Pets are a great way to improve seniors’ physical and mental health. Not only can they provide invaluable companionship, but they can also help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and instill a sense of responsibility.
However, with the many benefits of pets for seniors, comes a fair share of challenges. One obstacle is the cost of owning a pet while living on a fixed income, especially considering the rising cost of veterinary care.
This post will explain where to find financial assistance for senior pet owners and dive deeper into how pets can enhance the elderly’s quality of life. We’ll also explore whether pet insurance for seniors is a good idea and how to find the best plan, guaranteed.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- The benefits of cats and dogs for seniors
- The challenges of owning pets for the elderly
- How to find pet care assistance for senior citizens
- Is pet insurance for senior citizens a good idea?
- Key Takeaways
The benefits of cats and dogs for seniors
Feelings of loneliness and isolation are unfortunately common among people over 60, but AARP found that 72% of seniors in poor health or living alone believe pets help them cope with their emotional and physical symptoms. Research shows scientific support for this belief, offering evidence behind the health benefits of pets for seniors, such as their ability to keep seniors active, provide invaluable company, and positively impact their well-being.
Most dog breeds require one or two walks a day, so owning a pet can create a healthy exercise routine. Regularly walking a dog can significantly benefit a senior’s heart health, bone strength, weight regulation, etc. Improvements to physical health lead to fewer doctor visits, and studies show that dog owners have healthier cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and a lower risk of heart disease.
Companionship makes isolated seniors feel less lonely by bringing a little brightness into an otherwise bleak day. Taking pets to the park, store, or vet keeps seniors socially involved in public life. As owners age, dogs can be beneficial for maintaining social connections with others. Moreover, a pet can make seniors feel more protected by increasing protection against theft.
Sharing life with a pet can bring happiness by adding meaning/purpose to older adults’ lives. Taking care of an animal is proven to adjust hormone levels, thereby reducing anxiety and stress. Interacting with animals also releases serotonin in the brain, which, in turn, lowers blood pressure and creates a more positive outlook on life.
The challenges of owning pets for the elderly
There are numerous, well-documented benefits to owning pets for seniors, but caring for a dog or cat can become harder with age due to physical and financial constraints. Many retirees live off a fixed, limited income with little space for an additional pet budget. In fact, research shows that about 4.9 million adults aged 65 and older live in poverty, and 63% report having at least two chronic health conditions that generally increase the cost of living.
It can be challenging for seniors to afford pets’ food, vaccinations, and veterinary care while ensuring they keep food on the table for themselves in these circumstances. When you tally up all expenses, the first year of owning a dog can cost up to $2,000, or $1,174 for cats. These estimates assume the pet will not have an unexpected health condition or a medical emergency, which can quickly add thousands of dollars to the overall cost of pet ownership. Without pet insurance, the owner would be solely responsible for these bills out-of-pocket, along with the cost of any follow-up care their pet requires.
Some examples might include the ongoing management of a cat’s chronic arthritis or a dog accidentally getting into a senior’s tramadol prescription. There are countless ways for pets to become sick or injured, but none are easy to predict. As a result, pet owners of all ages often find themselves financially underprepared in the event of an expensive incident, causing them to search for ways to afford their beloved companion’s cost of care without jeopardizing their financial security and livelihood.
In addition to finding affordable pet care and veterinary treatment, senior pet owners may face other financial burdens — even if their animals are perfectly healthy. For instance, those with mobility issues may need a dog walker to exercise their pet or a housekeeper to assist with the litter box. Since health insurance doesn’t cover service animals, seniors with disabilities may have a hard time paying the required cost to train an ESA or PSA dog. Pet sitters may be another necessary consideration during overnight hospitalizations.
How to find pet care assistance for senior citizens
Pets deserve great care, and seniors deserve pets’ love and companionship. Fortunately, there are financial resources for senior pet owners that make both outcomes a possibility. Here are some ways you can find pet care assistance for the elderly to ensure you or your loved one can age with a four-legged friend by their side.
Neighbors can help pick up and transport heavy cat litter or pet food or set up an online subscription for food delivery. If the senior pet owner needs some help getting their dog the type of exercise they are used to, a neighbor can offer to take the animal on a walk.
Local service providers
Local service providers offer dog walking services through online platforms like Wag and Rover and sitters to care for pets at home. Some providers provide other affordable pet care services, such as poop scooping and grooming.
Low-cost vaccinations and spay/neuter clinics can be found at many local shelters and veterinary colleges. They provide low-cost or free-of-charge pet vaccinations, as well as discounted spay and neuter programs. Some shelters also work with local veterinarians willing to provide services at reduced prices for low-income senior pet owners.
National and regional non-profit organizations
National and regional organizations, like the Meals on Wheels Love Pets grant program, help homebound elderly citizens by delivering pet supplies such as cat litter and pet food. They also provide services for veterinary care and grooming.
Financial aid for senior pet owners
Financial aid for senior pet owners is available from various non-profit organizations around the country. For example:
- Pets for the Elderly covers the fees for seniors to adopt a dog or cat from any participating animal shelter throughout the US, including pre-adoption vet exams and the cost to spay or neuter.
- The Seniors for Seniors adoption program helps match elderly citizens with a pet that fits their lifestyle and housing situation at a reduced adoption rate of $50 for dogs and $35 for cats.
- The Humane Society of the United States provides a state-by-state list of financial aid resources and non-profit pet charities for pet owners.
Short-term veterinary financing
Short-term veterinary financing enables seniors to pay for pet surgeries or medical emergencies through borrowing. CareCredit for pets is a popular lender with no- or low-interest veterinary loans pending credit approval.
Pet health insurance coverage
Pet health insurance coverage makes affording vet bills more manageable by reimbursing 70 to 100% of the cost for covered treatments. It allows seniors to budget for their dog or cat’s care and reduce their financial risk through insurance premiums as low as $9 per month. There may also be pet insurance discounts for seniors available that reduce the price of a monthly premium.
Is pet insurance for senior citizens a good idea?
Declining a pet’s treatment due to the unaffordable cost of care could cause unimaginable grief if a senior's companion were to pass, but pet insurance prevents this possibility by limiting how much you have to pay for covered vet care. Most find that pet insurance is valuable financial protection, but it may not be the right solution for seniors with pets that are late in age or those with substantial pre-existing conditions. Pawlicy Advisor is the best place to start your search if you’re interested in exploring plans and coverage options.
Pawlicy Advisor generates custom plan recommendations based on each unique pet’s information to help owners identify those with the best coverage and value. The platform also has pet insurance comparison charts, free quotes, detailed provider reviews, and help from licensed agents to empower pet parents to shop with confidence directly on the site. Click the button below to find the best pet insurance for senior citizens.
- Pets for seniors have many benefits, but caring for a pet can be challenging for elderly folks living on a limited income.
- Resources that can help low-income seniors with pet care include local service providers, low-cost clinics, non-profit organizations, veterinary financing, and pet insurance.
- Pet insurance can provide a valuable tool for senior pet owners by helping them save hundreds or thousands of dollars at the vet, shielding them from financial risk when caring for a pet’s illness or injury.