Basic Pet Care

Living With Disabled Cats & Dogs

Cats and dogs who can’t see, hear or have trouble walking don’t know they’re different and usually have little trouble adapting to the circumstances. Yet they require some special care.

Whether the pet you love was born with a disability, it occurred through injury or disease or it’s a condition that accompanies advanced age, your pet can still have a joyful life.

So don’t feel sorry for him! He lives in the moment and simply adapts to his condition. And with good nutrition and veterinary care, even those with disabilities are living longer and staying healthier.

If your pet is blind, deaf or mobility-challenged, you become your pet’s service person. He is dependent upon you to a greater degree than a healthy pet. Nonetheless, these cats and dogs still make great pets — and there is a special place in heaven for people who adopt and love a disabled pet.

When Your Pet is Blind

Sight isn’t a dog’s strongest sense; the ability to detect smells is. In fact, it may take you a while to notice that a dog that once had vision can no longer see. Cats, on the other hand, do rely primarily on their vision but you can take steps your pet remain at easy while dealing with blindness:

  • Talk to your pet; your voice is comforting
  • Keep them alert with toys that have hidden treats with a distinctive scent
  • If you must change or rearrange furniture, lead your pet around the new layout a few times to help ease them into the change
  • View the world from their height, and keep floors and passageways clear
  • Dog-proof your yard and keep it free of hazards
  • Maintain a social life for your dog, acting as their eyes to avoid aggressive dogs when you are out with him

When Your Pet is Deaf

As with any pet, hearing impaired ones needs to be trained. In this case, training needs to be through hand signals rather than voice commands. To keep a hearing impaired pet safe:

  • To get their attention, make eye contact, touch them gently or let them feel (rather than hear) the rumble of your footsteps
  • Don’t allow dogs off-leash, except for fenced-in areas; they can’t hear traffic
  • At night, use a flashlight to alert them
  • Consider choosing a collar that informs people your pet is deaf.

When Your Pet Can’t Walk or Has Trouble Walking

Regardless of whether your pet’s injury is temporary or permanent, with help a paralyzed or semi-paralyzed dog or cat can still get around and relieve themselves outside.

Harnesses, slings and carts can help disabled pets navigate the world with supervision. Once they adapt to a device, it’s important to monitor it to make sure that it continues to work correctly and doesn’t irritate skin.

Some dogs who have difficulty walking respond positively to massage, chiropractic and acupuncture. A rehabilitation therapy practitioner also can help to improve a dog’s mobility. Like physical therapists for humans, animal therapists follow a rehabilitation plan developed in conjunction with a veterinarian to achieve specific goals.

Helping All Dogs Who Are Different

Patience, gentleness and a commitment to your pet’s wellbeing will go a long way in helping them lead a normal, happy life.

Important Note: Should a sudden-onset disability occur or an existing condition worsen dramatically, visit your veterinarian as soon as possible to determine if the symptom can be mitigated.