There was a time where our pets were considered no more than living furniture. They were tolerated as long as they were healthy, happy, and convenient. When animals became old or infirm, they would be dropped off at the vet’s and put to sleep.
“They’re only animals, right?”
If that makes your skin crawl, you’re not alone.
Now, the benefits of human medical advances are being made available to animals. Those of us who feel that all life should be cherished have a host of alternatives available. We have the technology and resources to allow our senior, handicapped pets, and disabled animal companions to live longer, happier, healthier lives, but should we?
Families with animal companions will, inevitably, need to consider whether or not to put their pet to sleep. Handicapped pets, ill, elderly, or disabled animals can require tremendous commitments in both time and money. The duties required to maintain them can be messy and distasteful. Phrases like put it out of its misery, and they’re going to die anyway ring in our ears.
As the caretaker of the website HandicappedPets.com, I’m faced with people asking this question every day.
“How do we decide whether to put our handicapped pet to sleep?”
Overall, people are choosing to support their handicapped pets if:
a) The animal has the possibility of healing
b) If the pet is not in permanent pain
c) If the family can afford the cost of health care and the time required
A wheelchair or cart generally consists of two wheels that replace an animal’s back legs, a metal frame to support the wheels, and a harness to hold the animal in the frame. If they are properly fitted, the animal can comfortably propel himself or herself with their front legs.
Although it is recommended by most manufacturers that your pet be kept on a leash when in the wheelchair, this caveat is often ignored. Carts generally run form $400 to $600.
Used carts are often available for half that. A large percentage of carts are sold for dogs, but work equally well on cats. At the website, we’ve seen them used with rabbits, squirrels, and in one case a duck.
Specialty carts are available for use on animals with front leg problems.
Tip: When buying a used cart or building your own, the size and fit is critically important. Poorly fit carts can cause sores, abrasions, and discomfort.
A harness allows you to support the back or front of an animal manually. This is ideal when an animal’s legs are weak, but may regain strength if they are exercised. The harness allows you to give the right amount of help and support.
Harnesses are comfortable when sized correctly and do not interfere with an animal’s ability to go to the bathroom. They are available for the front and the back. Special amputee harnesses can be custom made
Harnesses cost between $40 to $80 depending on size.
Sometimes a handicapped pet will drag their feet causing cuts and sores. This becomes even more pronounced if an animal loses feeling in their legs or feet. Booties can help.
Not all animals will accept the idea of wearing boots. It’s important that they be sturdy and fit snugly without cutting off circulation. A quality boot can cost between $10 and $20 each.
Sometimes, an animal needs help standing up, or getting up stairs. A sling is easier to use than a harness and far more comfortable then using a towel under the belly.
Long handles make it easier and safer for the person so that he or she doesn’t injure their back while helping a heavier animal dog. Slings cost from $40 to $70 depending on size.
Sometimes, the most difficult thing for an animal is getting into a car or going up a short flight of steps into the house. A collapsible pet ramp can solve this problem.
A good ramp is lightweight, waterproof, and sturdy. They cost between $150.00 and $200.00.
What to do if your pet becomes ill, disabled, or handicapped?
See a vet. As with human medical problems, nobody except a professional is capable of giving quality advice.
Do your own research. There are links and resources available to allow you to become totally educated about your pet’s illness or disability. The more you learn, the better able you will be to make good decisions.
Get support. Seek out a pet-related support group. There are several available where people discuss their problems and concerns. It is extremely helpful to be in contact with others who are going through the same thing, and who believe similarly.
Most of all, realize that you are not alone.
Thousands of people with pets in their families are choosing to support their companion through tough times.
Mark Robinson is the founder and caretaker of HandicappedPets.com. It is a website with products, services, support, and classifieds for handicapped pets and their families.
Mark dedicates his site to his dog “Mercedes” and to all the animals who have been put down unnecessarily.
There is a link on the right side of the column to enter Mark’s website.
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