Congratulations! We’re just about at the halfway point in our personal inventory to determine our pet adoption readiness. We’ve faced some challenging questions, thought hard and answered honestly.
We know that it’s not enough to want something simply because others want it or because we feel like we should want it. Some of the most loving and responsible people I know have taken stock of their lives and decided that - for various reasons - now is not the right time to welcome a dependent being into their lives. In their own way, these people are promoting responsible pet parenting because they’ve left the door open for a deserving pet to find the right forever home.
The process of pet adoption can be fraught with all manner of trap doors. It is easy for practicality to fly out the window when we get hooked by the snorty exuberance of a pug or the glacier-blue eyes of an Alaskan. The next question in our inventory may feel like a wet blanket. But that may just be what’s needed to bring our fever down a bit:
What are the medical considerations of pet parenting?
We’re talking here about ours AND our pet’s. Being that we are our prospective pet’s benefactors, let’s start with us.
No one likes to think of themselves as limited in some way. I sure don’t. In my teens, I was plagued by horrible allergies. Ironically, one of these was to pet dander. Much as I loved Paco, our family toy poodle (one of the hypoallergenic breeds), I would sneeze my head off if I frolicked with her for too long. Fortunately, there were so many of us in the family that Paco was never starved for play or affection.
Unfortunately, thousands dogs and cats remain starved for love, having been surrendered because of their owners' allergies. In fact, “allergies” make the top 10 list of most cited reasons for cat surrender. In an age when at least a partial genetic profile can be had with the swipe of a swab (and the lick of a stamp), there’s absolutely no reason why someone cannot get a “scratch” test for pet allergies in advance of adopting.
The best intentions in the world may not overcome relentless sneezing, itching and watery eyes day in and day out for years. One way to “test the waters” would be to pet sit for short periods of time and monitor our symptoms. Should any surface, we could try a variety of remedies including non-drowsy Benadryl, a saline nasal rinse and/or an over-the-counter spray like Flonase. HEPA air filters and inoculations may also help. While certain pets are considered “hypoallergenic,” there’s no way to guarantee a symptom-free life. It is up to us to individually determine out level of tolerance.
Other respiratory conditions can directly impact our ability to adequately care for a pet’s daily needs, especially exercise. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Mesothelioma and pulmonary fibrosis are conditions that leave the sufferer starved for air and unable to sufficiently oxygenate their blood. In persons with pulmonary compromise, pet dander may induce labored breathing and blackouts.
The list of human conditions that may wave a red flag is long, indeed. Immunocompromised people are especially at risk. But, that is not to say that a chronically-ill person is immediately disqualified as a pet parent. The nature and severity of the condition, the cognitive abilities and the strength and stamina of the individual strongly suggest whether one should become a pet parent - and what type of pet they choose. In many cases, a service animal may be just what the doctor orders.
Companion animals definitely buoy the spirits (and can boost the immune systems) of the sick. And an aging pet needs their human more than ever. But let’s use our heads; a bouncy, 85-pound boxer is probably not a good choice for a person entering the intermediate stages of a long-term, debilitating illness.
Ideally, we need to have the mental, spiritual and physical resources to be there until our pet’s last breath.
Our pet won’t be able to make those dreaded phone calls if it goes the other way.
Next week in part (b) we’ll explore medical considerations in our pets.