Things to Know Before Adopting a Pet with Special Needs - PetFirst
Pet Care & Health

Things to Know Before Adopting a Pet with Special Needs

by MetLife Pet Insurance
4 years ago

Every animal in a shelter is in desperate need of finding their human. Forever homes are a miracle for an animal that is just one in a pool of millions who are in need of someone to love them and keep them safe. For animals with special needs, the need is even greater.

However, a special needs animal may not be for everyone. It’s important to understand that they may require more care, they may be more expensive, and taking care of them may be an emotional journey. In return, the reward you get far outweighs the tribulations. If you are planning on adopting a pet with special needs, you’re saving a life. It’s just important to understand what life with a special needs animal can look like.

Types of Special Needs Animals

There are many different types of animals with special needs. Some needs are greater than others, so it’s important to be realistic about the type of special needs you’re willing to take on. Some are very minor while others can be an ongoing process for you and your special needs pet. Though there are many types of special needs animals, here are a few examples:

  • Physical disabilities: Missing limbs, immobile limbs, and genetic deformities are all examples of physical disabilities in animals.
  • Behavioral issues: Anxiety, fear, and aggression are all behavioral issues that animals can have as a result of abuse or neglect.
  • Chronic medical conditions: Feline immunodeficiency virus, leukemia, and diabetes are all examples of chronic medical conditions that some animals live with for the entirety of their lives.
  • Functional limitations: Being blind, deaf, or even missing an eye are a few functional limitations a pet may have.
  • Developmental disabilities: Cerebellar hypoplasia is one example of a developmental disability that can occur in dogs or cats that causes jerky tremors due to a cerebellum that isn’t completely mature at birth.

Why Adopt a Special Needs Pet

Some special needs animals require more care than others, but there are plenty of reasons to adopt an animal with special needs. For one, there are some people who are drawn to the cuteness and unique characteristics of a special needs pet. Others may identify with the underdog story, or the pet who was a fighter and survived despite the odds.

Some potential adopters can identify with the animal’s disability. Some diabetic pet owners, for example, understand the disease and therefore search for a diabetic cat to share their life with. Same goes for soldiers who lost a limb in war adopting an animal with three legs, and so on.

Some adopt special needs animals because they are drawn to helping the animals who will have the hardest time getting adopted. In truth, many special needs animals do have a harder time finding a home that is suitable for them. However, many special needs pets offer the same benefits to our health and wellness that other pets do. They can improve our mental health, lower our stress, and even help us sleep better.

Understanding the Commitment

If you do plan on adopting a special needs pet, it is important to understand the commitment of taking care of an animal that may have more needs than a nondisabled l pet. Though a special needs animal will be just as loving and your relationship will be just as fulfilling, you’ll still need to be prepared for some extra work. For one, you may have more financial costs. Pet insurance can be tricky with preexisting conditions, so a bulk of their care may need to be paid out of pocket. Talk about long-term care costs with the shelter and decide if that’s something you can afford.

You’ll also need to be patient and responsible, and you’ll need to have the time available for your pet — probably some extra time for a pet with special needs. A pet with a physical limitation may not be able to be as active but will still need activity on their terms. A pet with behavioral problems will need a stable, patient, and loving family who understands them and is willing to take the time to help them. A pet with a chronic illness will need medical care often in terms of medications or medical aid. A blind, deaf, or wheelchair-bound animal will need you to alter your environment to help move around safely. It’s a big commitment, and you have to be realistic about your ability to take on the work.

The Emotional Aspect

It is true that animals can help your mental health and wellness, but it’s also true that caring for a sick or hurt animal can increase your anxiety or depression. While many special needs animals live a relatively normal life and learn to adapt to their handicap, some eventually succumb to their ailment.

However, it’s important to note that every animal will pass away, so the loss of your special needs animal may not be any more painful than the loss of another animal. However, you may see them struggle. You may see them experience pain and confusion. The journey is emotional, so it’s important to be sure you’re ready for it before adopting an animal with special needs.

Giving a Special Needs Animal Their Happy Ending

The lows with a special needs animal may be lower than others, but the highs will be higher. There’s nothing like seeing a fearful dog wag its tail for the first time, watching a three-legged dog learn to run for a frisbee, or hearing a chronically ill cat purr and clean itself again. You will literally be their safety, their guardian angel, and the person who saved their life. Forever homes are always a well-deserved miracle for any animal. But providing a happy ending for a special needs animal is one of the best gifts you can give a creature who has had a lot of bad luck in life. There’s truly no other feeling like it.

Adopting an animal means finding the creature that will be the perfect addition to your family. It’s important to find the animal that is right for you, your family members, and your lifestyle. Not only is that important for your well-being but the animal’s well-being as well. In truth, a special needs animal isn’t the perfect fit for everyone. You have to have the time, the extra finances, and the environment that works best for them — not to mention a little extra love. In return, you’ll have all of the affection from a grateful pet to complete your family.

Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

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