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There are many factors that can label a pet as “less adoptable” — an animal having a special need is one such label. Unfortunately, shelter pets with this label will have a more difficult time finding a family to love and care for them with shelter living time being up to two years plus. Adopting a pet with a disability can bring great joy to your life and they make fantastic companions just as any other pet without special needs.

Special needs or disabilities in adoptable pets range from an animal being blind or deaf, having missing limbs, severe allergies, a chronic illness, or medical condition, or simply having behavioral issues. These are the adoptions that are more difficult. Another hurdle these pets face is the battle to stand out in an overcrowded animal shelter. If being overlooked for an animal without issues wasn’t hard enough! Special needs animals are very special and unique individuals that may have gone through some not-so-good experiences in their lives, but they still deserve the chance to be loved.

On petinsurance.com, Rochelle Michalek, executive director of Paws Chicago, says, “Animals with disabilities are incredibly adaptable and despite their injuries can still be functional and even find a way to play.” Just because they may be lacking physically or mentally, that does not mean they are any less awesome.

Are you thinking about making a special needs pet a part of your family? Here are some important things you must to keep in mind and consider before adopting:

1. There will be additional financial costs

A pet with a disability may require expensive veterinary care and surgeries, may need special medications, physical therapy, require a certain diet, and older animals with more needs might need to go to monthly veterinary check-ups. All of these and more can add on to your pet expenses.

2. The entire family needs to be on-board

It cannot just be you in the household willing to care for a special needs pet. So if you are not single, you must have a serious talk with your spouse or partner and kids about the good and the challenges that come with adopting. Beforehand, designate pet duties for each family member and consider this a good thing to teach responsibility to your kids.

3. You absolutely need to be able to accommodate a disability

Besides having to give medications at certain times of the day, as a guardian to a special needs pet, you will need to make sure you will accommodate all their needs. Before you make an official pet adoption and when you go to visit adoptable pets, ask questions like: Any emotional issues? Can they be in a house with children? What living or environmental conditions are needed? How many families have they had? And these make some people squeamish, but some pets may need to wear diapers, have a feeding tube, or require needle injections.

4. Look to local shelters for adoption

Adopting saves an animal’s life! Animal shelters do take in special needs pets and will do everything in their power to place them with their perfect human match. Check out these ten amazing shelters for special needs animals for adoptable pets or to support their cause! You can also see if temporary fostering is possible to feel out if your home and family is going to be the best placement for a special pet.

5. You need to be prepared

Unlike a healthy pet, a pet with special needs may not live as long. Depending on the disability they have, he or she may be more susceptible to illness, tend to be sick longer, and are more likely to die from complications.

For information on adoptable special needs pets, contact your local animal shelter or rescue group. You can find a nearby shelter through websites like the ASPCA and Adopt a Pet, and adopt or help at Disabled Animal Adoptions and Assistance, or help out these animal shelters that are committed to improving the lives of disabled animals across America.

Image source: Pete Markham / Flickr

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4 comments on “5 Important Things to Keep in Mind Before Adopting a Special Needs Pet”

Click to add comment
Liz Streed Sygowski
4 Years Ago

PLEASE DONT LET THE VERY VALUABLE INFO IN THIS LINK DETER YOU. Many Shelters cover the long term medical costs in order to give a senior or special needs animal a better quality of life outside of the shelter. PLEASE BE SURE TO ASK ABOUT "fostering" a senior or special needs animal. It relieves the shelter in many ways, opens space for incoming animals, but best of all the fostered animal knows a better quality of life with their new foster family. Thanks...

Linda Wesche
4 Years Ago

My special needs dog is the sweetest, best dog ever. Worth everything! But we do need to keep savings ready for emergency vet care, take her in faithfully for vet care, give twice daily meds, and be careful not to let her be stressed. Any trip must be planned with potential vet needs in mind. And we have insurance to provide for her should we die while she's still alive. We love her dearly.

Elaine Sara Smith
4 Years Ago

I've had several special needs kitties. Challenging.....but so rewarding!

Suan Lin Yong
4 Years Ago

Thank you for pointers.


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