Adopting a dog is joyous experience as well as a huge responsibility. Adopting a dog with a disability adds yet another layer of complexity. These animals require special care and attention to ensure that their unique medical, physical, social, and psychological needs are met.
Think about how much energy and time a typical dog requires of its new owners. A disabled dog, through no fault of its own, tends to require even more!
If you’ve been thinking about adopting a dog with a disability, congratulations! It is wonderful to consider opening your home to such a special animal. Before you adopt, though, it’s important to check in with yourself honestly and openly.
Go through the following self-questionnaire. Consider jotting down your answers. If you have other people in your home, review the questions together as a family unit. For the health and well-being of your future pup (disabled or otherwise), everyone in your household needs to be on board.
1. Why give a forever home to a special-needs dog?
If you don’t have a strong enough “why” to do something, then it’s possible you haven’t fully thought through the implications of such a choice. Think about why you want to adopt a disabled dog. Only you can know if you’re truly doing it for the “right” reasons.
Also, understand that a forever home truly means “forever” home. Many dogs with disabilities have been bounced between homes and animal shelters for years. Assume that when you welcome a dog into your home, you are committing to caring for her for the rest of her life.
2. Do I have other pets or children in the home?
Ask your adoption agency if the dog you are considering can live in a home with other pets or young children. You should also ask yourself whether the pets you already have will be comfortable around a new dog, especially one that may move, sound, or act a bit different.
3. Do I have the means to provide for medical care?
All dogs require routine veterinary care. Depending on the dog’s disability, a disabled dog might require even more. Their extra medical care may include things like special medications, harnesses and equipment, and possibly special tests, surgical procedures, and training.
You must have the financial means to give your animal what it needs to be as functional and as pain-free as possible. You also need to make sure that you can handle the potential emotional stress if your pet becomes frightened and/or uncomfortable if he needs frequent vet visits or has a progressive disease.
Pet insurance can be a valuable asset that can ease your mind and the potential strain on your wallet. Be sure to research pet insurance companies beforehand to give you an idea of what options may be available to you.
4. Does my lifestyle support owning a disabled dog?
Most dogs can’t and shouldn’t be left alone all day, especially dogs with disabilities. Why? These special-needs pups naturally need more help and supervision to ensure their safety and well-being.
Before adopting, you need to ensure that your work and life schedules allow time for you to mind your dog during the day. If you work or travel a lot, a special-needs dog may not be the right choice. Boarding, being alone too much, and/or being taken care of by many different people may be too stressful or even unsafe for such an animal.
Consider as well what your life may look like in 2, 3, 5, or even 10 years down the line. Depending on how old your dog is when you adopt him, he may still be alive and well years from now. At that time, do you still plan on having a lifestyle (and home) that can support an animal with special needs?
5. Am I ready for a dog who may be a little different?
You and your family need to understand that your disabled dog may not behave the same way as other dogs. He may move differently, have different energy levels, and have a different tolerance to other people and animals.
That said, dogs with disabilities can be just as lovable, loyal, and adorable as healthy dogs. You should be prepared to receive lots of attention from other people, especially if your dog uses special equipment like a dog wheelchair!
All these differences need to be anticipated, understood, and accepted. You may learn these things over time, as you get to know your dog. But you and your family should realize that while rewarding, raising your disabled dog won’t be like raising a fully abled pet.
Be ready to be flexible!
This guest blog post was contributed by Mary Nielsen is a passionate dog lover, blogger, and part-time music teacher. She started MySweetPuppy.net to share her ups and downs of being a pet parent to a bunch of adorable mutts. When she is not playing with them or teaching, you can find her experimenting in the kitchen.
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