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7 tips for caring for your pets in retirement

As you retire, many of the changes in your life are likely to affect your pets and the way you care for them. After 28 years as a practicing veterinarian, I am transitioning to a part-time job and starting a new career as a travel writer. I am experiencing many changes and have many clients who are in their retirement years. As we age, our relationships with our pets change as we spend less time at work but more time traveling and enjoying our hobbies. The following are some considerations for these times in your life.

Walking with cat, Kuril bobtail, on a leash through a wooden path.
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1. Choose a pet that suits your lifestyle

As a younger person with a family, you may have chosen a dog or cat to play with the kids. If she worked long hours, she may have chosen a pet that was content to be home alone all day.

As you move toward retirement, you need to consider what type of pet will complement your daily activities. Do you want an active dog to accompany you on walks or a quiet little dog that you can take to the shops? Do you want a playful cat that will keep you entertained or one that enjoys sleeping on your lap while you read or write your memoirs? Would you rather have a fish or snake that is easy on the eyes but doesn’t need daily interaction?

Consider the daily and annual costs you’ll need to cover and how much you can afford to pay in your retirement income. Talk to your vet about the possible veterinary care you’ll need. Some purebred animals are more prone to certain problems. Pets that roam outdoors or are very active are more likely to be injured. Large animals will cost more to feed. Multiple pets will mean multiplying costs for food, litter, toys, and veterinary care.

Portrait of an older chiweenie, sitting and looking up.
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2. Learn about the unique needs of older pets

As you age, any pets you have been caring for will also age. If you adopt a new pet, you may not want to housetrain a puppy or deal with the mischievous energy of a kitten. When you adopt an adult pet, you have full knowledge of size and temperament. You can also ensure a good home and a comfortable last few years for an older dog or cat if you decide to adopt them.

Your pet’s body will change as it ages, but paying close attention and providing good care can help your pet live a longer, happier life. Arthritis is very common and can start as early as 10 years of age in cats and small dogs, and even earlier in large dogs. Keep an eye out for any changes in movement or reduced levels of play. Dental disease causes pain and infection that spreads throughout the body and requires regular attention from your veterinarian. The anesthesia required for dental cleanings has become very safe, even for older animals (if proper precautions are taken).

Many diseases, such as kidney disease, diabetes, and heart disease, become much more common as pets age. A veterinary exam, blood tests and other tests are needed every 6 to 12 months or more. By finding medical problems sooner, veterinary care will be easier and less expensive, and your pet will experience less discomfort. Since pets can’t tell us when something is wrong, your veterinary team plays an important role in finding and treating changes. Your pet may need a change in diet, treats, or activity levels which your vet can advise you on.

French bulldog dog and veterinary doctor hand in veterinary clinic.
Hryshchyshen Serhii / Shutterstock.com

3. Find the right veterinary equipment for your changing needs

As your lifestyle changes, you may need to find a veterinary clinic with different hours or accessibility. Find a veterinary team that is willing to partner with you in a way that you feel comfortable with. You may prefer a mobile vet who comes to your home to provide care. Always be courteous and considerate, but ask for what you need. If you have been a client for many years, please alert the clinic to changes in your lifestyle and needs.

Getting pet insurance can help reduce cost surprises down the road. The insurance will not cover pre-existing conditions, so buy it as soon as possible. You can choose from many options depending on what you want it to cover.

Elderly woman holding a small striped kitten, a kitten in the arms of a woman.
Volodymyr / Shutterstock.com

4. Improve your health by taking care of pets

Pet care can go a long way in curbing the effects of aging on our mental and physical health. The National Institutes of Health presents helpful information in its monthly newsletter. Studies show that interacting with pets lowers stress hormones and blood pressure. Pets give us a sense of support and reduce loneliness, which improves our mood and overall levels of happiness. Various types of therapy animals help people with physical and mental health problems.

Daily pet care can seem like a burden at times, but it has benefits for your mental and physical health. It keeps you on a schedule and gives your brain a workout as you plan the care of your pets. Taking your dog for a walk or playing with your cat keeps you physically active. Pets also provide a way to meet people and provide conversation starters in social settings. Who doesn’t want to see photos of other people’s pets and comment on their cool names?

Volunteer brings therapy dog ​​to hospital.
Volunteer brings in therapy dog ​​(Photo Credit: Monkey Business Imagesv / Shutterstock.com)

5. Volunteer with animals

Volunteering with animals is a wonderful way to interact with people and brings a sense of contribution to your life. You can volunteer with your pet in medical settings or nursing homes and make the day of someone in need. You can also volunteer at an animal shelter or rescue organization and spend your time with other people who also love animals. You’ll be improving the lives of animals and helping families who adopt the perfect pet.

Senior woman carrying a small dog in a colorful bag around her chest.
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6. Travel with your pet during retirement

Now that you’ve retired or reduced your work hours, you probably want to start traveling more. Having your furry friend can increase your fun or increase your stress. Plan well in advance to take them with you or to find the right care for them at home.

The type of travel you take will determine how it will affect your pets. Dogs and cats that love to interact with people they may not know and adapt easily to change are likely to be good candidates to accompany you on your travels. If your pets are easily stressed by interruptions in their routine and fearful of strangers, life on the road may not suit them.

If you’re planning car trips, think about how long the trip will take and how your dog or cat tolerates traveling in the car. If you’re going to fly, consider what the travel conditions will be like for your pet and whether the experience is worth the stress. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to assess your pet’s health and any special needs before you leave. Discuss whether an anti-nausea or sedative medication will be needed. Make sure your pet has proper identification, such as a microchip, in case they become separated from you at any point during your trip. It’s also good to look up emergency clinics in your destination so you have someone to call if you have any concerns.

Large and small dogs in a pet boarding facility.
Jayme Burrows / Shutterstock.com

7. Find good care for your pet at home so you can travel worry-free

There are many options for leaving your pet at home while you travel. Your decision may be influenced by how long you will be gone. If you are traveling for an extended period of time, it may be best to find a family member or friend who can drive you home. If you have your own pets, make sure your pet gets along with them or there is room in the house to have their own separate space. Bring your food, treats, dinner plates, and bedding to minimize interruptions to your routine.

For shorter trips, you can board your pet at a veterinary clinic or boarding center or have a pet sitter come to your home. Ask friends, family, and your veterinary team for recommendations. Make sure whoever is caring for your pet follows your pet’s routine as closely as possible with regards to feeding, medication, and going out. Provide instructions on what to do if there is any change in your pet’s health. Leave your contact information and that of someone you trust to make decisions for your pet. Many boarding locations will send you photos so you can see how your pet is doing.

Retirement brings many changes to your life, and it can help to intentionally plan what kind of pet to have and how to fit it into your lifestyle. Pets can keep you physically and mentally fit and will be a wonderful companion in these years.

For more tips on retirement, explore these articles:

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