Hello friends! Tuki here coming to you from my perch at the Potter League. You probably know there is a day to celebrate just about everything, but did you know there is a National Specially-abled Pets Day? There is – and it is May 3. You are probably reading this after May 3 but, I wanted to celebrate those specially-abled pets and give you some advice if you are thinking about adopting one!
Just like people, some pets have different abilities than others. A specially-abled pet requires help with everyday activities because of a physical disability, an injury or a chronic health condition such as blindness. Fortunately, these specially-abled pets can live great lives.
A PetFinder poll found special needs pets are the third-hardest animals to place, behind senior pets and bully breeds. Many of these “less adoptable” pets spend much longer waiting for a loving home, often more than four times the average wait. Choosing to adopt a pet with special needs in many cases means saving the life of that pet or at the very least means that you’re taking on an amazing task that few would even consider facing.
If you are considering adopting a specially-abled pet, here are some things you should think about:
Consider the commitment. Caring for these pets can be extremely rewarding; however, they can sometimes require more time than other pets. They may need help with going to the bathroom or have special equipment they wear for walking. All these things take time so if you don’t have the time to devote to these activities, it’s ok to say that now is not the right time to adopt that specially-abled pet. Further, the environment at home needs to meet the needs of the pet and owners have to be committed to providing exercise, stimulation and training when necessary. Additionally, the cost of medical care should also be taken into consideration. We would encourage adopters to explore pet insurance options to help with any costs.
· Stay open-minded. Disabilities such as blindness in a pet doesn’t mean you’ll have to watch them 24/7. Actually, blind cats and dogs are no different than other animals! A pet that has been blind from birth doesn’t know what blindness is or that he or she has it, so they act like a regular dog or cat. Deaf dogs are still totally trainable. Many times, you can’t even initially tell if a pet is deaf; they look and act just like a regular pup – because they are. While many deaf dogs are easily startled even by the lightest touch, with regular training they can be desensitized. Every specially-abled pet has different needs so if you have a particular pet in mind, find out all you can about them and their condition. Ask questions about their daily needs such as eating, walking, going to the bathroom, and any special medications or equipment they need.
· One set of limited skills can bring out a whole new set of advantages. Often times when a specially abled pet is born with or becomes disabled, it gives way to a whole new set of skills or advantages. Pets who haven’t had the disability since birth will often do their best to get back to functioning as independently as they did prior to the disability.
If you do decide to adopt a specially-abled pet, be ready to provide:
Routine: with any new pet it’s good to establish a routine for daily activities like eating, going to the bathroom, and exercise. These routines can be even more important for a specially-abled pet who may require more help with these activities. Routines make a pet feel safe in their new home.
Training: Training for you and your specially-abled pet will depend on their unique abilities. For instance, a dog who is deaf will not be able to respond to verbal commands and you will need to find ways to communicate with them and a cat with mobility issues may not be able to use a regular litter box so you will need to find a different way of giving them a bathroom area.
Patience: All new pets (just like kids!) require patience, but a specially-abled pet will need to do many routine things differently, so if you have or have had other pets, you will need some extra patience to help the specially-abled pets. abled pet adjust.
There are also some specific things that you can do for pets with certain conditions.
Adjusting. If you adopt a pet who is blind, allow them to find their own way around your home (making sure the space is safe). This gives them a sense of independence and helps them feel comfortable with their new home.
speaking. Speak to your pet often and in a normal voice. Your voice can be soothing and provide comfort to a pet who is unsure of their surroundings.
Toys. Squeaky or food-finding toys that allow your pet to use their other sense provides them with stimulation and fun.
Socialization. Even though your pet may not be able to see, they can still play with other pets; however, take things slowly by letting your pet use their sense of smell to get to know new friends. Also, place a collar or harness that says, ‘I’m blind’ on your pet to let other pet parents know to take things slowly.
Training. Dogs and cats with hearing loss can be trained to respond to hand signals, but consistency is important so you may want to work with a trainer who has experience with animals with deafness.
Safety. Animals that can’t hear may not alert to dangerous situations such as cars and predators. It’s best to keep cats indoors and dogs on a leash or in a fenced yard. Many people think that dogs who are deaf become aggressive because they are easily startled. Like any pet, they will adapt to their new circumstances and the right training is critical.
Bathroom differences. A pet with mobility issues or paralysis may not be able to pee or poop the same as other pets. You may need to use diapers or learn how to express their bladder.
Exercise. Some pets with mobility issues are helped by exercises or hydrotherapy (swimming or exercising in water). Your veterinarian or a veterinary physical therapist can advise you on what’s best for your pet.
Skincare. Pets with mobility issues may develop sores because they cannot move to changes positions. Checking their skin regularly and keeping pressure areas clean and dry can help prevent sores.
Mail questions to Tuki, PO Box 412, Newport, RI 02840, or send email to TukiTalk@PotterLeague.org. The Potter League for Animals can be found at 87 Oliphant Lane in Middletown and online at potterleague.org.