People tend to have a soft spot for pets who are missing a limb, an ear, or an eye, or those who are different from their counterparts. Specially-abled pets are truly amazing creatures, as they don’t let their disabilities slow them down. However, pets with certain conditions, such as blindness, deafness, or impaired mobility, need help to enjoy their lives to the fullest. If you have a special-needs pet, try the following ways to enrich their quality of life.
#1: Pay close attention to your pet’s body language
While your pet cannot tell you how they’re doing or feeling, their body language can help you pick up subtle clues that will tell you if they’re nervous, stressed, or frightened. Blind or deaf pets can easily become unsettled around strangers, loud sounds, or unfamiliar environments. Pets with limited mobility, whether because of an amputation or arthritis, can become stressed when they try to navigate difficult areas, such as stairs or slippery floors. By monitoring your pet’s body language, you can determine what makes them uncomfortable, and then think of improvements.
For example, your blind dog may be uneasy around small children. Loud, fast-moving, unpredictable people can certainly be unsettling if you can’t see them coming close, and a blind pet may snap or claw at the offending person. An uneasy pet will generally display any combination of the following stress signals:
- Freezing into a stiff body position
- Lip licking
- Twitching whiskers
- Fur standing on end
A nervous dog will likely close their mouth, tense their jaw, and furrow their brow, while a cat may flick their tail from side to side, or curl it tightly around their body. Watch for these silent signals that mean your pet is distressed, and rescue them from the situation. Pets who cannot see, hear, or move well may have difficulty removing themselves from unpleasant encounters, so find them a more peaceful situation.
#2: Revamp your pet’s living area to provide easier navigation
Whether your pet is blind, deaf, or mobility-challenged, you can make traversing your home’s living area easier for them.
For blind pets:
- Use scent markers to guide your pet around tricky areas and important locations, like their bed, food, and water.
- Block access to stairs and tall furniture, so your pet will not fall.
- Keep the environment the same as much as possible, avoiding frequent furniture rearrangement, so your pet does not need to learn a new layout.
For deaf pets:
- Block access to hazardous areas, like the fireplace, when you cannot verbally warn your pet to stay away.
- Ensure your dog is secure in a fenced-in yard or on a leash when outdoors.
- Teach your pet hand signals for useful skills, like “Come” and “Leave it.”
For amputee or arthritic pets:
- Place non-slip mats or carpet runners on slick flooring, to provide traction.
- Use ramps in place of stairs, to make reaching the yard or favorite resting spots easier.
- Swap out fluffy beds for firm, orthopedic ones, to make getting up easier, and to provide extra support for aching joints.
- Elevate food and water bowls to keep tall pets from needing to bend down on painful joints.
- Choose low-sided litter boxes to allow easier access for your cat.
#3: Ensure your pet has easy access to necessary resources
Although you may prefer to put a stinky litter box in the basement, that can be challenging for a blind or physically challenged cat. Think carefully about the placement of resources, such as food, water, bedding, and litter boxes, to ensure your pet can reach all items easily. Ideally, all your pet’s essentials should be placed on the same floor and in the main living area, except for the litter box. Cats generally do not want to urinate and defecate in the same area as they eat and sleep—who can blame them?—so place litter boxes in a separate room that is not too far away or difficult to access.
#4: Speak to your veterinarian about additional ways to care for your specially-abled pet
Specially-abled pets may benefit from supplements and medications that can ease anxiety and joint pain, which are common issues in blind, deaf, or amputee pets. Speak to your Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic veterinarian about possible ways to improve your pet’s quality of life. You may be surprised at how much a calming supplement or pain-relieving medication helps your furry pal.
Could you use more tools and tips to improve your specially-abled pet’s quality of life? Schedule a consultation with our Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic team, to see what positive changes we can make to your pet’s life.