Pets are Good for Seniors

Pets are Good for Seniors

The most serious condition for seniors is not cancer or heart disease – its loneliness.  Seniors that have a pet in their life to share their love and time can help alleviate anxiety and boredom, and even improve health.  Love is the most important health tonic we have, and pets are one of nature’s best sources of love.  Some scientific research findings include:

  • The simple act of holding an animal can relieve symptoms of depression, lower blood pressure and even decrease surgical patients’ healing times.
  • Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than non-owners.
  • One year after having a myocardial infarction, dog owners were more likely to be alive.
  • In the time of critical stress, the first year after women become widows, those who have cats are better off medically.
  • Dog walking, pet grooming, and even petting provide increased physical activity that strengthens the heart, improves blood circulation, and slows the loss of bone tissue.

Dogs are the most common pet. Which are best for seniors?


Typically, smaller dogs do better. They are easier to care for but must be the kinds that are mellow not high-spirited.   The dog should enjoy the life of being petted. There are good dogs and bad dogs in every breed. It’s important to remember that individual dogs within breeds can demonstrate their own, unique personality traits.   Adult dogs are better than puppies.

Some breeds that generally work well with seniors include:

  • Pug – For such a small dog, there’s a lot of love stuffed into the pug’s body. A clown by nature, the pug demands attention and adoration, but returns both in greater measure. They love to play, but the pug also enjoys a good lap session.
  • Schnauzer – The standard and miniature schnauzer are wonderful pets for seniors. Eager to please and to keep his family safe, this breed usually requires regular grooming and daily exercise. They thrive on human companionship.
  • Scottish Terrier – This working dog from the Scottish Highlands. Most often black, the Scottie is highly intelligent and needs daily exercise. Tough and compact, the Scottie is a loyal and protective family member.
  • Shih Tzu – Proud and intelligent, the Shih Tzu is from Tibet and China, where the name means “lion dog” because of the breed’s appearance. The breed is alert, curious and gentle and thrives on human companionship.
  • Yorkshire Terrier – The Yorkie is a tiny dog with lots of spunk. This breed is happy to spend his days lounging on the sofa, but this calm dog requires regular grooming.
  • Cocker Spaniel – The popular cocker with his curly hair and sad eyes is a good choice for seniors. Needing basic exercise, the cocker usually spends his days lounging and waiting for his owner’s return. And, his cousin the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel was originally bred to be a lap dog.
  • Welsh Corgi – At about 25 pounds, the Corgi is a popular pet. This stocky short tailed breed needs daily exercise but does not require a large living space.
  • American Eskimo – The Eskimo is a small to medium-sized dog that bonds closely with his family and tends to distrust strangers.
  • Boston Terrier – Small, muscular and compact, the Boston Terrier is one of the few truly American breeds. They are gentle, friendly dogs that are protective of family and home. This natural guardian instinct helps keep his senior owner feeling safe.
  • Chihuahua – The Chihuahua is a small dog with a big bark. He will bark vigorously, as if they are trying to make up for being just 6 to 9 inches tall and weighing less than 5 pounds. They are excellent pets for seniors and you will know when someone’s approaching the house.

When it’s time to get the dog, check out the shelters and rescue groups as they have a wide variety of breeds and mixed breeds that can work well for seniors.  They have information on the dog’s health and temperament.  If the senior wants a purebred make sure the seller is reputable and not a ‘puppy mill.’   Help the seniors in your life with this valuable option.