote to pet care? While certain pets can be happily kept in an apartment, other active breeds need pace like a backyard or park to run about so take stock of your home and be honest about where it ranks on the pet-friendliness scale.” 

While there’s a good reason we call them man’s best friend, canines are not appropriate for all people under all circumstances, stressed Greenstein. “Smaller, calmer, and more sedentary breeds are likely a better choice for seniors but thorough research is a must before bringing a fur baby home!”

According to Greenstein, cats are another good choice. Unlike dogs, they don’t require the same amount of physical activity and most cats thrive indoors only. “Just be sure that no one in the home has allergies and remember that cats can live to over 20 years of age, so you’re in it for the long term.”

Fish are an often overlooked pet. They are colourful and beautiful and some non-tropical species are fairly easy to care for. “Studies have shown that even owning a goldfish as a pet can have significant health benefits as an owner,” she said.

What are the best dogs for seniors?

Consider smaller, calmer breeds with less exercise requirements including
miniature poodles, bichons, yorkies, shih tzus and maltese. Some of these can bark a lot, require a lot of grooming and have a variety of common health issues so be sure to do your research beforehand, advised Greenstein

What are the best to avoid these dogs if you’re a senior?

German shepherds, Rottweilers, and Dobermans are beautiful dogs but require a lot of exercises and intense training. Herding breeds like Australian shepherds are intelligent but need a lot of physical activity and attention. Golden Retrievers are kind, loyal, and wonderful family pets but might be a little too destructive, especially as puppies, and need significant space and exercise.

If adding a new family member is feasible both short-term and in the future, the added companionship can be a major factor in boosting mental wellbeing, she said. In fact, a recent Rover survey found that nine out of 10 dog owners say that since the pandemic began, their dog has played a role in positively impacting their mental health. 

“Welcoming a new pet to your family is a financial and emotional commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly – but ask any pet parent and they’ll tell you, the love and joy they bring to your life is priceless.”

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