5 TIPS FOR A GOOD LIFE WITH A SPECIAL NEEDS PET
By Sharon Seltzer
Life with a dog or cat that has special needs is a demanding job, but it is one that more pet owners are choosing. Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, better nutrition and educated owners, companion animals are living longer. It is not uncommon for large breed dogs to reach their teens or for cats to live 20 or more years.
While this progress is granting us more time with our animals, it has also created more pets with special needs. Animals that would have once passed away due to a chronic illness or injury are able to enjoy life with assistance from their owners and the new therapies and products available to them.
In 2008 I faced this situation when my dog Sophie developed a neurological condition that left her paralyzed. Her overall health was good and she was not in pain so I chose to be her caretaker. Sophie continued to have a good quality life for the next five years when she passed away at the age of 15.
Some people are like me and become caretakers after a pet they have raised since it was young gets sick and others choose to adopt an animal with health issues. Whichever group you are in the decision to give a disabled pet the life they deserve is a big commitment. It must be weighed carefully and with sensitivity for the needs of the animal and yourself.
Here are 5 facts pet owners should know about life with a specially-abled pet.
QUALITY OF LIFE
The most important point to consider is the quality of life your pet will have with their disability. Consider the modifications you need to make to maintain that quality.
Disabled dogs and cats take up more time than able-bodied pets. They may need assistance in how they move or with food preparation, at-home medical procedures or extra veterinary appointments. Having enough time to properly care for them is important.
It’s hard to talk finances, but life with a disabled pet is expensive. There could be equipment to buy like a dog wheelchair or the pet might need rehab therapy or future medical procedures. It is essential to be aware of these future costs.
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
Life has to be organized with a disabled dog or cat so establishing a daily routine is important. It adds to a pet’s wellbeing and overall health. For instance, a paraplegic dog needs a scheduled bathroom regimen to prevent urinary tract infections and pets with other disabilities might need strict feeding or medication schedules.
BE CREATIVE / HAVE FUN
Life with a disabled dog or cat is not all work. Pets and owners need to take time for fun so it’s important to play games that keep them alert and active, even if it means modifying the activity for their needs. Disabled pets can become depressed if owners do not find creative ways to play.
Las Vegas is a great city for pets with disabilities because of our resources. The Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center helps pets with neurological and spinal conditions and assists pets with heart disease, cancer, eye problems and physical therapy. Becoming the caretaker of a special needs pet is a personal choice, but it can be a rewarding decision.
Sharon Seltzer is one of the Co-Founders of Heaven Can Wait Animal Society and a contributing writer for the American Animal Hospital Association Pets Matter. She writes about paraplegic pets at Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog – www.lessonsfromaparalyzeddog.com.