Preparing yourself. Items to think about before fostering or adopting a special needs pet.
I don't claim to be an expert in caring for special needs animals but I sure did learn a lot from Bialy in little over 1.5 years I spent with her. Recently I consulted with a rescue that took into their program their first paralyzed dog. Not knowing much, they reached out for help and I was happy to talk with the head of the rescue as well as potential adopters about my experience. Below is a list of topics to think about if you should decide to care for a paralyzed animal:
- Respite care. It is imperative that you have a plan for relief. Taking care of a special needs animal can be taxing physically, mentally and emotionally. Find a great daycare or pet sitter that can watch your pet for a day or weekend. Ask a pet savvy friend or relative to spend the day with your furry friend. YOU WILL BURN OUT. Get some help and take time for yourself.
- Medical care/UTIs. Paralyzed animals become very prone to urinary tract infections. Having a dietary bladder supplement can be helpful and regular veterinary care to test urine may become part of your regimen. If your pet is in diapers, make sure they are always clean and dry. Paralyzed animals can also get urine burns and develop open wounds or sores on their rear end or limbs from "scooting" or "dragging."
- Alternative therapies. It may not be necessary but it is often highly recommended for your pet to receive physical therapy, hydrotherapy, laser therapy, or massage therapy etc to help your pet maintain a healthy physical body. Compensatory muscles can become overworked quickly and need help recovering. This is important to factor in when considering expenses.
- Behavior/Training. Depending on your pet's condition, there may be pain or sensitive areas on your pet's body. Unfortunately if they are paralyzed the "flight" portion of the "fight or flight" scenario diminishes so they often only given an option to "fight." Working with a positive reinforcement trainer, behaviorist or veterinarian may be necessary.
- Equipment. For those pets who are incontinent or do not have control over their bladder or bowels, diapers, belly bands, potty pads may be needed. A wheelchair can help with mobility issues and there are some great supplies out there like toe grips, braces, and special harnesses to help with your pet's mobility.
Erin Kowalski is the founder of Bialy's Wellness Foundation and was Bialy's mom. She owns AURA Natural Pet and is a Nationally Certified Canine Massage Therapist, Reiki Practitioner and always seeking and sharing knowledge to optimize the quality of life of our pets. Erin is currently attaining certification in Animal Loss and Grief Support Counseling. She and her husband, Will reside in Chicago with their 12 year old chocolate labrador, Zeus and the foster puppy frequenting their home.