What is a Special Needs Pet?

We have met a lot of compassionate animal lovers through Boogie's Facebook page including foster and forever parents of special needs pets, and people who are just learning about special needs pets and want to help. One question we get a lot is, "are all special needs pets like Boogie?"

The answer is no.  A special needs pet is any pet who needs a little extra care in one way or another. Here are a few examples of conditions that could put a pet in the special needs category:

  • Food allergies (often remedied by easy and relatively inexpensive dietary modifications)
  • Diabetes
  • Hearing impaired (communicate by hand signals & you will be able to sing horribly in the shower)
  • Vision impairment 
  • A physical disability (perhaps requiring a set of "wheels")
  • Victims of animal abuse
  • A senior pet who needs a loving peaceful home to spend their last days
  • Behavioral issues that need rehabilitation
  • Neurological issues like cerrabellar hypoplasia, epilepsy, degenerative myelopathy 
  • Chronic or terminal illness

Special needs pets are the most difficult for shelters and rescues to adopt out simply because many people fear the unknown or look upon animals with disabilities as "broken". But they are not, and they deserve love, care, companionship and an enriching life just like any other pet. 

A few things to consider before adopting a special needs pet:

  • What will the additional financial costs include? There are a lot of resources out there to help  you estimate the yearly cost of owning a pet. A pet with special needs will undoubtably be a little more expensive, but maybe not as expensive as you think. Talk to the shelter veterinarian or rescue organization's veterinarian about what to expect. Many organizations offer reduced adoption fees, ongoing adopter support or other resources to help families of special needs pets.
  • Will you have the time to give? Adopting a pet is a life time commitment, and regardless of being considered special needs or not, you're pet depends on you for everything. A special needs pet may need medication at certain times of the day or modified environment to ensure their safety. Be sure to consider these factors.
  • Will they fit into my family? Do you have children, a chaotic home or perhaps a pet who does not get along with other animals? These types of environmental factors should be honestly discussed with the adoption coordinator to ensure that you and your new pet are the right match for each other.

Where to adopt a special needs pet:

  • Visit your local animal shelter and ASK. Ask if there are any special needs pets who are not out on the adoption floor and if you can meet them. They may be recuperating from medical procedures or labeled as "rescue only" because of their condition and not visible to the public. 
  • Adoption websitesPetFinderAdopt-A-PetPetTango are national adoption databases used by most shelters and rescues to promote the animals in their care. These sites are a great resource to see who is available for adoption in your area, find rescues and shelters near you and even sign up to volunteer.
  • Special needs rescues. There are many rescue organizations out there who specifically rescue special needs pets from shelters to save them from euthanasia. Check the community board at your local pet supply store and neighborhood groups for adoption flyers, and search online for a rescue near you. Ask! Ask your friends, neighbors and co-workers if they have a rescue or shelter they support and share your intention of adopting a special needs pet. You'll be surprised as how easy it is to find your perfect match once you put it out there!

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