Tips for Adopting a Senior Pet

by DFS-Pet-Blog on October 23, 2015

In honor of Adopt a Senior Pet Month, here is a special tribute to Izzy – a true example of the joys that adopting a senior pet can bring.

Preparing for a senior dogizzycontemplating-2

I lost my last Newfoundland, Rudder, to side effects of drugs to treat his chronic illness, called Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA). IMHA is a disease in which the body attacks its own red blood cells. It is a fatal disease if not treated, not uncommon, and comes on suddenly. But, and it’s a big one, this devastating disease may go into remission if treated properly.

Rudder and I fought this disease for five long months with various medications, including drugs to suppress his immune system, but in the end, his body could not handle the side effects, so I chose euthanasia. On a side note, many dogs do make it to remission, so the fight was worth it.

But this story is not about the sadness of losing Rudder, it is about the joy of getting a chance to adopt a dog Rudder’s age – an 8-year-old Newfoundland named Izzy.

Many people don’t think of the many benefits to adopting a senior dog. Senior canines are many times easier to live with than a puppy or younger dog. They are generally laid back, and can be a good match if you don’t have the lifestyle or energy for youthful exuberance.

It is as crucial to prepare for a senior (or even adult dog) as it is for a puppy. I wanted to have everything ready for adoption time.

Protection & confinement

For instance, Rudder was used to my pet birds, but Izzy has never been exposed to birds, except in the wild. I could imagine the disaster if 120-lb Izzy jumped up on my Amazon’s 6-foot cage, or my cockatiel’s smaller one. I decided to get some North States panels to put around the cages.

Being mindful of the little things that might spark a new canine housemate’s curiosity is foremost on my mind. I searched the house for small objects (coins, needles, thread, dental floss, etc) and got them out of reach. When I adopted Rudder at 18 months, we had issues with prescription bottles which involved many calls to the veterinarian and dosages of hydrogen peroxide, so medications are already stashed away.

I know that Izzy is used to a crate so I have one set up for her. She’ll get the run of the house as all my dogs have had, once I feel I can trust her.

Sweet dreams

Lucky Izzy had many Newfs before her, so I have orthopedic beds in most rooms. Newfs generally like a cool floor (also accessible to her), but older dogs appreciate snoozing on a soft spot. I’ll have to see if she’s a “curler upper” or a “spread-out sleeper”. I just may need to get her a new bed that fits her particular sleeping style. Update: She is somewhere in between, so a Classic Super Deluxe is perfect for her.


Although I have a ramp built especially for big dogs, there are areas of my house where going up stairs is required. Izzy did not want to go up the minimal stairs I have at the front of the house, but with positive reinforcement including treats, I was able to teach her to use them in an afternoon.


I had to make sure I knew which kind of food Izzy was used to, and have some on hand. Switching foods, if I choose to, is best done gradually.

Since Izzy is known to be very food-motivated and a counter surfer, I have to make sure to keep my food out of reach and have her food in in a storage container.

Senior joints

Izzy has good hips, but I do not want to take any chances, since I have had a Newf with hip dysplasia in the past. I had some geriatric blood work done, and even though Izzy has great hips, I will give her a joint-support supplement to keep her joint flexibility as healthy as possible.


Izzy will be my first female Newfoundland. I got her a pink collar and pink lead for training!

collar lead-2

Training is essential even for older dogs. It provides a great bonding opportunity, teaches older dogs who’s boss, and gets both of you used to each other’s habits. She’s already been in the lake and walks well next to me, so I anticipate much joy in my life because I chose to adopt an older dog.

I’d love to hear any advice, tips, or stories any of you might have about adopting a senior dog.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Krystal November 19, 2015 at 2:06 pm

We were very fortunate to adopt a 12-year old Australian Shepard from a wonderful rescue in Illinois. We wanted her to learn about us as much as we needed to learn about her, so we took a very patient approach with her. We allowed her the freedom to investigate on her own and let her have her own space before we forced a lot of interaction with her. As much as we wanted to pet and interact with her every waking moment, we were somewhat hands-off and gave her the freedom to approach us. It worked with her, and she adjusted very quickly. Now, over 2 months later, she’s completely integrated with our family (and a cat!), sleeping with us and wanting to be by our sides most of the time. We love her! Josie is the perfect companion for our family. Thanks for sharing your tips.

Barb S. November 19, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Oh, Krystal, I’m so glad things are working out with your senior Aussie! I wish more people knew how rewarding a senior pet could be in their lives.

Adopting Izzy was one of the best decisions I’ve made. She’s been with me a little over a month, and although she is still a little shy, every day I am seeing more and more confidence come out. She is sweet, gets along with the birds and the cat, is a little protective of her new human companion, and is the perfect fit in my household – I am so thankful to have her!

Thanks for your comment!


Mark August 9, 2016 at 8:36 am

This is a really great write up about adopting senior animals. I’m sure you will always have a special place in your heart for Izzy. Many people underestimate the benefits of adopting a senior pet. 🙂

Cindy Cothron November 21, 2016 at 2:40 pm

Hi Barb
I just lost my little dog Abbey from not getting her spaded .I found Abbey in a pool empty with a broken leg the house was empty she had been badly abused she was about 6 or 7 years old.I can’t emaciation the life she went through for 2 years I gave her all the love she deserve she was a amazing dog she was a long hair chihuahua with a little bark for everything .l loved her with all my heart she died Oct 17 or 2016 my Friend’s are concern about my grieveing process they feel k should get a new dog. I feel it is to soon and would not be fair to Abbey memory. You she Abbey taught me I was capable of loving Because along the way in my life I forgot.everybody I had ever love had die on me.Abeey brought me so much joy and happeyness blues her little heart.please tell everybody how important it is to get your pet spade or murder .if I new about it Abbey would still be hear today Because it is so preventable. And went I got her to the vet they refuses to see her because my inability to pay that day they made me a appointment for the next day when I got paid she died that night.please get the world out.
Thsnk you.Cindy &Abbey.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: