Some pets have special needs that require additional care and attention. A specially abled pet can be challenging, but with the proper considerations and care, these pets can live happy, healthy lives, and they can make wonderful companions for you and your family. Our Town & Country Animal Hospital team wants to answer some frequently asked questions about specially abled pets, in case you own, or are considering adopting, a pet who has special needs.
Question: What is a specially abled pet?
Answer: A specially abled pet is one who has a disability such as hind limb paralysis, impaired vision, deafness, or another condition that prevents them from functioning normally.
Q: What conditions cause paralysis in pets?
A: Most pets are paralyzed because of conditions such as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) or trauma that affect the spine. Brain tumors, muscle diseases, and metabolic problems may also result in decreased mobility.
Q: What special considerations are necessary for pets affected by paralysis?
A: The inability to move normally can significantly affect your pet’s quality of life, and these pets need specialized attention to ensure they remain healthy and comfortable. Considerations include:
- Providing appropriate bedding — Ensure your pet has thick bedding to keep them comfortable and help prevent bed sores. In addition, change their bedding when necessary to keep the area clean and dry.
- Positioning your pet — Spending too much time in one position can damage your pet’s skin from pressure and poor circulation, and cause fluid accumulation in the lungs. Change your pet’s position at least every four to six hours, if they cannot reposition themselves.
- Feeding your pet — Calculate your pet’s daily energy requirements and feed them the amount that will keep them at a healthy weight, since excess weight puts additional stress on a paralyzed pet’s body. In addition, ensure your pet sits upright when they eat to avoid aspiration pneumonia, a condition that occurs when a pet inhales food, causing lung infection.
- Helping your pet urinate — If your pet cannot urinate on their own, they will need catheterization several times per day to express their bladder. Ensure you keep the catheter clean to prevent a urinary tract infection.
- Helping your pet defecate — You may need to feed your pet a high-fiber diet to ensure regular bowel movements. If you notice your pet isn’t passing normally, our veterinary team may recommend a mild laxative to help the process.
- Helping your pet move — Exercise is good for circulation, muscle tone, and your pet’s mental health. Use a sling or a cart to help improve their mobility.
- Providing physical therapy — Paralyzed pets benefit from physical therapy to help improve circulation and muscle tone.
- Providing mental stimulation — Paralyzed pets need mental stimulation to prevent boredom and stay mentally engaged. Provide food puzzle toys and interact with your pet frequently.
Q: What conditions cause blindness in pets?
A: Blindness in pets can be caused by conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, diabetes, infection, injury, and retinal degeneration.
Q: What special considerations are necessary for blind pets?
A: Blind pets usually adapt well, especially if their vision loss is gradual, but you should take steps to help them navigate. Considerations include:
- Allowing your pet to adapt — You may want to help your pet by carrying them everywhere, but your pet will lead a fuller life if you allow them to adapt to their condition and not become reliant on you.
- Talking to your pet — Your pet will use your voice to determine your location. Speak to them frequently, so they know where to go for cuddles and treats.
- Keeping their environment stable — Blind pets adapt well because they memorize their environment to comfortably navigate their home, so don’t move your furniture, to help ensure they can find their way around your home. In addition, keep your blind cat inside to protect them from outdoor hazards.
- Alerting other people — Ensure other people know your pet is blind so they don’t inadvertently startle them.
Q: What conditions cause deafness in pets?
A: Deafness in pets can be caused by conditions such as birth defects, infection, trauma, blocked ear canals, and old age.
Q: What special considerations are necessary for deaf pets?
A: Whether your pet is deaf from birth or they lost their hearing later in life, deafness can affect their behavior and put them at risk for certain dangers. Considerations include:
- Keeping them safe — Keep your dog leashed at all times on outings, because they won’t be able to hear you calling their name, which could put them at risk for being hit by a car. In addition, keep your deaf cat indoors at all times.
- Teaching hand signals — Teach your pet hand signals so you can communicate with them.
- Alerting other people — Ensure other people know your pet is deaf, so they don’t inadvertently startle them.
Owning a specially abled pet can be rewarding, but certain considerations must be taken to ensure they remain happy and healthy. If you are concerned that your pet may be losing their vision or hearing, contact our Town and Country Animal Hospital. We can perform a full assessment and determine if you need to make special considerations in your home.