Dogs with Special Needs

People with disabilities and chronic illnesses need special care and possibly regular medical care.  These individuals are part of a family unit and are cared for and loved the same as people without any disabilities or illnesses.  Dogs that are injured or are ill also need the same love and attention.  However, once a dog is injured or begins to suffer from an illness, it becomes harder for them to be adopted to a new home.  Although it may seem as if caring for such dogs is a burden, they have many years left to share with their new family and are eternally grateful for the love and attention they receive.

The purpose of this guide is to discuss some of the disabilities and illnesses dogs suffer and provide some guidance as to how their new family can assist them.  It is our goal to demonstrate that the effort to provide a home for these dogs is not necessarily significant, but the rewards are great.

Blind or Deaf Dogs – These dogs need more protection from the outside world and a different kind of communication. There are many resources now available to help with training of these dogs.

Three-Legged Dogs – If a person loses a leg, s/he must use crutches or receive a prosthetic leg in order to function in the same manner as a person with two legs.  However, dogs that lose a leg can function in the same manner as those with all four legs.  They can run and jump with materially the same agility as other dogs.  The only difference is that there is one less set of toenails to clip on a regular basis!

Dogs in “Wheelchairs” – Many companies make “wheelchairs” for dogs that are not able to use their two back legs.  While some companies have standard carts costing from $250 to $700 others offer custom-made carts, which are designed around the dog.  Assistance is available for puppies that need carts as well so they can grow with the dog.  The “wheelchair” is attached over the back of the dog and the two non-functioning legs are placed in the cart.  This enables the dog to walk by using its front two legs.

Behavior Problems – Dogs with behavioral problems are the perfect addition to the right home.  Some dogs may not be able to get along with other animals or with young children, but they may thrive in a home as an only pet and without children.  Others may have the tendency to be aggressive in certain situations (e.g., in crowds, at meal time).  These dogs may need more than just care and attention.  It may be best to hire a trainer who specializes in these types of behavior problems.  Costs for these sessions may start at $100 per hour (depending on where you live) and increase from there.  Working with these individuals can provide you with more information so that you can understand the problem and provide the right environment for your new family member.  Although there is a greater training expense for these animals, they will love you as much as any other dog.

Abused/Neglected Dogs – Dogs who have been abused may become startled or withdrawn upon hearing certain sounds, hearing loud noises or seeing certain types of people (e.g. men with beards.)  These dogs may need more patience and attention than others, especially in the beginning, but will be forever grateful for the love they receive.

Skin Conditions – Dogs can contract skin conditions from many sources such as parasites, insects, prolonged exposure to the outside, stress and other factors.  Dogs can even get sunburn from being outside too long.  The good news is that most of these conditions can be treated after a trip or two to the vet.  Once the proper medication/cream is prescribed, your new family member will be itch free and happy.

Chronic Illness – Some dogs have illnesses which require regular vet appointments and/or daily medication.  For example, dogs can suffer from Atkins disease, diabetes, allergies and epilepsy, among other things.  Drugs can cost from $25 to $50 per month, which is about $250 to $600 per year.  That is a small price to pay for the love you will receive from your new companion.

Sharing your home with a special needs dog may seem like a huge challenge in the beginning.  But, caring for these dogs is easier than you think and the rewards are extremely plentiful.