Reams and reams of advice is written for the would-be dog owner about how to ensure that any dog or puppy that you are thinking of buying or taking on is healthy, in good condition, and not suffering from any inherited or genetic health defects or predispositions to such problems.But what happens if the dog or puppy that you have fallen in love with is not in tiptop health, or is otherwise ‘imperfect’ due to an illness, disease or condition? Many such dogs live happily in the UK, and are very much loved and well cared for by their owners, who are prepared to take on the added complications that the care of dogs such as these entails in order to provide them with a loving home. Could you be one of them? Here are some of the considerations you should bear in mind when weighing up the feasibility of taking on a dog with chronic health issues.
The first thing to consider when trying to make the difficult decision as to whether or not you might be able to home a dog with health problems, is exactly how serious the condition is, and how it impacts upon the dog’s everyday life. Conditions such as diabetes, asthma, bone and joint issues and heart problems (to name just a few) all require a daily commitment to caring for the dog above and beyond the norm, but are all relatively manageable given time and working closely with your vet. However, the seriousness of conditions such as these should not be understated- any one of these conditions can prove life threatening if something goes wrong, and will eventually possibly shorten your dog’s life, as well as often needing a significant amount of additional care as the condition progresses.
The next thing you will need to think about is how the condition will or might progress. Some conditions, when brought under control, can be managed with relative ease and should not generally impact upon your future dog’s quality of life, or how long he might live. If you are particularly lucky, you might find that the condition that the dog you are considering is diagnosed with is fully treatable, and should require nothing more than monitoring later in life. However, if the dog you are thinking about taking on is suffering from a condition that will progressively worsen, affect the quality of the dog’s life, and eventually be the probable cause of the end of it, there is a lot to think about. You will need to consider how you would manage, not just today, but as symptoms progress, and if you will have the time and means to care for the dog as the conditions progresses, and if you will be able to make the hard decisions about their quality of life towards the end of it.
Taking care of a dog with special health needs can take up a significant amount of your time. For instance, dogs with diabetes usually need to have insulin injections and blood-sugar monitoring tests performed at least twice a day, and you may spend a good amount of time when caring for a dog with any kind of health condition ferrying them to and from the vet, or another specialist. It is important not to underestimate the amount of your time that caring for a dog that is not in full health can take up, and ensure that you budget your time for the worst case scenario and are sure that both now and in the future, you will be able to meet their needs.
Caring for a dog with an ongoing health issue can prove to be prohibitively expensive. It is very unlikely that you will be able to get an insurance policy for your future dog that will cover a pre-existing or ongoing condition, and any insurance policy that the previous owners of a dog or puppy has that currently provides coverage is unlikely to be able to be transferred over to a new owner. Veterinary fees vary massively depending on the dog and the condition, from a few hundred pounds to test for asthma and ongoing costs of less than 10p a day to treat it, to thousands of pounds for heart surgery and the cost of ongoing treatments.If you do not have a significant amount of disposable income available to commit to the care of the dog, then taking them on is unlikely to be viable. There are of course exceptions to this with conditions that, while chronic, are relatively cheap to treat after initial diagnoses- but make sure you are fully conversant with all of the costs that may come up in the future if or when the condition progresses.
Finally, never understate the emotional cost involved in caring for a dog with ongoing health problems. No animal lover wants to see an animal suffering or in pain, and the chances are that at times, a dog with a chronic health condition is going to go through some bad patches. You may also of course eventually find yourself in the unenviable position of having to make the call on whether or not your dog’s ongoing quality of life is good enough that keeping him alive is the best choice. Caring for a dog with a chronic or serious health condition is not easy, and it is certainly not for everyone. Very few dog owners could honestly say that they would be both willing and able to account for all of the factors above when taking on a new dog. Nevertheless, caring for a special dog that needs a little extra help can be infinitely rewarding, and the bond that you will build between you will probably be one of the most special and meaningful ones you will make in your lifetime. Make sure you make all of your decisions with your eyes open- but don’t automatically rule it out.