Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Senior Dog

Lindsey ZimmermanDog Health

Adopting a senior dog will give you a special feeling … it’s almost as if he can sense you have saved him! Too many senior dogs are left to spend the rest of their days confined to a kennel or shelter, abandoned through no fault of their own. Many older dogs have been abandoned because their owner passed away.

However, it can also be quite a commitment (as is any dog). Ask yourself these questions before you consider adopting a dog in his golden years:

Are there any special nutrition requirements?
Puppies and senior dogs have different nutritional and caloric requirements than adult dogs, usually accompanied by a reduction in exercise. You may be dealing with a dog who used to eat with gusto but has lost interest in food.

Ask your vet or rescue shelter about the best diet to prevent obesity in older age, one that is higher in fiber and lower in fat.

Does he have any pre-existing illnesses?
Does the dog have any health conditions? For instance, many dogs develop arthritis, diabetes or hip dysplasia as they get older. Other dogs must take certain medications. Still others have exercise restrictions.

Make sure to find out the costs of all the medications and treatments before you make a commitment.

Does he have any behavioral issues?
It is a falsehood that old dogs can’t learn new tricks. Your adopted dog may benefit from some additional training to fit into your lifestyle. He may bark too much, have separation anxiety from being abandoned or even problems walking calmly on a leash. Most older dogs will be potty trained and have a reasonable understanding of basic obedience commands – but not all of them. I once adopted a senior dog who had never seen stairs, so he had to be taught how to go up and down! Dogs are NEVER too old to learn some behavioral changes. There may be some bad habits that need to be re-trained.

Does he get along with other dogs? Cats? Children?
Some breeds or even specific dogs do better in a household with no children or other pets. This is important to find out ahead of time?

Can your home accommodate his needs?
Will it be easy for a senior dog to get around your house? Are there a lot of stairs or slippery rugs? Is there access to a yard? Can you make adjustments to accommodate the needs of the dog?