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Pets with Disabilities and Special Needs

Pets with disabilities and special needs are everywhere. In fact, if they live long enough, most pets become disabled due to chronic illness, mobility issues, and injury. Fortunately, disabled pets are accepted as part of the norm by their families and veterinarians. However, because there is a wide range of disabilities seen in pets, just as there are in humans, the more profoundly affected animals raise concerns about quality of life. We all want our pets to have comfortable, happy lives.

Evaluating quality of life is subjective and relative. Many pets with profound disabilities don't have the same type of life as their mainstream "normal" counterparts and that is ok. They may need to be carried, ride in a stroller, use a wheel chair, be kept safe with a harness and leash, take medication, and have their bladder and bowels expressed numerous times a day. Of course, chronic and acute pain, difficulty breathing, safety, and the ability to provide appropriate humane accommodations and support for disabled pets are always considerations when evaluating quality of life. 

But once we accept compromise and look past the traditional ideas of what pets "should" be and do, we can sit back and enjoy caring for and celebrating our pets that happen to be disabled.

What are some examples of disabilities seen in pets?

deaf, blind, deaf blind, hind limb weakness and paralysis, congenital deformities of limbs, missing limbs, cerebellar hypoplasia, hydrocephalus, diabetes, heart failure, brachycephalic palate and cleft defects, spina bifida, seizures, injuries to back, limbs, and eyes, 

Where do disabled pets come from?

Family pets become disabled due to injuries and illness. They are saved by rescue groups who then place them with families that are willing to provide proper care for their individual challenges and needs. 

Who chooses to care for disabled pets, and why?

When pets become disabled by injury or illness, most families choose to continue taking care of their own pets. Some aren't able and many end up with rescue groups. Some people are drawn to the "underdog" and because they are able, will adopt pets with special needs. Others are drawn to a particular animal that they identify with for a variety of reasons. Some people with disabilities are interested in adopting a pet who is disabled. All are kind, compassionate people who have a little bit extra to give.

Can a disabled pet have a meaningful, productive, happy life?

YES! Barring some life threatening or other issues that cause chronic pain and severe discomfort, or dangerous behavioral issues, most pets that have disabilities and special needs live very happy productive lives. Most are inspiring members of families, school communities, and other organizations where they bring their own positivity and kindness to kids and adults. 

Piglet first home pic 1_edited.jpg

Your Veterinarian

Disabled and special needs pets generally have health issues that require ongoing veterinary care. It is very important to establish a good relationship with your local veterinarian and specialists if needed. Take time to find a veterinarian who is interested in working with you and has ample time and flexibility for you and your pet. Specific health issues and other needs will dictate to some extent whether you choose a house call/mobile vet or an in hospital vet to care for your pet. 

Support for Pets with Disabilities

There are many online and in person resources available to help guide pet parents who find themselves with newly adopted or diagnosed pets with disabilities and special needs.

Rescue organizations that focus on pets with specific disabilities and health issues are very receptive to requests for information and guidance for those who who are learning how to express bladders, give insulin injections, or teach sign language to their deaf dog. There are also Facebook support groups that are very helpful. 

Your veterinarian may have clients with pets that have similar needs to yours who are willing to help by answering questions and sharing experiences. 

The list of rescue and support groups below is a starting point. There are many more that can be located through your veterinarian, word of mouth, and google searches. Just be very careful to find reliable sources by checking with your veterinarian first before joining or connecting with individuals online. 



Virtual Consulting for Senior Pets and Pets with Disabilities!

Through my work as a house call veterinarian, with a focus on senior, disabled, and chronically ill dogs, cats, and birds, I have gained extensive experience in the many aspects of caring for pets with a variety of disabilities and special needs. While I've always been interested in senior and special needs pets, adopting Piglet, the deaf blind pink puppy has inspired me to broaden the reach of my veterinary services through virtual consulting.
In addition to regular veterinary care, an objective, professional point of view and discussion can be extremely helpful in processing overwhelming situations we are experiencing with our pets. 

While I can't legally diagnose or prescribe specific medical treatment to animals I have not examined in person, I am able to offer virtual consulting via phone, e-mail, Facetime, and Zoom, to caring pet parents who are committed to their beloved senior and disabled pets. 

My virtual consulting services are available to those who are looking for added objective input and guidance for pets with disabilities, complicated medical issues, end of life decisions, and other basic pet care.

Virtual Consults Include:
Basic 30 minute phone or Zoom consult.
Includes an e-mail summary of our visit, plus one brief follow up e-mail within 30 days.

Extensive 45 minute phone or Zoom consult. 
Includes medical records review in addition to an e-mail summary of our visit, plus one brief follow up e-mail within 30 days. 

Recheck 30 minute phone or Zoom consult.
Includes an e-mail summary of our visit, plus one brief follow up e-mail within 30 days. 
Simple e-mail consults focus on a single, relatively straight forward question. One follow up e-mail within the following 30 days is included. 
Custom plans are available.

Contact Dr. Shapiro for scheduling and fee info.

Resources and Support

Rescues and Resources

•Deaf Dogs Rock

•Foster Dogs, Inc.

•Be Like Josh Foundation

•Road Dogs Rescue

•Marley’s Mutts

•Keller’s Cause

•Perfect Imperfections

•Speak for the Unspoken

•Speak St. Louis

•Pawsavers Rescue

•Amazing Aussies of Arizona

•Present Moment Rescue

•Lovey Loaves

•Dodger’s List


•Bionic Pets

•Hydrocephalus for Dogs Facebook Group

•The Mia Foundation

•MPS Army

•Boxers On Wheels

•Eddie’s Wheels

•Handicapped Pets (Walkin’ Pets)

•Gunnar’s Wheels

•Evergreen Prosthetics

•Muffin’s Halo for Dogs

•Your Inner Dog- deaf blind dog education

•Help ‘em Up Harness

•Blind Dog Rescue Alliance

•Honey, Have You Squeezed the Dachshund, book by Dr. Adam Christman

This is a list of rescue groups and other organizations that may provide information and support for people who are caring for pets with disabilities and special needs

For more info visit

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