By Mat Coulton
Doing right by our dogs with special needs can be challenging. Yet, it is almost always rewarding as we see the big impact the little things can make on our canine companion’s disposition and mood.
This article will explore some key areas where thinking about the needs of our pets with an aim towards improving their quality of life can make a real difference.
- Genetic Testing
One of the most important things you can do for any dog is to have them tested for the most likely breed-specific genetic disorders. This kind of advanced notice can make sure you get the treatments and information you need to give your pup the best care and to make sure they have a great quality of life into their advanced years.
If you are planning to buy a pure-bred dog, then hopefully the breeder has records on the genetic testing done on the parents of your new puppy, at a minimum. This kind of careful planning when selecting breeding stock is a sign of responsible breeding.
- The Right Gear
There are a variety of products on the market that are tailored specifically to the special needs dog. Making our pal’s life more comfortable is something we all want to do!
Here are some examples:
Orthopedic Dog Beds – Whether from injury, genetic disorders or just plain old wear and tear from advanced age, many dogs will eventually suffer from mobility issues and/or joint pain. Getting ahead of these problems with a dog bed designed to provide strong support for your dog is a great investment in their long-term health and comfort.
Canine Back Brace – Some dogs, for example Dachshunds, have high rates of spinal injury or genetic disorders such as IVDD that can create chronic back problems. For such pooches, there are specially designed braces designed to reduce impact and thus lower the chances of injury.
Dog Wheelchairs – So many dog breeds are prone to hip dysplasia and other degenerative health conditions that can decrease mobility in the hind quarters. Even as recent as a decade ago, there was not a lot that could be done to give these beloved pets their mobility and quality of life back. Now there are a variety of dealers that specialize in making custom wheelchairs to give our disabled dogs their zest for life back for a reasonable price.
- The Right Food
Our special needs dogs give it their all to give us their best! One of the biggest things we can do for their health is make sure they are getting the best food. However, there is such a huge variety of commercial dog food on the market that finding the right match for your pooch can be confusing.
Here are some tips:
Quality Ingredients – The first indicator of lower quality food is if the first ingredient is something other than a single real meat source. Try to avoid meat by-products all together as well as cheap fillers like corn, soy and wheat. The highest quality foods include whole food nutritional sources from foods that you will recognize: whole grains, vegetables, antioxidant rich fruits, and quality sources of protein.
Life Stage and Breed Size – Unless you have a medium sized adult dog, then looking for the right life stage and size formula is important. While it may seem like a gimmick, in fact the nutritional needs of puppies, seniors, toy and giant breeds are different. Make sure you match up the label with your special needs dog’s characteristics for a strong nutritional match.
Sensitive Stomach Dog Food – The trend in identifying and treating food sensitivities has been rising in the last decade for both people and canines. Allergies or intolerances to certain grains or proteins that are common in commercial dog food can cause wide ranging symptoms including skin problems, excessive itching, gas, vomiting or diarrhea. Work with your vet to identify the offending ingredients and treat the problem with the wide variety of limited ingredient and hypoallergenic dog foods now available.
Condition Specific Formulas – There are a variety of conditions that can be eased and/or treated with diet. Diabetes, liver disease, and many other fairly common disorders have specialty diets. It is critical that you work with your vet when trying to identify the right specialty diet in these cases.
Special Needs Canines: Treasured Pets
Those of us that have special needs dogs already know: They get a special place in our hearts. By giving our impaired canines the right testing, gear and food we can make a big impact on how much enjoyment they can have. The rewards are always worth the investment!
Mathew Coulton has worked with dogs for just under a decade and is the founder of WileyPup.com, a doggy lover’s website that provides great tips and advice for pet parents everywhere.