Do you have extra love to give to a pet who is truly in need? If you’re an experienced pet parent looking for a new family member and want to know you’ve made a big difference to an animal, consider adopting a pet with special needs. It takes a special pet parent to take on the additional work that comes with a disabled pet, but pet parents who’ve done so often report that they’re rewarded with love and bonding above and beyond their relationships with their able-bodied pets. Let’s examine some special needs pets waiting for adoption may have, and what type of pet parent is suited to care for pets with those conditions.
Pets with Sensory Disabilities
Deafness and blindness are probably the two most common disabilities found in pets awaiting adoption, aside from perhaps old age and incontinence. Pets with sensory disabilities sometimes have companions to whom they’ve become attached which act as guide animals for them. If this is the case, the two should be adopted together.
Deaf pets need pet parents who will take the time to become educated on training with hand signals and possibly a vibration (not shock) collar. They also need attentive family members who will supervise them carefully in public, but who will not allow them to simply become antisocial due to their hearing loss. Deaf pets can socialize with people and pets just as easily as can hearing pets. All proper socialization of a deaf pet requires is consistency and support from a trusted pet parent.
Blind pets need a quiet household where they can easily learn the home’s layout. If there are other pets present, they should be calm and friendly toward the blind pet; animals that can’t see may be intimidated by exuberantly playful housemates. Pet parents should be prepared to use modified clicker training methods to train blind pets using sound and treats.
Pets with Physical Disabilities
Pets can be born with physical disabilities, acquire them with age, or acquire them due to injury or illness. Arthritis is a very common physical disability in dogs. Long-backed dog breeds like Dachshunds are prone to slipped disks and other back problems, up to and including paralysis of the hindquarters. Wheeled carts (dog wheelchairs) can help these pets stay mobile, but they’ll also need the continuing care of an experienced veterinarian, and possibly physical therapy.
The most important traits for a pet parent adopting a physically disabled pet are flexibility and patience. A house with no stairs helps, too! Physically disabled pets may experience incontinence, among other side effects of their conditions, and pets in pain can be grouchy and unpleasant at times. Be sure you’re ready to commit “for better or for worse” if you adopt a pet with a condition like hindquarter paralysis.
Vet bills, the occasional accident, aggravation, and tears are all part of owning a pet with special needs. Fortunately, so are progress, rewards, hope, love, and bonding!