A pet’s ability to adapt to hardship can be remarkable.
A blind cat, for example, can learn to navigate the house (just don’t plan on moving the furniture often). Many deaf dogs can be taught to respond to hand signals. Even the loss of a limb won’t stop most pets from chasing a laser pointer around the room.
But sometimes dogs and cats are dealt a bit of adversity that, through no fault of their own, makes it more difficult to place them in forever homes. As far as we know, these special-needs pets aren’t plagued by self-pity or depression. They just need someone who can provide a little more care, patience and love.
Could that someone be you?
Some Pets Need More Than Others
Special-needs pets may come with a range of low- or high-maintenance problems. They may have physical disabilities, such as deformed limbs or partial paralysis. Others may suffer from chronic diseases including diabetes, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), heart disease or allergies.
And some pets may have behavioral issues, such as shyness due to improper socialization or separation anxiety. These issues may require some extra TLC from you, but they’re far from impossible to overcome.
Study Up Before You Make the Leap
Taking in a special-needs pet can be incredibly rewarding. But it’s crucial that you know all the facts before you commit. Here are some questions to consider:
- How much do you know about the pet’s condition? Schedule a consult with a veterinarian or even a veterinary specialist. If possible, bring the animal or the pet’s medical record and find out what kind of at-home and veterinary care the pet will need over time. A dog with heart disease, for example, may need medications and regular veterinary rechecks.
- Can you afford to care for this pet? Sure, every pet needs food, toys and regular veterinary care. But special-needs pets may require regular medications, blood tests, X-rays and perhaps even surgery. Since pet insurance providers generally don’t cover pre-existing conditions, it’s important to know what to expect so you can plan for it financially.
- Do you have the time to commit to this pet? Pets with behavior issues often need extra time and patience. A dog with separation anxiety, for example, may need daily behavior modification and short periods of time alone before they’re ready for you to be away eight hours at a time.
- Do you have the right home? If the special-needs pet has arthritis or is in a wheelchair, a home with numerous flights of stairs probably isn’t ideal.
- Do you have the right equipment? In the same scenario, a dog lift harness could help save your aching back and portable ramps can be invaluable for getting the dog in and out of your car.
- How will you take a vacation? Who will carry your pet outside or give insulin injections when you can’t be there? Now’s the time to find out about boarding at the vet clinic, veterinary technicians who make house calls or pet sitters who are willing to go that extra mile.
- How will it impact your other family members? A cat with feline leukemia virus can still live a long life, but the virus can be contagious. So other cats in your home would need to be fully vaccinated before you bring this kitty home. And while some special-needs pets are happy to romp with your children, others may need more peace and quiet.
Are you happy with your answers? Then consider one last question: When will you open your heart and home to a pet who will provide you with plenty of companionship, inspiration and love in return? Here’s where you can start.
The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.