Pet Parent Guide: Caring for Disabled Pets
Whether you are fostering or adopting, it takes a lot of love, patience, and knowledge to care for a pet. There can be training of all sorts, diet restrictions, medical expenses, and different exercise requirements for your new furry friend.
With a disabled dog or cat, these aspects of pet care and your usual supply checklist can look very different. It takes research and diligence on the pet parent's part to give their special needs companion a happy and healthy life.
We've partnered with local rescues to enlighten hopeful pet owners about how rewarding caring for a disabled/special needs pet can be!
Their challenges aren't their only quality! You'll find that special needs pets are loving, resilient, and loyal. But, let's go through a list of common disabilities your new family member might face:
Tripods, as we lovingly call them, may have one less extremity, but they come with a whole lot of love.
Finding out how to communicate without sound may be easier than you think! Hard of hearing pets are very adaptive.
Don't let this challenge fool you: blind pets are quick learners. Give them some time to adjust to their surroundings and watch them zoom around with ease!
While there are many natural remedies and treatments for pet anxiety, the best cure is a calm and soothing home.
Whether they are disabled from birth or later in life, pets have many resources for extra mobility support.
Caring For A Disabled Pet: Adopting/Fostering
Most special needs pets have a greater chance of being overlooked for adoption or worse, being put down. Let's walk through the big questions and concerns prior to adoption or fostering and help save some lives!
Do I have the budget?
The big question... Do I have the funds to give a good quality of life? The answer is probably - yes!
If you have the means to adopt a pet, more than likely your expenses won't look much different for a special needs pet. Some rescue's cover many of the costs, such as immunizations, spay/neuter, and other medical expenses like medication, therapy, or upcoming veterinary visits.
Usually, disabled pets are cared for in a foster home prior to being fully adopted. Make a note to ask the foster what their pet expenses or treatment(s) look like and if they come with any support equipment, like a wheelchair.
Start with the pet owner basics. Check out our essentials checklist for Cats and Dogs!
Do I have the right space?
Just like every animal, disabled pets deserve a great home and living environment. But how do you know if your space is special needs and handicapped approved?
Like humans, disabilities for pets can vary far and wide. Some animals are born with their disability, while others have developed a challenge or had an injury. This means you and your home need to be adaptive.
Rescues, like APA!, will scope out your space to determine if it fits the bill for their condition or injuries.
Do I have the time and lifestyle?
Adjusting to a schedule can take time. Depending on their disability, most special needs pets do best with a routine (example: time sensitive medications).
Try fostering to adopt to make sure you and your new fur-friend are a good match for the long-term.
Rescues and your vet may also will do timely check ins to make sure everyone is adjusting to their new routine. Make sure to ask about any house training tips and tricks that your dog or cat could benefit from.
Do I need a support group?
Some pets may require more care, food restrictions, and outdoor/play time than others. We highly recommend connecting with your veterinarian and rescue of choice on a first name basis.
The health and safety of your pet is our and your highest priority - please refer to your vet and shelter for treatment and medical advice, especially for disabled dogs and cats.
Look to your community! Your friends and family, or even Facebook animal support groups, can be a great resource for pet owners.
How can I adopt a disabled pet?
If you check all the boxes and have the means, appropriate space, patience, and support, caring for a disabled pet can be very rewarding.
- Have open space? Try fostering! Caring for a disabled pet helps clear the shelters for incoming dogs and cats. Also, depending on their health or challenges, housing animals outside of the shelter is sometimes necessary. Contact your local rescue to ask about foster and volunteer opportunities for special needs pets.
- When deciding to adopt, contact your local rescue if they have any available pets with special needs! Trust us, they will be glad you asked.
- Looking for a calm and cool-headed animal? Age is just a number - consider adopting a senior pet.
After Adoption: Build A Routine for Dogs and Cats.
Whether you are fostering or adopting, it's a good idea to start a routine quickly. Like with all pets, you should aim for food, exercise, play, bathroom breaks, and sleep to happen at about the same time everyday.
Be sure to check out our Step by Step Guide on Dog Adoption and Cat Adoption to get all the essential products, training, and pet care tips down, prior to bringing home your new furry friend.
Advice From Your Community: What To Expect
From sensory-processing to mobility impairment, your fluffy friend's needs will vary.
To prepare your schedule and home, we asked Rasha, current Foster for Claire (a gunshot survivor puppy), if she had any advice for newbie pet parents.
Here is what Rasha had to say:
#1 Never ever give up. I have seen paralyzed dogs walk within a month and others never walk but live happy and healthy lives for many years.
#2 Get a support system. I met amazing people via Instagram and through my rescue (Austin Pets Alive) who have helped me learn to manage her special needs.
I also have friends and family who help me care for her when I need to go out of town or am busy with work. Support groups are essential!
#3 Having a routine is a must. Dogs want to please you, you just have to show them how and take the time to do it.
#4 Don’t listen to the naysayers and always get a second opinion. I had a physical therapist who told me that Claire will never walk again and to save my money. I took her to another physical therapist and now she can stand on her own and is learning to walk.
#5 Ask for help! I set up a Gofundme to take of physical therapy, acupuncture and cover other expenses.
"When people see a disabled dog, generally their first reaction is feeling sad for them. What they don’t realize is that these dogs teach us so much about joy, living in the present moment, appreciating the little things in life and determination." - Rasha Proctor
If you want to learn more about adopting Claire, see her profile at APA or follow her on IG @Claire.thepup.
Tomlinson's is your go-to pet supply store for natural, healthy pet products in Austin and the Central Texas region. Let us help prepare your home and lifestyle for your furry best friend online or in-store. Everyone is family and we can't wait to welcome home your new special needs pet.
Visit our shop full of products sold through team members trained in animal nutrition. Pass by our stores with your adorable pet for some treat samples and loving ear rubs.
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