I am the lucky owner of three special needs dogs Lola, Brutus and Zita! They are the loves of my life but definitely a work in progress. Lola is 10 years old with advancing heart disease as well as irritable Bowel Disease. Brutus has an autoimmune disease that effects his bowls as well, very similar to IBD and Zita has deformed hips and is allergic to just about every food on the planet. Did I plan on rescuing three special needs dogs? Absolutely not. However, I believe everything happens for a reason and I believe these beautiful babies came into my life because I’m able to provide these 10 crucial things to make their lives as comfortable as possible for as long as I’m lucky enough to have them.
Owning a special needs pet is costly. You will incur more vet bills from specialists than you would for yourself! Know this ahead of time and plan accordingly. Ditching a pet because you cannot afford them is unacceptable. There are options. Check out CareCredit and ask your vet if they accept this option as payment!
There will be many days where your special needs pet doesn’t potty on schedule, vomits on the carpet, poops in their crate (or on your favorite shoe), requires you to help wipe them or hold them while they’re sick, protest when it comes to rehabilitation time, or simply take 10 hours to find that perfect spot to potty in the rain. Patience is a virtue and is something that is a requirement for owning a special needs pet. They will look to you for comfort just as a baby looks to their mother when sick.
Following patience is Empathy… because you have to connect with your pet to understand their struggles and pain. Understand that your pet doesn’t want to let you down or upset you, but sometimes they just can’t hold it and potty where they’re not supposed to. Understand that no matter how many medications they’re on or how often they visit the vet, they can’t help when something else happens to them. Look to your pet as you would your child and know in your heart that they’re doing everything they can to make you happy.
Trusted Vet Partnership.
To me, this is the most important aspect of owning a special needs pet. You need to have a trusting relationship with your vet and also have the kind of relationship with your vet where you are involved in the decisions, just as they are, on your pets care. Working WITH a vet is more important than just letting a vet do whatever they want. YOU are responsible for the wellbeing of your pet before, during and after a vet appointment so make sure the treatment plan and tests are something that you both are satisfied with.
Squeamish? This is not for you.
I have wiped my dogs' butts probably more than I’ve wiped my own. Gross? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely. Two of my dogs have severe Irritable Bowl Disease and with this, comes vomit, yucky poo and lots, and lots, of accidents. Unless you have a maid, you should probably get used to cleaning up yucky things at the most inopportune times. Ahh the life of a pet parent!
Invest in a Carpet Cleaner.
Yeah, need I say more? I have found these to be very useful as well as cost effective. Bissell Spotclean Pet Plus at $116.99; As well as the Bissell PowerLIfter Pet Vacuum at $119.99.
Diapers, diapers and more diapers.
Thought diapers were just for babies?! Think again! My little senior that has IBD is getting to the point where she doesn’t care nor can she hold it anymore. Diapers have become our best friend! Yes it’s gross, yes she hates them and no we don’t just use pet diapers! Through a thorough investigation, we have found that for little tinkles dog diapers work best and we prefer the washable kind. Saves money, they’re comfortable as well as pretty cute! For poos however, I have found that actual baby diapers work best for holding everything where it’s supposed to be. Cut a little hole for the tail and buy the smallest size you think your pet can get away with. If all are too big, there will be a doggie diaper size available. Feel free to check these diapers out: For disposables on a budget, check out Top Paw at Petsmart. For cloth, Top Paw at Petsmart also carries soft washables! Now if you're looking for baby diapers that won't cause a rash, check out The Honest Company.
If you have any animal with special needs, you know how difficult it can be to manage both your pet as well as a full time job. This is where it may be necessary to hire a trusted, (licensed), pet care professional to help with potty times as well as minor clean up and medication schedules. Owning my own business thus far has really helped me with my time management caring for my dogs. Two of my dogs must be medicated multiple times throughout the day as well as let out often. I have literally built a business around my dogs’ schedule and unfortunately, this is what most have to do in order to make things work. It’s a good thing we love them so much!
They are still trouble makers.
Special needs pets, seniors and even our little friends that have mobility issues, STILL get into trouble from time-to-time. I have a Chihuahua who steals panties and is bad about wandering off and eating random things on the ground, a Husky who hoards kitchen rags and a Mutt determined to steal blankets off the bed, only to have accidents on them later. Basically, I have three toddlers who need a watchful eye at all times. Special needs pets don’t just lie around and feel sorry for themselves! They LIVE, which is exactly what you should want them to do. Need help keeping a watchful eye? Check out my favorite Pup-cam: Nest!
Most importantly of all, the dedication to see it through to the end.
The first question I always ask someone is, “would you abandon your mother with a stranger and never see her again?” Animals are a lifetime adventure. You shouldn’t buy a bunny for Easter only to ditch it in a shelter a few weeks later… You shouldn’t buy a puppy because it’s cute but give it away when YOU can’t make potty training work… You have to have the dedication to not only see pets through, but special needs pets especially. YOU are their lifeline. YOU are their entire world and the way they survive. Without YOU there is no THEM. Even aside from all that… Could you look your pet in the eyes after ALL of the hard work, only to let them down by giving them away when it gets, “too hard” for you? Shame on anyone who can do that. Be the life your pet needs you to be until their last breath. Love them with a love that knows no bounds. Let them experience a life every pet would be envious of. Be a great pet owner.