Everything You Need to Know About Adopting a Special Needs Dog, According to a Vet (Exclusive)

"All special needs are manageable with the proper care, and handicapped dogs can live long and happy lives," says Ivana Crnec, DVM.

Bianca Piazza - Author

Feb. 23 2024, Published 2:27 p.m. ET

Photo of woman kneeling down to pet a special needs cart-bound dog
Source: iStock

Are you looking to enhance your life with a four-legged canine friend? If so, it's important to adopt a dog who is compatible with your lifestyle, location, and level of activity. Still, no dog should be completely overlooked, especially for being a little "different."

According to veterinarian Ivana Crnec, DVM, of Veterinarians.org, false perception often gets in the way when it comes to special needs dog adoption.

Article continues below advertisement

"People often translate the word 'disability' to 'broken' and fear the unknown," Crnec exclusively tells Green Matters via email. "Special needs dogs are the same as otherwise healthy dogs in terms of being loyal, affectionate, and enriching, they just need extra love, care, and attention in certain situations."

Regarding this topic, we spoke exclusively with Crnec, who got candid about realities and misconceptions and the significance of the 2024 Puppy Bowl showcasing adoptable disabled dogs.

Close-up photo of person holding a gray French bulldog with one eye
Source: iStock
Article continues below advertisement

Who should adopt a dog with special needs?

You may be thinking, "I don't have the proper experience, abilities, or funds to care for a handicapped dog." These doubts aren't entirely rooted in reality.

"As long as the dog’s unique needs match the owner’s lifestyle/possibilities," just about anyone can take on the role of a caregiver, Crnec, a Bibevski Foundation board member, tells Green Matters.

To put things in perspective, Crnec explains that a dog with food allergies is technically in the "special needs" category. Of course, other health issues require a greater level of necessary care, attention, and patience.

Article continues below advertisement

For instance, Crnec relays that a wheelchair-bound pup isn't the best fit for a person who's out of the house for eight-plus hours a day. However, "the same busy owner can easily take care of a deaf dog," she says.

"Similarly, I would not recommend a dog with degenerative myelopathy (presenting with mobility issues and urinary incontinence) for a senior couple." Still, she says this same hypothetical elderly couple would likely be equipped to care for a dog with a food allergy or a one-eyed dog.

Article continues below advertisement

Is caring for a special needs dog more expensive?

When it comes to having the proper funds, Crnec relays that an older dog with various chronic conditions are often more expensive to care for. According to MetLife, canine diabetes alone can cost up to $4,800 each year. If the same dog is also diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease, a common cause of severe back pain in older dogs, that's approximately an additional $4,000 for surgery, medication, hospitalization, and rehabilitation.

And while Crnec explains that adopting a special needs dog is not typically an "easier" route, ease of the relationship comes with time, adjustment, and a regular routine.

"For example, communicating with a deaf dog is simple once the visual signs are learned, which can be much easier than getting an otherwise healthy but stubborn puppy to pick up its potty training habits," she says.

Article continues below advertisement

Here's how to find special needs dogs for adoption.

To the angels who plan on seeking out adoptable handicapped dogs, there are several organizations across the U.S. that focus on special needs adoptions. From The Heart Rescue in Texas, SNARR Northeast (Special Needs Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation) in New York, LoveyLoaves Sanctuary in Florida (which specializes in small breeds), and Unconditional Rescue in California all have wonderful adoptable fur babies who'll melt your heart.

Article continues below advertisement

Whether it be 2-year-old Abel with hypoplasia or 5-year-old cart-bound Chili, who's paralyzed and needs her bladder expressed three times a day, all special needs dogs have something beautiful to offer.

Article continues below advertisement

Veterinarian Ivana Crnec talks the importance of including special needs animals in mainstream televised events.

Since 2005, Animal Planet's annual Puppy Bowl event — the most important sporting event of the year — has put energetic, playful, and downright silly adoptable pups on our small screens. The three-hour event saw six special needs puppies participate in February 2024. Crnec sees this as triumphant.

She says, "Including special needs animals in high-tier events like the beloved Puppy Bowl, viral commercials for popular brands, or even TV shows and movies helps raise awareness and breaks common misconceptions."

More from Green Matters

Latest Kindness to Animals News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2024 Green Matters. Green Matters is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.