Dogs are as diverse as humans are. From the huge variety of breeds to their individual personalities, every dog is unique. This individuality means humans can find a dog that suits their lifestyle and gives them the chance to provide the best life possible for their pooch.
Every dog has his or her own unique needs, and some require more care than others—especially if the dog has special needs. Often, there’s such a focus on how service dogs help humans with special needs that it’s easy to forget that humans can do the same for dogs.
Considering a Special Needs Dog
If you have already adopted an older dog or one with special needs, you likely already know how simultaneously rewarding and demanding that relationship can be. If you are thinking about adopting a dog with special needs, there are a few things to consider first.
Bringing any dog into your life is a big commitment, but caring for a dog with special needs is typically a bigger responsibility. You should not adopt a dog without careful consideration, as there are both advantages and disadvantages to owning a dog with special needs.
- According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), about 670,000 dogs are euthanized in the United States each year. Dogs with special needs and older dogs are often euthanized before young dogs. Adopting a dog with special needs could literally save the animal’s life.
- Older dogs and some dogs with special needs may be much mellower and better behaved than a puppy. They may already have received obedience training, be potty trained, and should be past destructive puppy behaviors like chewing.
- Dogs rely on their owners for everything. And because they have specific needs, providing specialized care to your dog can help deepen your bond and strengthen your relationship. The extra effort you put into your dog’s care will be given back to you in love and affection from your pooch.
Of course, it isn’t all wagging tails and walks to the park. Consider the following challenges to owning a senior or special needs dog:
- Owning a dog that is older or has special needs can be expensive. You will likely have to spend more on medical care for a special needs pet. They may need to have regular checkups at the vet, need to take regular medications, or require costly procedures. For instance, if your dog experiences a cranial cruciate ligament rupture (also known as a torn ACL), it may require surgery and the dreaded cone of shame for recovery. Such costs can add up, and you’ll need to be financially prepared to help your pooch should the need arise.
- A senior or special needs dog may have specific health issues that you have to spend time addressing every day. In addition to exercising and being fed, they may have to take daily medication or require extra attention to care for their medical needs that can be time consuming and worrisome.
- Unfortunately, you may not be able to spend as much time with a senior or special needs dog as you would with a puppy. Depending on the dog’s health, they may not live a very long time after adoption, and it’s always difficult to lose a pet, even if your time together is short.
Evaluating Your Lifestyle
Even if you’re willing to take on the extra challenges and responsibilities of owning a dog with special needs, take a minute to ask yourself a few questions about your lifestyle. It’s up to you to figure out how a dog with special needs will fit into your life and how you can provide the best home possible for them.
- Have you owned a dog before? Do you have experience caring for a dog that has special needs?
- Are you financially secure enough to cover your dog’s medical expenses, both routine and unexpected?
- Do you have a lot of time to spend with your dog or are you often busy during your free time? Do you travel frequently?
It’s important to think about how a special needs dog would fit into your life as it is, and not how you envision it will be after adoption, because you have to do more than make sure the dog is healthy and comfortable. As the owner, you also have to make sure your dog is happy.
Do your best to have a loving relationship with them. There are plenty of things people do to annoy their dogs, but not giving them enough love and affection in addition to the necessities is one of the worst offenses. So even when you have to take your special needs dog to their regular checkup or give them the medicine they hate taking, always do it with care and kindness.