Pets and Cerebral Palsy


The companionship provided by a pet can be exceptional. Whether due to the happiness hugging a dog can provide or the stoic companionship of a cat, the family pet can be a critical part of your home. The love of a pet may seem to be a perfect solution for feelings of isolation or frustration for child and family alike. There are a number of things to consider, though, when deciding if a pet is a good option for your family in light of your child’s Cerebral Palsy. While there is no definitive answer we could provide in every instance, here are some of the potential issues that exist due to the complexity CP can present.

Because Cerebral Palsy is such a complicated condition, there is no definitive answer to if a pet is a good option or not. One of the concerns that must be considered involves any issues your child has regarding allergies or breathing concerns. While every family should check for pet allergies before getting a pet for the health of your family (and no one wants to have to find a new home for a pet!), this is especially true for children with special needs, whose sensitivities may run the gamut. Further, issues like pet hair and dander may only reveal themselves in time, making a child’s ability to breathe with your new family member in the home something to closely monitor. Consider speaking with your child’s doctors, as well as an allergist, about any impact a pet may have.

One positive element to take into account when considering a pet is if your child is in need of an assistance dog. If your child would benefit from an assistance dog, now or possibly in the years to come, it may be better to hold off until availability and options are explored. Doing so may create the possibility of meeting your child’s needs with a highly trained partner in his or her journey! What’s more, a less ‘interactive’ pet, like a fish, might serve as a bridge that allows lessons on responsibility, coordination associated with feeding, etc. For more information about assistance animals, contact us today!

The final consideration we would highlight is the possible drain a pet can have on your own, limited resources. This is not a financial issue specifically but, instead, an attention and care concern – be sure to have an open and honest conversation in your family about the ability to provide what everyone needs. It is not a bad thing to acknowledge that your family’s ability to properly care for a pet would be limited due to time and energy constraints. In fact, it is better to come to that conclusion now as it leaves the future open while avoiding the emotional burden of tough choices when things do not work out.

With those things said, we are BIG fans of the value a pet can provide for a child with Cerebral Palsy. The companionship and love many pets can provide is unique and sometimes much needed. What’s more, based upon your child’s ability levels, a sense of accomplishment and responsibility can develop that is invaluable. If your family, upon taking into consideration the multitude of factors involved, thinks a pet is the right direction, CONGRATULATIONS! We would like to stress, though, that there is nothing wrong with deciding you cannot get a four-legged friend: it simply means that a potential problem was averted and that other ideas (or pets: fish are fun!) can be considered.

While we can’t tell you which pet to get, we can help you with information! If you would like resources related to assistance animals, as well as a wide range of other areas in your child’s life, call us at (800) 692-4453!