Why This Vet Thinks You Should Consider Adopting a Senior Pet

dog with chew toy
Dr. Patty Khuly
Dr. Patty Khuly's senior dog Tika holds a toy.

So many young, healthy pets need homes that homeless oldies are more likely to face euthanasia than any other group of "unwanteds."

Yet I think that adopting an older pet who needs a family is the very best thing you can do if you truly love animals. Indeed, in my estimation, accepting a geriatric pet into your home is a true measure of dedication to animals. And they have so much to recommend them that it’s a no-brainer for me.

But then I just adopted a wonderful senior pet, so I’m feeling especially bullish on the subject.

Tika Joins the Household

Tika is almost 10 years old, which is on the senior side for a Belgian Malinois. In spite of her age, she’s a real firecracker, hailing from a family of military athletes with the working dog drive to match.

Trained in bite work for prisoner transport, Tika is not for everyone. She is, however, an awesome dog. Sure, she’s got older dog issues. When I first adopted her, she required a root canal, a couple of major dental extractions, and treatment for her arthritis. Simple stuff, really — but expensive stuff, nonetheless.

Tika came to me trained (really, really trained). She listens well, is happy to lounge when we lounge or go on a 4-mile run when we do that (most oldies can’t do this, I'll admit). She’s also got manners and a stately attitude that helps keep my other dogs in their proper places in the pack. And she’d never think to piddle on the floor or chew up my knitting.

More Pros Than Cons

Given all these pluses, why wouldn’t someone want to take in a geriatric?

It's usually because:

  • Older pets are considered set in their ways and, therefore, may be harder than others to integrate with other pets.
  • They don’t have as long to live as younger pets, and people fear having their hearts broken when their adoptees die in just a few years.
  • They can prove expensive, since older pets tend to require more medical attention than the younger set.

And those things are all true. But these issues shouldn’t necessarily be impediments — even for the average person.

After all, most of us are willing to shepherd our early-adopted pets through to the very end. Why wouldn’t we be capable of doing the same for those who don’t have the benefit of staying with their original owners for life?

Have I convinced you? If so, the San Francisco geriatric dog rescue group Muttville provides resources for older dogs, and the folks at Cornell University’s Feline Health Center provide information on senior cats.

Just think about it: If there were more people willing to take on older pets for the last couple of years of their lives, we’d have way fewer senior “unadoptables.” And more happy pet-owner matches, too!


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