Pets provide us with unconditional love, unwavering loyalty, and endless support. Our pets also need us, especially if they have a disability from an injury, birth defect, or disease. While a specially-abled pet may require extra love and care, they are more than capable of enjoying a fulfilling life and forming a truly special bond with their owner. Every day, our team at Homestead Animal Hospital is inspired by the strength of the human-animal bond, and the connection between an owner and their specially-abled pet is often the strongest of all. We’re celebrating specially-abled pets by sharing tips to enhance their lives, as they enhance ours.
Caring for a blind pet
A pet with reduced vision or blindness requires some extra support, but they can learn to compensate with their hearing, smell, and touch. You can help your blind pet navigate life at home and outdoors with these tips:
- Maintain a predictable environment — One of the best ways to support a pet who has lost their vision is to ensure their environment is familiar. Once your pet knows your home’s layout and can navigate confidently, avoid changing the floor plan as best you can. By keeping the layout the same, you give your pet a sense of freedom and independence, as they can move about the house freely without feeling anxious or uncertain. Of course, never rearranging or updating your furniture is unlikely, but introducing changes to your pet’s environment slowly will help them adjust. Leash your pet, and walk them around the house, so they can use their other senses to investigate the new layout without fear of getting hurt.
- Keep your home tidy — We are not questioning your ability to keep a clean home, but tidiness is particularly important for a vision-impaired pet. When you kick off your shoes or drop your bag in the middle of the floor, you add a foreign object to your pet’s familiar environment. Keep walkways and common areas clear of clutter and trip hazards for your pet’s safety.
- Hazard-proof your home — Help your pet avoid injury with pet gates at the top of stairs, and by moving furniture with sharp edges that could cause them to stumble, and taping down cords could cause them to trip. Use textured rugs to alert your pet to doors and windows, to prevent them from trying to walk through.
Caring for a deaf pet
Whether your pet is born deaf or loses their hearing over time, some adjustments can help them live a normal, happy life.
- Find new ways to communicate — A pet who is hard of hearing or deaf cannot respond to verbal commands, so use hand signals to communicate effectively. Create a unique hand signal to represent a command, and practice with your pet using lure-and-reward training (i.e., using a treat to lure your pet into different behaviors associated with a hand signal).
- Keep your pet safe outdoors — Pets with hearing loss may not hear busy traffic, and may not be in a position to respond to a hand signal recall. Ensure your pet is kept in a fenced-in yard, or keep them leashed. Consider outfitting your pet with a brightly colored harness that indicates they are deaf, and remind people to greet your pet slowly to avoid startling them.
Caring for a pet with decreased mobility
Decreased mobility is common in older pets, but birth defects and injuries can also slow pets down. Support your pet’s comfort and mobility with these steps:
- Maintain their healthy weight — Weight is a big factor for mobility, because extra weight puts stress on your pet’s joints and makes moving around painful. Simple activities like sitting and lying down can be more difficult and uncomfortable for overweight pets. Ensure your pet maintains a healthy weight by measuring their food portions accurately according to their daily caloric needs, swapping out high-fat treats for healthier, pet-friendly vegetables, and exercising your pet while accommodating their mobility needs.
- Provide traction on slippery floors — Slick floors, such as wood, vinyl, and tile, can make navigation a challenge for pets with limited mobility. Add traction by placing textured runners or yoga mats in high-traffic areas to help your pet move confidently and reduce their injury risk.
- Use mobility aids — Depending on your pet’s mobility level, you can provide extra support for them to stand, go up and down stairs, or get in and out of the car. Mobility slings and harnesses are designed to fit under your pet’s abdomen or chest and a handle on the back helps you support your pet’s weight.
With proper care, a specially-abled pet can live a normal, healthy, and happy life, and the bond you share will be unlike any other. Contact our team at Homestead Animal Hospital and schedule a regular wellness screening to ensure your special pet receives the gold-standard care they deserve.
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