National Dog Week: How Dogs Improve the Lives of Seniors

For senior citizens who live alone or at an assisted living facility, feelings of loneliness and emptiness can be common. That’s where dogs come in! Our four-legged friends not only make great companions, they bring great health benefits to our lives.

National Dog Week is observed on the last full week of September and is a time to celebrate the many ways dogs enrich our lives. To celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of ways dogs improve the lives of seniors and why, if they are able, seniors should get a dog!

  • Provides Companionship

For seniors who live alone, a dog can be a great way to fill the void! Interaction with a pet can alleviate feelings of loneliness, emptiness, and depression. Caring for a dog will give you a sense of purpose and take your focus away from stress or pain. Nothing beats coming home to a wagging tail!

  • Boosts Moods

Dogs provide emotional stability during difficult times and improve seniors’ everyday moods. Having a play session or just relaxing with a dog can significantly improve mood and help ease stress and anxiety. Spending time with a furry companion can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters associated with happiness and tranquility.

  • Creates Memories

It’s important for seniors to continue to create memories as they grow older. Dogs have a personality of their own, making every day a new adventure and sparking new memories to tell their friends and family.

  • Encourages Physical Activity

Just like us, dogs need their daily exercise. Dogs encourage physical activity such as walking, playing tug and fetch, and improving mobility and overall health. Also, activities such as feeding and grooming can increase daily mobility, which can benefit balance and strength.

  • Promotes Heart Health

According to The American Heart Association, dogs can help lower your risk of heart disease. Moderate physical activity, such as walking a dog, can improve heart health by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels.


If you are considering adopting a dog, consider the following questions:

  1. Is the dog the right age?

A puppy may not be the right fit for a senior because of the care and attention they need. As puppies learn and grow, they get into things, tear furniture, and have accidents in the house, which can become overwhelming. Consider adopting an adult dog from a local shelter or rescue group.

  1. Is the dog healthy?

Before bringing a dog home, consult a veterinarian to make sure they have received all of their vaccinations and are clear from any illnesses.

  1. Will you be able to afford a dog?

Taking care of a dog can be costly. Consider monthly costs such as food, toys, and grooming. We recommend adding cushion to your projected costs for emergencies and medical appointments.

For more things to know before adopting, check out this article on the topic.

If you’re thinking about adopting a dog, during National Dog Week or any time, check with your Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups doctor before making any changes to your lifestyle.


Healthy Lifestyles Managing Illness Seniors & Caregivers
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