What is a "Special Needs" Animal?

A special needs animal is one who may either require medical care and attention due to a pre-existing condition, or one who needs extra socialization and training due to abuse or neglect in their former life. Sometimes, “special needs” just refers to an older animal who may be on a special diet or medication, but who still has lots of affection and companionship to offer. If you’re willing to spend a little more time – and sometimes a little more money – adopting an animal with special needs can be one of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences of your life.

What Should I Consider Before Adopting a Special Needs Animal?

Special needs animals may take a little longer to settle into your home. Some of these animals may have been neglected or abused and require lots of love and encouragement to experience a more normal relationship with humans.

Pet-owning Experience
Having experience with a type of animal - either a dog, cat or rabbit - will make it easier for you to adopt a special needs pet of that type. For example, if you’ve owned a dog in the past, you'll have some behavioral guidelines to help assess how well your new, special needs dog is progressing.

Financial Considerations
Many special needs animals have medical conditions or disabilities that may require expensive medical care. Sometimes they may just require more expensive food for an allergy or digestive disorder, or more behavioral training. However, others may need ongoing medical tests, surgeries, or evaluations at veterinary specialists – all of which can require large outlays of money. Consult with your veterinarian before adopting a special needs animal to determine what type of care may be needed and the approximate costs of that care.

Before adopting a special needs animal, make sure you do as much research as possible on their condition. Understanding the implications of their diagnosis or behavioral problem may help you decide if you and your family are ready to adopt this animal.