The term “special needs” is a pretty broad description, and it may refer to any number of conditions in our companion animals.  Special needs pets are those who require the kind of above-and-beyond attention that only a very patient and compassionate person can give.  Qualifying conditions may include a history of severe injury, chronic illness, or behavioral issues, and if you’re considering adopting a special needs animal, you should familiarize yourself with all of the details of the pet’s condition and ongoing treatment protocol.  Of course, if you have the time and financial capacity to care for one of these extraordinary animals, it can be an extremely rewarding experience.

This can be said for every pet, but it’s especially true for special needs animals:  knowing the responsibility that comes along with accepting one of these guys into your family is absolutely critical to a long, happy, healthy relationship.  Here are some things to consider before adopting a pet with special needs:

There will be a financial burden that is well above the standard costs of pet ownership.  This is the number one thing to consider before adoption a special needs pet.  In a perfect world, your love would be more than enough to give your new family member the perfect life, but is, unfortunately, not always the case.  You should research the cost of any long-term medications that the pet is taking, and be sure that this cost fits comfortably into your family’s budget.  Also, pets with behavioral issues may require special training sessions, in addition to any medications that they may be taking.  If the pet is heartworm-positive, speak with your veterinarian about the cost of treatment before you undertake the adoption process.  Finally, if the pet has any sort of physical disability, look into the cost of any special equipment or accommodations that may be required to keep the animal comfortable.

Special needs pets will require more of your time and physical strength.  These guys are likely to require more frequent visits to the family veterinarian, so you’ll need to be able to squeeze those appointments into your schedule.  They will sometimes also require you to physically accompany them outside for bathroom breaks, rather than simply being let out.  You should also be prepared to assist your pet with standing and walking, if there is an injury or disability.  It’s important that you’re prepared for all of these demands, and many others that have not been mentioned here.

Your entire household should be informed, included in the decision process, and prepared for anything that might happen.  Try to consider every aspect of your family’s daily life.  If you have small children, a pet who has problems with fear or aggression is probably not right for you.  It’s also important to speak with all members of the family about what this new pet will require, and ask every to pitch in.  While you’re speaking with them, you should have the more difficult discussions, as well.  Make sure that everyone understands that while this special needs pet is sure to return all of your love and attention ten-fold, he or she is also likely to have a short life expectancy.  Prepare your family for what lies ahead, and make sure that they are on board.

We’ve said it before, but it bears mentioning a hundred times: special needs pets are worth every bit of the cost, time, and energy, if you have all of those things to give.  However, as with any pet, you have to know what you’re getting into if you’re going to honor the commitment that you’re making through adoption.

Featured Photo Credit: Prehensile Eye via Compfight cc