Tips for Caring for a Dog With Special Needs

Do you have a dog with special needs? For pet owners that have a disabled dog, it can be a challenge trying to cater to them and support them throughout their daily life. If you’re new to owning a dog with special needs, the best thing you can do is to prepare yourself and do thorough research on the specific ailment that affects your furry friend. Once you are equipped with all the right information, you’ll be able to fully support your pup throughout his daily life.  In fact, once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize that owning a dog with special needs really isn’t a burden at all. 

Below are some of our top tips on how to care and support dogs with special needs

What is a Special Needs Dog? 

Before getting started, it’s important to review what classifies a dog with special needs. This title is a broad categorization that can encompass a number of different conditions and circumstances, such as dogs with injuries, chronic or fatal illnesses, canine paralysis, or even dog incontinence problems. Dogs with special needs often require more medical care, time, and attention compared to other canines. This can be costly and have a significant impact on the pet owner’s life, so adopting or owning a dog with special needs should not be taken lightly. Though caring for a dog with special needs can require more from the owner in many ways, it can also be an extremely rewarding experience and foster a unique and enviable bond between the owner and dog. For pet owners that welcome the additional duties and want to help care for a dog that needs the extra attention, a special needs dog can be a perfect fit.

Tips for Caring for a Special Needs Dog

Every dog with special needs will require different assistance and care. However, there are still some basic tips that all pet parents of special needs dogs can follow to ensure the safety of their furry friend. Below are a few recommendations on how to care for a handicapped pup. 

Talk to a Specialist

Before bringing home a special needs dog, you are going to want to do your research. Depending on the dog and the situation, he may require more or less assistance on a daily basis. One of the best methods for obtaining specialized information about your dog’s health is by talking with your veterinarian. Once you’ve received the basic facts, it is then recommended to set up an appointment with a specialist.

Your vet will be able to refer you to a specialist that works specifically with your dog’s ailment. A specialist can sit down with you and go over your day-to-day duties and provide a list of catered treatment recommendations for you to follow. By doing your research and speaking with professionals, you’ll be better equipped to provide your pup with the best care possible.

Formulate a Routine 

Once you know what type of care your dog will need to live a healthy and happy life, it is then essential to build a routine. A daily routine will make sure that you are meeting all of the important tasks required for your dog, such as administering medications, doing specific exercises, and feeding them a diet that supports their overall health. A written-out schedule can help you remember the required tasks and provide a structure to your day.

The specific elements of the routine should be tailored to your life and the needs of your dog. Keep in mind that it may take a bit of trial and error to find the timing that works best for both of you. For example, you may find that administering medications immediately before you leave for work and as soon as you get home is best for your schedule. Be patient with the process. Once you find a routine that works for your lifestyle, it will become a habit that is second nature.

Always Follow Your Veterinarian’s Instructions 

When you’re caring for a dog with special needs, it is even more important to adhere to all of the care instructions provided by your dog’s veterinarian and/or specialist. They will make recommendations for a treatment plan, medication schedule, and other elements of your dog’s care by analyzing his unique situation. As the dog parent, it is your responsibility to follow all of the instructions provided by your veterinarian carefully and consistently. Failing to do so can have negative consequences for your dog, so always be sure to follow the care and treatment instructions provided by your dog’s veterinary team.

Find Online Resources and Support

The internet has brought with it an abundance of information on a wide array of topics that you can access easily from almost anywhere. When you are taking care of a dog with special needs, it is important to utilize every resource available to you, including those online. There is no shortage of tips on caring for a special needs dog on the internet, so get researching! Tapping into these resources can provide you with peace of mind and make you more aware of your dog’s condition. 

Caring for a dog with special needs can also feel stressful at times and connecting with other individuals that are experiencing similar challenges and situations with their pets can be a helpful outlet. You may be able to find local or online support groups that allow you to connect with other special needs pet parents and form a supportive community to help navigate the situations that will arise. In addition to these resources, you can also find special equipment, such as a hoist or wheelchair that can help improve your dog’s mobility and quality, especially if you have a three-legged dog. The possibilities are truly endless, so don’t be afraid to explore the resources that are available to you online.

Explore Your Options 

A dog with special needs can change your life in many different ways, but it is important to remain flexible and continue to search for the options that are available to you to make sure that your lifestyle works well for you and your dog. A common misconception is that pet parents to dogs with special needs must be at their veterinarian’s office frequently or work from home to care for their dog. While this can be true depending on the individual dog and his needs, there are always alternatives available. For example, it may be better to hire a pet sitter for the time when you are at work so that your dog is still getting the attention and care he needs. Another potential alternative is finding a veterinarian that will be able to come to your house for appointments so that you can minimize the time spent in the veterinary office. Explore the options and alternatives available to you to find what works best for your routine and lifestyle.

Keep Your Dog’s Surroundings Consistent

When caring for a dog with special needs, it’s important to anticipate changes that may cause him discomfort or confusion and to avoid them whenever possible. While keeping your dog’s surroundings consistent 24/7 is impossible, it is still highly advised to stick to a routine whenever possible. Having consistency will prevent any confusion or stress in your pup. For example, if a dog is blind, it can be disconcerting for large furniture pieces to be moved or for the house to be rearranged as this can disorient him and lead to injuries. Another possible example is if your dog’s water bowl is moved and he no longer knows where to find it, leading to dehydration and discomfort. Whenever possible, try to keep your dog’s surroundings consistent.

Take Care of Yourself

If you want to give your dog the best life possible, you must also make yourself a priority as well. Caring for a dog with special needs can be challenging, tiring, and emotional. Your mental and physical wellness is vital for your own health, as well as the care of your pet. In addition to joining a support group, it can also be helpful to build time into your routine for yourself. Find an activity that brings you joy and peace throughout the week. This could be going to the gym, watching a movie with a loved one, or simply taking a long bath.

At the end of the day, just remember you are not doing this alone. Reaching out to friends and family for help can be very beneficial for you and your dog. As you know, caring for a special needs dog can be difficult. Don’t feel like you have to carry the burden yourself.


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M, L. (2018, September 13). 6 Simple Tips to Help You Best Care for Your Disabled Pet: Walkin’ Pets. Retrieved from

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