There are numerous dogs in shelters looking for loving families. But did you know countless pooches are often overlooked because they have special needs? These dogs face unique challenges. They need somebody who will provide them with love, patience, compassion, and additional care.
If you’re considering adopting a special needs dog, you must understand the complexities involved. Adopting a pet with special needs is not for everybody. If you can dedicate your attention to caring for and loving your pup, you’ll be saving a life. Keep these tips in mind and do some soul searching before you adopt a special needs dog.
Mandy Lewis, the founder of Albert’s Dog Lounge Rescue, talks about understanding a special needs dog.
“What we have learned focusing exclusively on senior and special needs dogs is that for these dogs, no two situations are the same. Each dog will have its own needs and requirements.
We get quite a few dogs with Cerebellar Hypoplasia. This is a disease that denotes an inadequate development of the cerebellum, a section of the brain stem largely responsible for modulating motor impulses. Affected dogs fail to move normally, especially when it comes to maintaining normal balance, posture, and coordination. These dogs will generally require physical therapy, routine, sometimes assistance eating, and typically can’t do stairs.
But what every adopted dog needs, whether they are old, young, or special needs is time and patience. We just can’t express this enough. A “normal” dog takes a lot of patience to realize they are safe, comfortable, and at home. A pup who is missing a sense or has something that hinders its abilities is going to need even more time.
Last year I took in a quadriplegic dog. I had never expressed a bladder or cared for a dog with that level of disability. There were days I sat down and cried out of frustration and exhaustion. But a few months into it, we had a routine, and I could change a diaper in a few second’s flat.
If I echo this sentiment over and over again – it will never be enough. Be patient with your new dog and be forgiving of yourself as you learn together. It will be so worth it in the end. Special needs and senior dogs are like no other. The gratitude and appreciation they show for their owners are beyond words”.
Here are 11 things to consider before adopting a special needs dog.
- Examine Your Finances
All pets require a guardian with financial stability, but special needs dogs demand extra monetary resources. Talk with the rescue center about how much they spend on the dog’s needs. This will give you a better understanding of the costs involved.
2. Ask for Insight
As Mandy stated previously, there are many different types of disabilities. Every kind of special needs dog requires distinct levels of care. Foster parents can give you a better understanding of the dog’s daily life and what challenges you are likely to face.
Talk with a veterinarian to outline treatments and estimated medical expenses.
If the dog you want to adopt is very stressed or fearful of car rides, consider locating a vet who makes house calls. There is a great search tool on The American Holistic Veterinary Association website that does just this. How convenient is that?
3. Altering Your Environment
You may need to revise your home to accommodate your dog’s needs. This may include installing a pet ramp or rearranging furniture for a wheelchair. Discuss your home’s layout with the foster parents or adoption personnel to get a sense of how your pet will be able to navigate his new environment.
Suggested Reading: Should I Rename My Rescue Dog?
4. Start with The Right Equipment
Some dogs need mobility aids or special gear to help meet their needs. Here are some examples of equipment your new dog might require.
Dog diapers for those who don’t have bladder control.
Lift harnesses for dogs that can’t climb or jump.
Glucose monitoring kits for diabetic dogs.
Dog wheelchairs for limited mobility dogs.
5. Do You Have The Time And Energy
Caring for a special needs dog is a big commitment and should not be made lightly.
Consider everything that’s going on in your life. Do you work long hours away from home? Do you travel frequently or have small children that need your undivided attention? A special needs dog may not be the right choice at this time.
6. Evaluate Your Physical Health
Many people don’t realize how physically demanding it can be to care for a special needs dog. You may need to lift or carry fido or even change his diapers.
If you have health problems, make sure you can care for your dog’s physical needs without taxing your health.
7. Hire A Dog Trainer
Be diligent in researching training methods for your dog’s special needs. Once you are confident in the type of training needed, search for a trainer that will work with you and your dog.
You may want to adopt a pup who has lost his hearing. Deaf dogs can be trained using visual cues and it’s important you learn how to communicate with them.
You might have a dog that is going blind and deaf. He might be startled easily and bite out of fear. Hire a trainer that understands your situation.
8. Formulate A Routine
Just like children need a daily routine, so do special needs dogs. To ensure Fido receives the daily care needed, make a list of all the jobs you do with your dog and create a schedule.
These tasks can include medications, checking your dog’s sugar level if he has diabetes, changing diapers, or checking for skin issues if he is wheelchair-bound. The list can go on.
Creating a routine helps your new bestie feel secure. It can also guarantee that you haven’t forgotten any steps.
9. Be Patient
Caring for a special needs dog can be a challenging road to navigate. Be patient with your pooch and yourself as you learn together.
10. Find a Support Group
If you are feeling overwhelmed reach out for support. Remember, you are not alone. Search for support groups in your area or establish a group. You can also ask your veterinarian for recommendations. Social media platforms may also be a good outlet for comfort and encouragement.
11. All A Dog Wants
Special needs dogs are still dogs. They want a stable, loving home with plenty of back scratches and treats. Shower your new pooch with love and patience. In-kind, you will be rewarded with unconditional love.
I want to thank Mandy, from Alberts Dog Lounge Rescue, for contributing to my article and for sharing the heartwarming photographs. If you feel moved to help support her rescue, please donate.
Let’s start a conversation in the comments below! Have you adopted a special needs dog? What challenges have you faced? I’d love to hear your story.