23 August 2011

Caring for A Pet (when you can barely care for yourself)

Keeping a pet when you're disabled isn't easy. They still have to be cared for. They need food, exercise, and veterinary care, and when you're barely able to take care of yourself, this is hard.

 My baby
The food is the easiest part for me. I get it delivered from VetUK and any order over £19 is free shipping. I would use this service even if I were still healthy and had a car, because I was never able to lift 15 kg!

Exercise I have to pay for: £100/month for 3 hours a week. Included in this is teeth brushing and cleaning the poo out of the yard. I found my dog walker by googling 'dog walker' and the name of my town. These will usually be small family run businesses, but even if they don't have a website, they'll often take advantage of sites like yell.com or other online classifieds and listings. If this doesn't work, you can try looking in the local paper or asking your vet or other dog owners you know.

Veterinary care was the most difficult. My dog used to love going to the vet, but then she needed an operation to have a lump removed. After that, she associated the vet with pain, and would start shaking as soon as she got there. Add to that the physical stress that I have in leaving the house, and the fact that I'm not physically capable of holding her lead when she decides to pull... yeah, it wasn't fun. The gentleman who walks her is happy to take us to the vet as well, doing the dog wrangling while I do the decision making and payment, but it was still always a major ordeal.

But today I had the first visit from a mobile vet, who runs her entire business by making house calls. Because she's not based in my town, it was an extra £40 travel fee, on top of the cost of the consult and medication, but I consider it money well spent. Turtledog got along with her brilliantly - being examined by a vet in her own home doesn't trigger her fears. To her it was just someone else giving her attention! I will still need to take her to the local vet if there is any kind of emergency care needed, but for routine visits, the mobile vet only needs to come out once every six months, and she can prescribe medications by email in between visits.

I could add up the cost of pet ownership, and then the additional cost that being disabled adds to pet ownership. But I can't possibly calculate the value she brings to my life. So I make cuts in other parts of the budget, and consider it money well spent.

Do you have a pet? How has your illness affected them?


  1. I have two wonderful kitties. Our first one, Matilda, is extremely sensitive to how I'm feeling. She knows right away if I'm flaring and snuggles me bunches. When my pain is very intense I often feel panicked, but when she is purring in my lap it really calms me down. She just turned 3 this year. We got our second cat, Bowie - after the rock star, this past January, right before I became permanently disabled from work. He's 4 and cool as a cucumber. Unfortunately my babies don't get along, Matilda is rather spoiled, but we don't blame her because it's probably our fault. It's getting better though.

    I'm considering maybe trying to apply to get a service dog, but I know they may not think ME/CFS qualifies, even though I am severely mobility challenged and have to use forearm crutches to walk. I've also heard they don't like multiple pet households. A regular dog might be okay, if my health ever stabilizes. My husband would have to walk it...

  2. My kitties are very sensitive to my flare-ups. I always get extra snuggles and purrs when I'm feeling my worst. Somehow they just know.

    They are both overdo for vet visits but it's expensive and there's no way I could bring them on my own. Our older cat weighs 20+ pounds! Even when I was healthy I couldn't lift that! My husband works very hard to support us (I'm disabled from work)so taking time off is not a good idea. If we thought one was sick we would definitely find a way to go, but they're both still young and seem healthy enough.

    I've considered trying to get a service dog but the thought of all those hoops to jump through makes me want to take a nap!

    I've also always wanted rats. I begged my parents my whole childhood to get one but they creeped out my mom so they never let me. My sister got one about three years ago and it died earlier this year. She was an amazing rat. I think a pair would be great company since I'm always stuck inside. I would need help cleaning the cage though.