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What to Do When You No Longer Can Care for a Pet

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Pets provide love and companionship to people of all ages and are especially important in making isolated seniors feel less alone. But illness or limited mobility can make it difficult to give Fido or Fluffy the home they need.

Julia Veir, a professor of small animal internal medicine at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, says it’s time to give up a pet or get in-home services when the owner can no longer provide adequate exercise and grooming, feed them as needed and administer medication.

For dogs, the breed can impact a decision. “Greyhounds will be perfectly happy to sleep on the sofa 23 and a half hours a day,” Veir said. “A lot of Labrador retrievers are high energy, high drive. If left alone, without stimulation, they will become destructive and start chewing furniture because they just have too much energy to burn. They need to be exercised or they get stir crazy, essentially.”

If it’s financially feasible, Lauren McCarron, founder of Joyful Pets, a pet care and adoption service based in Amherst, Massachusetts, advocates keeping the pet at home by using the growing number of online pet services. McCarron says that for many older adults, pets are their “everything.” “They’re losing their friends. They’re losing their independence. They’re not driving. They’re probably not working and the pet provides unconditional love. You’ve got that little buddy sitting on your lap.”

Online platforms like Rover, Wag! and Task Rabbit offer dog walking services and there are various platforms to help you find services, such as grooming and poop scooping, you need to care for your pet. Your veterinarian and your friends can be resources, McCarron said. “Now with online delivery you never have to go buy dog food or cat food or litter. There are all these big heavy trips you don’t have to do.”

RE-HOMING A PET

To find a new home, first look to family, McCarron said. She suggested sending an e-blast to family to hopefully find at least a temporary home while you research the right match. And then if you need more help, consider professional rehoming services like Rehome with Love or Rehome by Adopt-a-Pet, which is run by the largest nonprofit adoption site in North America. You also can search for a breed-specific rescue organization or a no-kill shelter. Petfinder.com is a searchable online database with a directory of close to 11,000 animal shelters and adoption organizations across the U.S. and in Canada and Mexico. It also provides adoption information for almost every dog breed.

ASSISTED LIVING

Assisted living communities and nursing homes often permit pet visits, which McCarron applauds. “When you’re older and people aren’t understanding you, these little pets lick you up anyway. They just love you the way you are,” she said.

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