While pets provide companionship, love, and plenty of snuggles, they also require consistent attention and care. As our loved ones age and their mobility and memory decline, they may no longer be able to care for their pets. Families may then be faced with the difficult conversation about seeking different pet-care options.
When starting the conversation about a change in pet care, remember to be patient, kind, and empathetic. Your parent may not be aware that they’re no longer able to provide the appropriate care for their furry friend. It’s important to communicate to your loved one that they’re in a judgement-free environment, and that you simply have their pet’s best interest at heart.
Also keep in mind that your parent may be struggling with the reality that they need help in several other areas of their life. Have extra compassion for them during this time — it’s hard enough that they have to lose their pet, let alone accept that they’re becoming less independent overall.
There can be many reasons your aging parent may no longer be able to care for their pet. The following is a list of signs your parent may need to seek options for pet care.
Westie Rescue of Missouri gets contacted “all the time” by children of aging parents unable to keep their pets, said Cheryl Sanford Aston, a volunteer and board member with the rescue group.
“Typically, the family or a friend will contact us,” said Sanford Aston. “A lot of times, it’s a crisis situation where they might say, ‘I have to get rid of the dog tomorrow.’”
When you’re estate planning, it’s a good idea to ask your parents to include a guardian for their pet or enough money to fund veterinary care, boarding, and expenses related to finding the animal a new home, Sanford Aston explained. That way, if your loved one’s care needs unexpectedly change, their pet will have the proper care in place.
Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.
It’s important to plan for the future, even if your parent decides to keep their pet for now. Have an honest conversation with your loved one about the future and what they want to do with their pet when they’re no longer able to provide care. This way, the most ideal options can be determined in advance.
Facing the reality that a parent can’t take care of their dog or cat anymore is challenging, but there are several options for pet care assistance for senior citizens.
Once you and your family members have agreed to seek help for the furry friend, you have options. Some involve seeking extra help so your parent and their pet can stay together, and others involve rehoming the pet. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, as each pet and person has different needs.
In some circumstances, seeking pet-care assistance may be a sufficient option, especially if your parent still has some independence and only needs help with certain tasks while aging at home. Many areas have community programs that offer pet care assistance for senior citizens, and some options even include veterinary help for seniors.
Here are some great examples of pet-care services that can help with boarding, walking, and playtime:
For some, the strain of pet ownership is financial rather than physical. The Humane Society offersadvice for low-income seniors needing pet assistance.
Some areas even offer veterinary help for seniors on a fixed income. It’s a good idea to reach out to local veterinary clinics and ask about community resources that may be specific to your area. Animal shelters, local online pet groups, and close friends and family may also be able to lend area-specific advice.
Sometimes a little extra assistance isn’t enough, and the only option is to rehome your loved one’s pet. Pet rehoming options could include the following:
Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.
If you list the pet online to rehome, don’t advertise the pet as “free to a good home.” Unfortunately, people seeking free dogs sometimes have bad intentions, such as selling the pet to dog fighting rings or reselling the animal to the first buyer with no screening or follow-up. Look for local resources that can give advice on best practices for rehoming the pet in your area.
With so many programs for seniors with pets across the country, help is out there. Research your options fully before committing to one, and check in with your parent through each step of the process to ensure they feel supported during this transition. Regardless of which option is best for your parent, remember that any change to your parent and their pet’s routine may be stressful and can require extra patience.
Being Stray. (2009, May 27). Veterinary Assistance for Seniors with Pets
Cesarsway. (2015, June 18). 4 Signs A Senior Can No Longer Care For A Dog.
The Humane Society of The United States. Are you having trouble affording your pet?
Westie Rescue of Missouri. Westierescueofmissouri.com
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