November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month  | PetFirst
November is Adopt a Senior Dog Month 
Pet Care & Health

November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month 

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
5 months ago

When you are looking for a new furry friend to add to the family, please consider adopting a senior pet.

Older dogs have earned their wisdom fur and want nothing more than to live out their golden years surrounded by a loving family and warm bed.  They still have a lot of life to live and so much love to give, and older canines with their frosty brows and grey muzzles are doggone adorable!  

Adopting a senior dog  

Unlike puppies, many older pups tend to have better focus. Senior dogs can often learn more quickly and already often already understand “no.”  

Older dogs can also know what it takes to be part of a pack, a family unit, yet they also leave you time for yourself. They let you get a good night’s sleep as they have grown accustomed to human schedules and do not demand nighttime feedings, comforting or frequent potty breaks when training. 

A senior dog is grateful for the second chance he has been given and finds joy in laying by your side looking at you adoringly.  

Now this is not to say everything will be perfect from the moment your older pal arrives home. You must take the time to show your new dog where to go to the bathroom, what furniture, if any, they are allowed on, where their bed is and where they eat. Set ground rules and stick to them, but also realize there are special considerations to keep in mind for an older dog, so be kind and patient.  


Stretch those legs daily to circulate blood and oxygen and keep joints flexible.  Cold and wet weather may make aging joints ache, but daily exercise is a must, so supervise your pooch on a romp indoors chasing a ping pong ball or do laps at the local pet or hardware store to keep those legs warm and moving even when weather isn’t the best.  

According to Ernie Ward, DVM, engaging in physical activity together is an important component of the human-animal bond.  Humans and dogs are the only two species that interrelate this way.  Dogs and people were designed to walk, run, and play side by side6.

Just remember that although senior dogs need exercise, they also need time to rest, so pace their activity time and level of exertion, and talk to your veterinarian about any concerns. 


What you put into your senior dog is what you will get out of him, literally!

Consider reading labels and look for high quality proteins, ingredients you can pronounce, and no fillers (corn, soy and wheat which often cause allergies). It is important to discuss your pet’s diet with your veterinarian or canine nutritionist so that you are feeding what is best for your one-of-a-kind senior dog. Even biological canine siblings don’t always thrive on the same diet, so if you have a multi-dog household, all may not eat the same meal. The best food for a dog is the food he does best on.  

Be aware that some foods you enjoy are poisonous to our canine pals: grapes, raisinschocolate, certain nuts, xylitol and many more items in your pantry and medicine cabinet.    

Don’t mistake treats for love.  Shower your older fella or lady with belly rubs, ear scratches and time spent with you.  Keep snacking to a minimum for the sake of his or her waistline, joints, heartlungs and kidneys.   

According to Heidi Lobprise, DVM, DAVDC, keeping a dog lean has been shown to be able to extend his life and quality of life, hopefully avoiding or minimizing issues such as osteoarthritis and even diabetes7. 

Some older dogs stop eating because their sense of smell diminishes.  

Try for yourself, there are some foods that just do not taste the same if you can’t smell them! If your best pal needs a bit of encouragement to chow down, warm up the food ever so gently or add smelly but wondeRUFFully healthy Omega 3 fish oils to wake up his olfactory senses8.  If that doesn’t do the trick, a trip to the doggie dentist might be in order. A toothache or abscess just might be making it too painful to chew.  

Training & Mental Stimulation 

Keep your senior dog mentally and physically fit.  It can keep his weight down, his joints flexible, his bones strong and his brain sharp. Brush up on commands he learned as a puppy for safety’s sake, and then throw in a new one or two.

You can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks! 

  • Leave it!  will prevent him from eating that gooey, smelly oh-so-tempting puddle on the floor that could be toxic!  
  • Sit is polite and allows you to put on your dog’s leash or wait for a treat. 
  • Stay and Come keep him from running into the path of a car. 
  • Heel is like a game of follow-the-leader keeping your best pal by your side.  

Puzzlegamesbasically hide ‘n seek for treats, can be as simple as placing a dog biscuit under one of three paper cups, and having your pooch find it. You can also hide treats under a blanket or in snuffle mat, but also try taking your morning walk backwards or to a new location, so that your furry best friend can sniff new smells and see new things, engaging all his senses.   

According to America’s Veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker, we should not think of our senior dog as tired and old but rather a pal in retirement. Your furry friend still has good years ahead of him or her and can enjoy walks, fun – but low-impact activities such as swimming and nose work, and toys that challenge his or her brain, keeping it sharp9

Snout-to-tail check-up 

One of the most beneficial things you can do is get to know your senior pet from snout-to-tail by feeling his entire body each week and paying attention to habits.   

Gently feel from the tip of his ears down to the end of his waggly tail checking for lumps, bumps, parasites, burrs – anything that should not be there.  A change in appetite, bowel movements, stance, behavior, sleeping habits or anything, can potentially be a sign of something not right. Catching a problem early and reporting it to your veterinarian could be a lifesaver!  

Bi-annual veterinary exams 

Regular visits keep Fido at his peak and ward off possible disease through early detection. 

A dog can have loss of kidney function and still appear fine on the surface. Schedule lab tests twice a year for golden oldies to keep tabs on their internal functioning and catch problems early when they are more manageable.  

According to Heidi Lobprise, DVM, DAVDC, as pets age, they need more frequent medical examinations and diagnostic workups such as blood work, urinalysis, blood pressure measurement and even x-rays to detect early signs of disease7.

America’s Veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker said if your aging dog is stiff from arthritis, know that he doesn’t have to limp around or be in pain9Dr. Marty Becker shared that our veterinarians can prescribe a combo of medications and supplements that will put a spring back in our furry friends step and help him or her sleep more restfully. Additionally, helping your pup lose some weight can also relieve stress on achy joints.  

Keep in mind that if your sweet pooch has been a bit on the grouchy side lately, it may be due to a medical issue. Get him checked out!  Pain can make anyone cranky and prone to snap.  

Provide plenty of TLC 

As your dog ages, he may feel the urge to answer nature’s call more frequently and may not be able to let you know quick enough.  Help him by increasing the frequency of potty breaks, installing a doggie door to a securely fenced yard, lining bedding with plastic to make for easy clean-up. 

Make your life simpler, as well as your dog’s, so that you can return that unconditional love and put any frustrations to rest.  Above all, never lose patience with your loyal best friend. They are around too short of a time, but by adopting a senior, you can make whatever time he has special, and it will enhance your life as well. 

Here at PetFirst1, we know accidents and illnesses can happen to all pets – regardless of their age. PetFirst Pet Insurancecan help cover unexpected vet visits2 and can provide peace of mind. PetFirst Pet Insurance1 has cat and dog insurance policies2 to fit every budget. 

Consider getting pet insurance for your furry friend today.


Denise Fleck is the Pet Safety Crusader™ having personally taught more than 20,000 humans to rescue Rover or help Fluffy feel better.  She has a special spot in her heart for senior dogs, and currently serves as the Board President of The Grey Muzzle Organization.  Learn more about her work at  

1PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC.  

2Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force.  

6Author’s personal interview with Dr. Ernie Ward, November 2019  

7Author’s personal interview with Dr. Heidi Lobprise, November 2019

8“Omega 3s and Your Senior Dog,” by Denise Fleck, January 2019   

9Author’s personal interview with Dr. Marty Becker, November 2019

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