As you move into retirement, many of the changes in your life will likely affect your pets and how you care for them. After 28 years as a practicing veterinarian, I am transitioning to part-time work 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 grow older, our relationships with our pets change as we spend less time away at work but more time traveling and enjoying hobbies. The following are some considerations for these times in your life.
1. Choose A Pet Suited To Your Lifestyle
As a younger person with a family, you may have chosen a dog or cat for romping around with the kids. If you worked long hours, you may have chosen a pet that was content being home alone all day.
As you move into retirement, you need to contemplate what type of pet will complement your daily activities. Do you want an active dog to accompany you on hikes or a small, quiet dog you can bring into shops? Do you want a playful cat to keep you amused or one that enjoys sleeping on your lap while you read or write your memoir? Would you rather have fish or a snake that is pleasant to look at but doesn’t need daily interaction?
Consider the daily and annual costs that you will need to cover and how much you can afford on your retirement income. Talk to your veterinarian about possible veterinary care that will be needed. Some purebred animals are more prone to certain problems. Pets that roam outdoors or are very active are more likely to get injured. Large animals will cost more to feed. Multiple pets will mean multiplying the costs of food, litter, toys, and veterinary care.
2. Learn About The Unique Needs Of Older Pets
As you grow older, any pets you have been caring for are getting older also. 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 the size and temperament. You can also ensure a good home and comfortable final years for an older dog or cat by choosing to adopt them.
Your pet’s body will change as they age, but if you pay close attention and provide good care, you can help them to live longer and happier lives. Arthritis is very common and can begin by 10 years of age in cats and small dogs, and even younger in large dogs. Watch for any changes in movement or reduced levels of play. Dental disease causes pain and infection spreading through the body and requires regular care by your veterinarian. The anesthesia needed for dental cleanings has become very safe, even for older animals (if the correct 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 testing are needed every 6 to 12 months or more. By finding medical problems earlier, veterinary care will be easier and less expensive, and your pet will suffer less discomfort. Since pets cannot tell us when something is wrong, your veterinary team plays a large role in finding and treating changes. Your pet may need a change in diet, treats, or activity levels about which your veterinarian can advise you.
3. Find The Right Veterinary Team 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 are comfortable. You may prefer a mobile veterinarian who will come to your home to provide care. Always be polite and considerate, but ask for what you need. If you have been a client for many years, alert the clinic to changes in your lifestyle and needs.
Obtaining pet insurance can help reduce surprises in costs along the way. Insurance will not cover pre-existing conditions so purchase it as soon as you can. You can choose among many options depending on what you want it to cover.
4. Improve Your Health By Caring For Pets
Caring for pets can contribute greatly to slowing 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 reduces your stress hormones and blood pressure. Pets give us a sense of support and reduce loneliness, which boosts our mood and overall happiness levels. Various types of therapy animals help people with physical and mental health conditions.
The daily care of pets may seem like a burden at times, but it has benefits to your mental and physical health. It keeps you on a schedule and gives your brain exercise as you plan your pets’ care. 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 topics of conversation in social settings. Who doesn’t want to see photos of other peoples’ pets and remark over their interesting names?
5. Volunteer With Animals
Volunteering with animals is a wonderful way to interact with people and provides a sense of contribution to your life. You can volunteer with your pet in medical settings or at senior homes and improve the day of someone in need. You can also volunteer at an animal shelter or rescue organization and spend your time with others who also love animals. You will be improving the lives of the animals and helping the families who adopt the perfect pet.
6. Travel With Your Pet In Retirement
Now that you have retired or reduced your working hours, you probably want to start traveling more. Having your furry buddy along can add to your enjoyment or increase your stress. Plan well in advance to bring them with you or to find the right care for them at home.
The type of travel you do will determine how it will affect your pets. Dogs and cats that love interacting with people they might not know and adapt easily to change will likely be good candidates for accompanying you on your travels. If your pets are easily stressed by disruptions to their routine and are afraid of strangers, life on the road will likely not suit them.
If you are planning trips by car, think about how long the trip will last and how your dog or cat tolerates traveling in the car. If you are flying, consider what the traveling conditions will be like for your pet and if it is worth the stress of the experience. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to evaluate your pet’s health and any special needs before you head out. Discuss if a sedative or nausea medicine will be needed. Be sure your pet has proper identification, such as a microchip, should they get separated from you at any point in your trip. It is also good to research emergency clinics at your destination so you have someone to call if any concerns develop.
7. Find Good Care For Your Pet At Home So You Can Travel Without Worry
Many options exist 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, it may be best to find a family member or friend who can take them into their home. If they have pets of their own, be sure your pet gets along with them or there is room in the home to have their own separate space. Bring along their food, treats, food dishes, and beds to minimize disruptions to their routine.
For shorter trips, you can board your pet at a veterinary clinic or boarding facility or have a pet sitter come to your home. Ask friends, family, and your veterinary team for recommendations. Be sure whoever is taking care of your pet follows your pet’s routine as close as possible in regards to feeding, medicating, and going outside. Provide instructions for what should be done if there are any changes to your pet’s health. Leave contact information for yourself and someone else you trust to make decisions for your pet. Many boarding places 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 on what type of pet to have and how to fit them into your lifestyle. Pets can keep you physically and mentally fit and will be a wonderful companion in these years.