Pet Ownership with Chronic Illness: Things to Consider

You may have heard of the plethora of benefits that come along with pet ownership, and that these benefits can be just as applicable for individuals with chronic conditions. A decrease in depression and anxiety, an increase in socialization and exercise, improvements in blood pressure, stress, and cholesterol, and just an overall improvement in self-esteem and belonging can all accompany building a relationship with a pet. However, there are many things to consider before jumping right into finding your new addition, and these issues remain especially important if you’re living with a chronic condition.

Time

Time is a non-negotiable factor when it comes to pets. Some pets, like dogs, need lots of your time, while others, like cats or fish, need less. If you have many appointments, are away from the home a lot, or are constantly resting, certain animals may not be the best fit. Figuring out how much time you have to give, and what kind of animal fits that schedule is so important.

Cost

Having a pet can be very expensive, depending on the animal. Dogs and cats especially need regular veterinary check-ups, toys, and food, as well as appropriate registrations and vaccinations. Additionally, certain animals need to be trained to be house pets, and training classes can be expensive if you don’t have the time or capability to do it yourself.

Environment

Every pet is different, and needs a different environment, some requiring more space than others. It’s important to determine if you have the space available in your home for your pet. Animals that can roam and explore love to do so, so it is also important to consider what hazards your friend could stumble upon. For example, if you have a portable oxygen tank, or certain medications out and about, a curious critter may find their way to them when you’re not looking, and can cause a whole host of problems for the both of you!

Physical Demands

Not every pet requires exercise or leaves hair all over the house; however, it is important to determine what kinds of animals could exacerbate your condition, especially for those with respiratory conditions. Pet hair or certain skin chemicals in animals could irritate your body or worsen some of your symptoms. Certain breeds of dogs and cats are bred to be less irritating to the human respiratory system, or are hypoallergenic, but these are often more expensive.

Some animals require constant physical attention, like walks or long playtimes. This is especially the case for young puppies and kittens. While exercise may be good for many chronic conditions, everyone has their limits. Determining what you can and cannot commit to can help narrow down your search of pets. Also, young pets usually need to get accustomed to routines, including when to sleep versus be awake and active. If you need a good night’s rest to keep up your fight with your condition, being woken up every hour during the night for several months may not be the best idea. One way many people get around some of the physical issues that can accompany young animals is to adopt older or senior animals that are lower in energy and physical needs.

Having a pet can provide so many wonderful benefits, but it is important to consider different angles before committing to a new family member. Let us know if you have a pet and how you prepared for their entrance into your home!

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