Adopting a pet is a life-changing decision, offering numerous joys and challenges. While puppies and kittens often steal the spotlight in adoption centers, senior pets–those typically classified as seven years or older–offer a unique set of benefits and considerations for potential adopters. 

My husband and I made the decision about a year ago to adopt a senior pet with special needs. Jake is an (approximately) 8-year-old, 70-lb Great Dane-Labrador mix who is also a tripod (missing a front leg). Something that helped to solidify the decision to adopt Jake was taking advantage of the opportunity to foster him first, allowing us to gain a better understanding of whether he would be a good fit for our family. 

November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month, so let’s take a comprehensive look at why adopting a senior pet can be a rewarding experience and what to keep in mind before making this compassionate decision.

Jake is an (approximately) 8-year-old, 70-lb Great Dane-Labrador mix

Dr. Chelsea McGivney’s adopted senior dog, Jake!

Benefits of Adopting a Senior Pet

Temperament and Behavior

Senior pets usually have well-established temperaments, making it easier for adopters to find a pet whose personality fits their lifestyle. Unlike their younger counterparts, they have grown past the high-energy, demanding training phase. This predictability in behavior is a huge advantage for adopters who prefer a more settled companion.

Training and Socialization

Most senior pets come with a basic level of training and socialization. They are often house-trained and understand basic commands, reducing the initial effort and time required for training. This can be particularly beneficial for first-time pet owners or those with limited time.

Lower Exercise Requirements

While exercise is important for all pets, senior animals typically require less physical activity compared to younger ones. This can be ideal for individuals or families who cannot commit to the high energy levels and exercise needs of puppies or kittens.

An adopted senior dog rolling in the grass

Jake enjoying the warm Colorado sun!

Instant Companions

Senior pets are often ready to be loyal and loving companions from the moment they arrive in their new home. They can quickly adapt to their new environment and form strong bonds with their adopters.

 Knowing What You’re Getting

With a senior pet, what you see is generally what you get in terms of size, fur length, and personality. This can eliminate surprises that might occur when adopting a younger animal whose future development can be unpredictable.

 Saving a Life

Older pets are often overlooked in shelters and can spend a long time waiting for their forever home. By adopting a senior pet, you’re not only gaining a companion but also potentially saving a life.

A senior grey muzzled dog sleeping

Jake enjoying a nap on the couch

Considerations When Adopting a Senior Pet

 Health Concerns

Senior pets may have more health issues than younger ones, requiring more frequent visits to the vet and potentially higher medical costs. Prospective adopters should be prepared for the responsibility of managing these age-related health needs and even consider purchasing pet insurance at the time of adoption to help offset some of the medical costs.

 Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of a senior pet is generally shorter than that of a younger one. Adopters should consider their emotional readiness to cope with the loss of a pet in a relatively shorter time frame.

A sweet old pup looking at the camera

Jake resting on the couch with me!

Energy and Activity Levels

While lower energy levels can be a benefit, it’s important to match your lifestyle with the pet’s activity level. Some senior pets may still be quite active, while others prefer a more sedentary lifestyle.


Older pets can sometimes be set in their ways and may take longer to adapt to new environments and routines. Patience and gentle guidance are key during their adjustment period.

A sweet old pup looking at the camera

Jake in the front yard taking in the sights and smells!

Closing Thoughts

Adopting a senior pet can be a deeply fulfilling experience, offering the joy of companionship with a mature animal who has a lot of love to give. Their calm demeanor, lower energy requirements, and known personality traits make them ideal pets for many households. However, it’s essential to consider their potential health issues, lifespan, and overall care needs.

Ultimately, the decision to adopt a senior pet should be made with careful consideration of your lifestyle, emotional readiness, and ability to provide for their unique needs. By doing so, you can ensure a loving, comfortable home for a deserving senior pet, while enriching your own life with their presence.

This past year with Jake has been one full of some of the above mentioned challenges, but has included all of the benefits (plus more)! Even though I know we likely won’t have Jake for too many years, the bond we have formed with him and the unconditional love that he shares in return is something that cannot be measured–only treasured for the time that we are all together.

A sweet old pup looking at the camera

Jake zonked out on his dog bed!

Written by: Dr. Chelsea McGivney, General Manager

Dr. Chelsea grew up in Albuquerque, NM and completed her undergraduate studies at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. Upon graduation, she was commissioned as an Air Force officer and stationed at Aviano Air Base in Aviano, Italy. After an honorable discharge from the Air Force, Dr. Chelsea pursued her veterinary degree at Colorado State University. She then moved to Maryland to complete a small animal rotating internship and continued working in Maryland as a small animal, general practitioner. Missing Colorado, Dr. Chelsea accepted a position as a veterinary associate at an at-home, end-of-life veterinary practice in Northern Colorado. Her career then took a turn when she was offered a position with Nestlé Purina and she pursued an opportunity in industry, while continuing regular work as a relief veterinarian.

This unique work history and experience prepared Dr. Chelsea to assume the role of General Manager at Caring Pathways, where she leads a team of at-home, end-of-life specialists. Her passion for facilitating the human-animal bond allows her to bring her professional experience and love of veterinary care together.

Chelsea McGivney

Hampton Roads Veterinary Hospice

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