Pet ownership offers many benefits for seniors. Your furry friend can help you stay active and offer companionship. It could even help you socialize, whether that's meeting people in the park while you walk your dog or interacting with others at the vet or groomer. You likely can't imagine your life without your animal companion, but pets also come with some challenges. Being aware of these challenges can make your life as a senior pet owner easier.
You plan on regular costs like food and litter, but veterinarian care can become expensive. For seniors on a limited budget, it can be difficult to manage these costs. On average, a vet visit costs $61, but that doesn't include testing or treatments your pet might receive. Diseases, injuries and other medical conditions come with even higher vet bills. For instance, cancer costs an average of $4,100 for dogs and $3,800 for cats. A bladder infection typically costs around $400 for dogs and $1,100 for cats.
Controlling the cost of pet care isn't always easy, but there are some ways to help. Try these options:
As you age, you likely slow down and might have mobility issues. It can be difficult to walk your dog and play with your pets. You might struggle to control a larger dog when you go for walks, or you could run the risk of falling if your dog pulls on the leash. If you have grip issues, you might struggle to open pet food containers, serve pet food or groom your pets. These issues can make it difficult to care for your pet.
If you're choosing a new pet, consider options that are compatible with your physical abilities. High-energy dog breeds and puppies might be overwhelming if you can't take them on enough walks. Cats, fish and other pets that stay indoors and don't need walks are also easier.
You can also hire help for your pet. Dog walkers can handle the daily exercise for your pet if you can't keep up. You might also get help from a friend, family member or neighbor for things like opening a new bag of pet food.
As you get older, your pet is also aging quickly. An older pet might have medical needs or need more assistance. For example, an older pet with arthritis might need to be picked up to do certain things, which can be challenging for some seniors. Health conditions might require different treatment options that could be difficult for you to perform or afford. It can also be emotionally draining to watch your pet deal with health issues.
Maintaining your pet's health early in life can prevent some issues. If your pet develops a health condition, have it diagnosed quickly and do the treatments consistently to keep it from getting worse. You might also need help from others to do certain treatments.
If you're an active senior who likes to travel, finding care for your pets while you're gone can be challenging. This might require you to hire a pet sitter. If you board your pet, the costs can add up quickly, especially if you travel frequently. Being separated from you can be stressful for your pet.
Find a reliable pet sitter or boarding facility to use consistently. Build those costs into your vacation budget to ensure you can afford it. If possible, consider taking a pet-friendly vacation so your companion can go with you.
If you own your home, you can typically have any type of pet you want. Some HOAs might have restrictions on certain breeds or types of animals. Some cities also enforce breed restrictions. However, if you're considering a move to a senior living community, you could face even more restrictions. Some communities don't allow pets. This can limit your choice of where you live or force you to give up your pet.
Before moving into a senior living facility, check the pet policies to make sure your companion is allowed. Communities under the Bethesda Senior Living Communities umbrella are pet-friendly. You can also get referrals from the community for dog walking and other services that can make pet ownership easier as you age.