Dogs can have the same kind of handicaps that people have. They may lose a limb, be born deaf or blind, or experience handicaps due to declining health in later years. There are also some health problems that would qualify a dog as handicapped such as megaesophagus or other congenital issues. For an owner, working with a handicapped dog can be a challenge.
If you are working with a handicapped dog then you probably already know that you may spend more than your share of time at your vet’s office.
It is important to get a good diagnosis and to have a vet that you trust. Your dog’s care and quality of life will depend on establishing a good working relationship with your vet so find a vet that understands your dog’s condition and who will talk to you about your dog. Don’t be afraid to ask for referral to a specialist if necessary. There are continual veterinary advances so it’s a good idea for you to try to do your own research and stay aware of any new treatments that could help your dog.
When it comes to living with a handicapped dog it’s likely that you will need to make some special adjustments in your home for your dog. For example, if your dog has trouble walking you may need to assist him with a harness when he goes up and down stairs. If you live with a blind dog it’s a good idea to keep large pieces of furniture in the same positions since your dog will become accustomed to where they are and plot his course around them. if you move them he will bump into things.
Some dogs are able to handle some handicaps much more easily than others. Deaf dogs can often be trained to learn hand signals. Using hand signals you can train your dog in all of the typical obedience commands and many other commands. As long as your dog can see you he will be able to follow your commands. If your dog is unilaterally deaf – deaf in one ear – you probably won’t even know that he has any deafness at all.
Dogs which have lost a limb are usually well able to compensate and are very mobile on three legs. Even dogs which have severe problems with two limbs, such as dogs who are paralyzed in their hind legs, can be fitted with a cart or wheelchair and remain very active.
The wheelchairs can be collapsed and taken with the dog when he travels. Some dogs are still able to go hiking and swimming with their owners using their wheelchairs.
If you have an elderly dog who is beginning to develop some handicaps then you will need to take each one separately and try to work around the problem. If your dog’s eyesight is beginning to fail, for instance, help your dog down steps at night.
Walk him outside to potty, especially if he has problems seeing through shadows at night. If his hearing is starting to fail, expect to call him a few times before he comes or go find him and bring him in for dinner. If he is developing some arthritis, talk to your vet to see if he may need some pain medication to help him.
Working with a handicapped dog isn’t always easy but dogs are much more resilient than we sometimes believe. They can often overcome great difficulties. If your dog has a handicap then try to find some creative ways to help him make his life easier. Your dog will be willing to work with you and try new things as long as you make the effort.