Part 4

When you know how seniors feed their pets, you can help them choose more balanced and nutritious, homemade alternatives
Seniors feed pets nutritious homemade snacks of dehydrated tripe and sweet potato

Today I present the final article in this four-part series and analyze how seniors feed their pets and keep them hydrated. For the past three weeks you have read about a wide range of subjects that share a common theme.  A theme with a focus on how retirees, and those approaching retirement age, care for their dogs and cats. 

Even though we interviewed only a small number of people—some of whom have multiple pets—the findings are insightful. Most importantly, they give other pet guardians ideas to try out as well as actions to avoid. In fact, we very much want this to be a learning experience to benefit all animal lovers.

Our Bodies Are Similar

Nowadays, most of us realize that without nutritious food and water that is toxin free, the body’s essential functions are compromised. And when this occurs, the resulting health issues can range from minor to life-threatening. 

As we have seen in recent years, humans are definitely paying a lot of attention to the benefits of certain foods. They are educating themselves so as to avoid those foods which can cause harm and illness. However, they are not just thinking of themselves. People of all ages also want no less for the dogs and cats that share their home. 

Homemade Is Better

Related to choosing healthy food for pets is the concern about recalls of dry and canned pet food. Anything but healthy, a number of different food products have been found to contain harmful ingredients and even foreign matter, such as pieces of plastic. Consequently, it’s no wonder that pet parents everywhere, from millennials to retirees, are starting to prepare Fido’s and Fluffy’s food from scratch. 


To give you an idea of what to expect, here are a some bullet points. As you will soon see, they introduce the survey findings, plus some facts and tips that indicate how seniors are feeding their pets.

Food And Mealtimes

  • number of meals
  • free-fed or measured
  • wet or dry
  • home-cooked
  • how quickly kibble can turn rancid

Treats And Rewards

  • over-treating
  • healthy treats
  • rewarding good behavior
  • parent’s guilt
  • medication disguise

Water, Quality And Quantity

  • tap or bottled
  • optimum daily intake
  • water fountains
  • flat-faced breeds alert
  • bowl bacteria buildup 




The Findings

Food, glorious food! Before we get into substance, why don’t we look at the number of meals and quantities.    

Breakfast and dinner, measured – most parents

All day self-feeding a/k/a grazing – a few parents

One meal only per day, dinner, measured – one person

Doggy detox fasting one day a week, just like Mom – one person 

Dry food, often referred to as kibble or biscuits, was the overwhelming preference for convenience and price for both canines and felines. Some doggy parents like to give it more flavor by adding a spoonful or two of wet food, usually canned. Alternatively, they add a small amount of diced chicken breast or roast beef, or a drizzling of broth. 

Around 50 percent of the kitties are given only dry food. The rest have either a small quantity of wet added to the dry, or they will get all dry for one meal and all wet for the second meal of the day.

The Exceptions

– The wet and dry food offered to these UK-based cats called Sylvester and Toulouse was of superior quality, made from ethically sourced ingredients with a high percentage of pure meat, fish and seafood.

– For breakfast, a US-based Mom (could that be me?) feeds her cat called TBD canned tuna with a very small amount of finely chopped spinach or broccoli and spring water added, and dinner comprises home-cooked chicken livers with some of the left over liquid mixed in.

– And, I saved the best for last! Joanna, who lives in Australia, used to have a catering business and understands nutrition. Nowadays she caters for her cats White Cat and ‘Fraidy Cat, and dog Elskar. “Doggie diet is chicken ’n’ veggies, beef ’n’ rice, fish ’n’ chips (sweet potato). Kitty chow is fish, chicken and lamb,” Joanna states. She also makes all their treats, biscuits and chews.

An Interesting Fact

Cooking is not necessarily that much more time-consuming, nor is it more expensive than food picked off the grocery shelf when you buy in bulk.

Tips Times Three

1. Don’t spoil your pet by over-feeding it.

2. Dry food turns rancid fast when stored in a large plastic bin in the garage.

3. If a cat turns up its nose at the food, it’s trying to tell you something.


The Findings

Kudos to everyone who offers treats sparingly! Henry is one fortunate cat. His parents do not want him to overeat and become overweight or obese when he gets older, instead stay handsome and fit! And, to be absolutely fair to the gang of two members plus, if one of them gets disguised meds, then the rest are treated to the disguise!

An Interesting Fact

Treats that are packaged as treats are not food and should not be used as a substitute for your pet’s mealtime food, or snack for in-between mealtimes.

Tips Times Three

1. Limit treat giving to reward obedience and a good job done.

2. Never reward bad behavior with a treat.

3. Avoid using treats to make yourself feel less guilty for leaving your pet alone.


The Findings

Without exception, pets drink what their owners drink. Filtered tap water is fine for Puff. Bottled drinking water is fine for most. And, my Muffie (R.I.P) always used to get bottled spring water.

An Interesting Fact

Most dogs should drink between half an ounce and 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight daily. A cat of average size and weight will need between 5 and 10 ounces of water per day.

Tips Times Three

1. Wash the water bowl frequently to avoid build up of pink slime.

2. Cats prefer to drink from a water fountain.

3. Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds require a higher intake of H2O than most dogs and cats.


I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-series and look forward to receiving your comments and answering your questions.


Humans: Patti, Bob, Carol, Lanny, Anna S, Patricia, Jeff, Pam, Anna V, Judy, Andrew, Veronica, Joanna, Jean, Rita and myself. 

Canines: Good Jake, Trip, Pandora, Logan, Dixie, Elskar. 

Felines: Henry, Sandy, Puff, Jade, Buttercup, Sylvester, Toulouse, Muffie, TBD, White Cat, ‘Fraidy Cat.

Locations: USA, England, France, Australia

DNA: Australian Shepherd, Blue Tick Hound, Long-Hair Dachshund, Domestic Medium Hair, Domestic Short Hair, Labrador, Maine Coon, Malamute, Newfoundland, Pomeranian, Siamese, Who Knows!

Rescued/Adopted: 99%

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!  

More must-read articles in this mini series.

An introduction to my interviews with retiree pet parents in this 4-part series:

Retirees talk about IDs, walks and vet visits:

What concerns retirees the most about caring for their pets?


Part 3

A senior pet owners concerns help rescue dog “Pandora” overcome her fears and have fun
Abused rescue dog “Pandora” is thriving and her senior pet owners concerns are decreasing

Let’s move along now to part three in this series. Here I share some more senior pet owners concerns which, naturally, are my concerns, too. This time the topics are specifically related to grooming services, as well as transporting dogs and cats from A to B. In addition, we discuss what pet owners do when they go away and how they transfer their animal’s care to somebody else.

A number of the retirees and folks approaching retirement age that I interviewed had just one pet while others had more. But the fundamental issues were apparent across the board.

Owners Or Guardians?

As you probably already know, safety is a huge advocacy push of mine. So I was interested to find out what precautions were put in place by pet parents taking their dog or cat on a car trip. Of course, that ride in the car may be for any number of reasons. As a result, I had the opportunity to offer advice on what not to do, and what could happen. And, hopefully, help make that trip a much safer one.

By the way, those readers who have been following me for a while know that I prefer to use the term pet parent, or pet guardian, or pet caregiver, and avoid the word “owner.” Why? Because animals are sentient beings, not possessions. That said, I made an exception by giving this article the title Senior Pet Owners Concerns. The reason is that a large segment of the population still relates to those words and they frequently appear in search results. 

Making Arrangements

The survey also dealt with vacation time and arrangements for care when pets stay behind. In addition, I brought up the question of what provisions they might have made if they were ever no longer able to provide for their furry family members. Declining health and new accommodation arrangements that do not allow pets on the premises, are the most obvious reasons.



The Findings

A trip to the groomer is something dogs, and the occasional cat, either likes a lot, or not at all. So, I sounded out what my interviewees thought about this. Well, guess what? Not one takes their pet to the beauty salon. I’m guessing they consider it an unnecessary expense. Bathing is done at home and some simple hair trimming, as well. 

Before Pandora found her forever family, she had been badly abused and has serious trust issues. “There’s no way I’ll subject her to a traumatic experience, so I undertake all grooming needs myself,” commented her Mom.

An Interesting Fact

Although it is not mandatory, pet groomers in the USA can obtain certification through one of three organizations…National Dog Groomers Association of America, International Professional Groomers, Inc and International Society of Canine Cosmetologists

Tips Times Three

1. Brush and comb your pet daily to maintain a smooth, glossy coat.

2. Check for skin issues, swelling and lumps that may require veterinary attention.

3. Avoid leaving your pet at the groomer and picking it up hours later. Watch the groomer working.


The Findings

It was encouraging to learn that these senior pet owners were quite concerned about safely transporting their pets from A to B.

Small pets are put in carriers and some are then placed on the floor or secured with a seat belt. Larger dogs may lie on the floor inside a four-door truck. Patti always sits in the back seat with her pooch while someone else drives. Knowing that she shouldn’t, one interviewee actually admitted driving with her dog on her lap. I appreciate her honesty but do wish she would reconsider!

An Interesting Fact

Beware. A few years back, Carol’s niece was driving a panel truck with her dog in the back. She braked so hard it was thrown and killed. Sadly, this is not uncommon.

Tips Times Three

1. Don’t leave any pet unattended in a car with the engine running. 

2. Never leave your pet alone in the front or back yard even if it is fenced. 

3. Don’t allow your dog to stick its head out of the window while you’re driving.


The Findings

The “owners” go away but the pets stay! Most said they travel less frequently now that they are older. Interestingly, none mentioned boarding facilities. 

Bob commented that if they aren’t able to take their dog with them, one will stay home with the pet. A widow said that her sister flies in from another state to stay with her dog. Some mentioned that either a friend will make visits to the home or they hire a pet sitter referred to them as being thoroughly reliable. 

However, since paying for a professional is an additional expense, a number of people have formed a network of close neighbors who share the responsibilities. That way, everyone’s pets – dogs and cats – are visited multiple times daily by the neighborhood network. Reciprocal caregiving. Great idea!

An Interesting Fact

Boarding facilities located in cities typically handle a large number of pets, often as many as 200 at any one time. Those in rural areas are more selective and offer greater opportunities for exercising outdoors.

Tips Times Three

1. Never leave pets alone for extended periods.

2. Pets are less stressed when they stay at home instead of being boarded.

3. Say “no” to any caregiver who drinks or smokes.


The Findings

Almost in their entirety, people said that they have already made provisions to transfer care, temporarily or permanently, to someone else. They want to be covered if and when a situation arises where they can no longer take care of their pet(s) themselves. Relatives or friends were the choices mentioned. 

Anna S is fortunate to have her pet-loving son and his immediate family live close by who are available at a moment’s notice to help out. One couple did state that they realized the importance of being prepared and were looking into it.

An Interesting Fact

When military personnel have service commitments at home or overseas, the chances are they’ll be unable to take their pets with them. Fortunately, several wonderful non-profit organizations have stepped in to fill this need. They provide a nation-wide network of volunteers who temporarily board/foster these animal companions, mostly dogs and cats, in their home, for as long as is necessary.

Tips Times Three

1. Make plans now to avoid improvising.

2. Notify family and friends of your wishes.

3. Develop a network of trusted neighbors to help in times of need.


Topics to be presented in Part 4 include food and drink.

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!

 More must-read articles in this mini series.

An introduction to my interviews with retiree pet parents in this 4-part series:

Retirees talk about IDs, walks and vet visits:

What do retirees feed their pets and why?


Part 2

Retirees talk about their pets and how satisfied they are with their veterinary care
Retirees talk about their pets like “Henry” who loves to nap beside his fav rag doll

For the second part in this series, retirees talk about their pets, and what’s involved with caring for their dogs and cats.  Those who also participated in my survey were people approaching retirement age, but not yet officially retired.

A Preview Of What’s To Come

On the topic of identification, almost everyone I interviewed said that their pets were microchipped. However, they were decidedly less enthusiastic about collars and tags.

The survey also revealed their leash preferences. A shout out to senior pet owners who use a dog harness, either made of soft fabric or one with straps. Unfortunately, too many still mistakenly believe that retractible leashes are the best thing since sliced bread. However, I am hopeful that one day they will change their mind. 

In addition, retirees talk about their pets specifically regarding what they think of the quality of care at the veterinary clinic, as well as health insurance and medical costs. 


The Findings

Ninety-five percent of the canines and felines discussed in my survey were microchipped. One dog wears it’s collar and name tag 24/7; another just has the County tag. Logan’s guardians only remove his collar when he’s crated. In one isolated instance, because the cat is afraid of the outdoors, it has never been chipped and resists wearing a collar.

An Interesting Fact

A 2009 study done by the American Microchip Advisory Council for Animals of 7,700 strays taken to animal shelters, shows that 52.2 percent of microchipped dogs returned home, compared to 21.9 percent without a microchip. Regarding cats not microchipped, only 1.8 percent made it home whereas the success rate for ones that did, reached 38.5 percent.

Here’s an interesting article you might like that provides information on the importance of microchip registration:

Tips Times Three

1. Always keep the chip information up-to-date, specially if you move.

2. When leaving home, walk out the door backwards so your pet doesn’t escape.

3. Walk your dog before fireworks begin and don’t let it out again until you’re sure all is quiet.


The Findings

Some dogs that are walked using a collar and leash are known to back out of their collar because it wasn’t properly fastened. Happily, lots of small breeds wear a harness. Nowadays, more Moms and Dads are using strap harnesses for their larger pups. 

It was most refreshing to hear that Anna V prefers the two-strap Pack Leader Collar instead of a choker or prong collar for her  occasionally reactive Malamute and Labrador mix pets. Sadly, however, too many use a retractible leash, a/k/a Flexi leash.

An Interesting Fact

If a dog doesn’t walk properly on a leash attached to its collar and the handler pulls hard or jerks, it causes pain and injury to the eyes, ears, thyroid gland, and spinal cord.

Tips Times Three

1. Retractible leashes were created for training, not walking. They can break and cause serious injury to pets and humans.

2. To properly fit a collar, open your hand, palm facing you, put two fingers between the dog’s neck and the collar.

3. A chest-lead harness reduces pulling/lunging and can be fitted to dogs of any size.


The Findings

I have yet to meet a dog that didn’t get excited about going walkies. My good friend Rita in France is fortunate to have an extensive, fenced-in back yard. Even so, she realizes the value of walking which also entails control and discipline.

A number of interviewees stated that their pets were scared by noisy delivery vans. Another commented that they were more startled by cyclists creeping up on them from behind than their own pet! Pet parents also expressed concern over wildlife, and are cautious of bobcats, coyotes, owls and hawks.

An Interesting Fact

Few humans think about this but when sidewalks are baking in the sun, Fido suffers. Blisters and skin burns are common. Worth remembering, too, when visiting the beach.

Tips Times Three

1. Don’t text or read phone messages while walking.

2. Stay clear of lakes and river banks where alligators swim and rest.

3. Use reflective gear and clothing, and a flash light when out after sunset.


The Findings

Visits to the vet are a major concern to people living on a fixed income and some are forced to cut corners unless treatment is an absolute necessity. Most survey participants have not taken out pet medical insurance.

Nearly everybody I talked to was happy with the service provided by their veterinarian. Nevertheless, Pam and Jeff told me they are trying out a different animal hospital each time before making a final choice. 

“We had a rather distressing experience at the animal clinic involving the euthanasia of one of our cats,” Veronica commented. So she now has a mobile vet go to her home for this end of life procedure.

Interestingly, no-one I asked had ever heard of titer testing. Lanny showed interest in learning more and said he would do some research. Everyone believed that the annual shots their pets typically get are what they need, without question.

An Interesting Fact

Surveys show that vets and pet parents have different ideas on when dogs and cats enter the “senior” category. Here’s the breakdown.

Dogs: vets say between 5 and 7 years old; pet parents say between 7 and 9 years.

Cats: vets say by age 9; pet parents say by age 11.

Tips Times Three

1. Find out if your vet gives AARP and military discounts.

2. Seniors pets should get twice yearly checkups.

3. Don’t simply accept what your vet suggests. Ask questions.


Topics to be presented in Part 3 include the groomer, transportation, going away, and transferring care.

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!

More must-read articles in this mini series.

An introduction to my interviews with retiree pet parents in this 4-part series:

What concerns retirees the most about caring for their pets?

What do retirees feed their pets and why?


Part 1

A great example of how older people and their pets can have a great life together
“Good Jake” and Mom show how older people and their pets can enjoy a good life together

It truly is a win-win situation when older people and their pets are able to enjoy a really good life together. So, I’d like to tell you a little bit about why and how I came to write various articles about seniors and their companion animals.


Some Background

Just in case you didn’t already know, pets are my passion! I happen to spend a lot of time every day either working with them, or writing about them. 

Soon after I launched my blog site, some nine months ago, I was invited by a private sector organization to become a contributor on their website. Delighted, I accepted and decided to initially focus on their target audience…retirees and those who are approaching retirement age.

So, in order to get to know this segment of the population a little better, I undertook some research of my own. I developed a survey and conducted interviews, either in person, by phone, or online. The end result is a four-part series about older people and their pets, and the objective is clear. It is designed to help pet-loving retirees everywhere care for their dogs and cats the best way possible, and within their means.


The Findings

Without exception, everyone I interviewed confirmed the positive effects of sharing their lives with pets. Like Judy, all had been pet parents for many years, and simply couldn’t image an existence without dogs and cats!

The primary benefit is companionship. And, the emotional upside doesn’t only apply to those living alone, but to married couples as well. When Sandy’s Mom underwent treatment for a serious illness, her cat was always close by to comfort her. And especially so when her husband was out running errands.

The physical advantages are also well documented. Dogs have to be walked which means that humans and their furry friends get to exercise together. Even simple chores like keeping the home clean and providing the basic comforts that dogs and cats require gives their caregivers a sense of worth. These elderly pet parents have more time to devote to another living being and less time to worry about themselves. 

An Interesting Fact

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that pets can decrease your blood pressure and triglyceride levels and according to the American Heart Association, pets may help reduce your risk of heart disease

Tips Times Three

1. Choose a pet that matches your lifestyle.

2. Rescue a senior pet. Too often they are overlooked.

3. Volunteer at your local shelter.


The Findings

Unanimously, everyone wanted to keep their canine and feline companions entertained indoors and allow them to view the outdoors. This can be achieved from a window, behind sliding glass doors, or on an enclosed patio. And, if cats like Jade and Buttercup have a tower to climb, they are absolutely in seventh heaven!

Toys, of course, keep most pets amused periodically throughout the day. In addition, however, some delight in being brushed/combed because of the undivided attention they receive from their humans.

An Interesting Fact

Mental stimulation is an essential element of a pet’s wellbeing. And when dogs and cats can watch the world go by, they stay alert and happy. In the cat world, famed behavior expert, Jackson Galaxy, calls this “cat tv.”

Tips Times Three

1. Leave the radio or t.v. on low if you go out for over two hours. Cooking channel, good; sports, no good.

2. Never give a dog cooked bones to chew on for distraction. They splinter easily.

3. If playtime gets a little rough and your cat scratches you, don’t blame the cat!


The Findings

I found that cat “owners” are especially careful to pick up toys when not in use so they don’t step on them and fall. When Trip (that really is his name) the long-haired Dachshund is taken out briefly before bedtime, his Mom is precautious. She makes sure they stay close to a street light so there is good visibility and no-one…trips!

Patti shared that when any of her pets take medication, she keeps a record on the calendar in her kitchen to ensure she doesn’t skip a dose.

Another factor worth considering is caring for a large dog that is very sick or injured. How can an older person move, lift or transport it? That’s an issue someone was confronted with when Good Jake, her Blue Tick Hound, was seriously ill. “If I ever get another dog, it would definitely have to be smaller,” she said. 

Naturally, any giant breed, such as a 130 pound Newfoundland, can present issues most folks don’t even think about. No matter how well it walks on a leash, it could suddenly become agitated and pull you over. Then, how do you get a dog that size to the vet if it hates car rides and flatly refuses to get in? Well, in Dixie’s case, the vet had to come to her!

An Interesting Fact

For emergency situations like a gas leak or flooding, you can put static cling stickers on the windows to alert authorities and neighbors that animals are inside the home. They are available from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and your local County Animal Services.

Tips Times Three

1. Take care no-one trips over cords when recharging cell phones and laptops.

2. Avoid uneven ground. Never walk on shiny, slippery leaves.

3. Keep your canine by your side, not 10 feet ahead or 10 feet behind. 


Topics for Part 2 include identification, leashes, walking and vet visits.

Together, let’s keep our precious pets healthy, happy and safe!  

More must-read articles in this mini series. 

Retirees talk about IDs, walks and vet visits:

What concerns retirees the most about caring for their pets?

What do retirees feed their pets and why?