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I’ve had my dog, Moose, since he was 9 weeks old.
I had done all my research. I had bought all the supplies. I was ready for the 3x a day feedings, 2 am bathroom trips in 10 degree weather, and puppy training classes.
I was not prepared for the emergency x-ray bills after swallowing rocks in the backyard, peeing on my sheets after they were freshly washed, incessant crying every time I attempted to take a shower, or chewing a hole in my drywall after being left alone for 4 minutes.
Owning a dog is tough. They’re a lot of work!
That’s why it’s so important to make sure you are making an informed decision before taking on the responsibility, and factoring in how your chronic illness could impact your ability to care for your dog.
Your dog is 100% reliant on you! Even if I’m feeling sick, my dog still gets hungry, bored, and has to go outside.
They still need to eat and go outside and get their energy out somehow.
Moose is easily the best thing that has ever happened to me. I would never ever trade him or question my decision.
Having a dog is so rewarding and in my opinion, worth all of the stress and extra work. But, you need to make that decision for yourself!
So before making that leap, here are some important things to consider……..
Benefits of Owning a Dog
Having a dog can be beneficial in so many ways. Studies have shown that people who own dogs see the following benefits:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased cholesterol levels
- Decreased triglyceride levels
- Decreased feelings of loneliness
- Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Increased opportunities for socialization
Moose is an absolute sweetheart. He can tell when I’m getting worked up or upset, and he will come over and lay on my chest and just sleep. It almost always works to calm me down!
However, I always remember that even when I absolutely do not want to get out of my bed, I know that my dog still needs me. This motivates me to not let feeling bad and being chronically ill take over my entire life. Plus, he is a great cuddler.
One of the biggest things that anyone getting a dog should be doing is research.
Moose is a French Bulldog, which is a breed that is wildly popular these days thanks to social media.
I am always so shocked at how many people tell me “I want a Frenchie so bad!” or “I’m getting a Frenchie one day!” just from seeing Moose on the street or my snapchat.
When I knew I wanted a Frenchie, the very first thing I did was research. I learned all about the breed and what to expect!
I learned that Frenchie’s have a variety of common health issues and prepared myself for that financial cost.
I learned that they are extremely stubborn and made sure I read up about training them successfully.
I talked to people who had Frenchie’s and heard about their experience.
You should never just blindly take on a dog with no idea what to expect!
Here are the basics I recommend you research:
- Does this breed have any common health issues? How are these issues treated and what is the average cost of treatment? (This can be hard if you don’t know your dog’s breed, but always do this if possible)
- What is this breeds temperament? Do they tend to have certain behavioral issues?
Not to start a debate, but if you are absolutely set on a certain breed – are these dogs generally available for adoption through a rescue or a shelter? There are rescues out there for every breed of dog, which I highly encourage you to research.
However, if you decide to go with a breeder, you must absolutely research on how to do this responsibly.
- Does this person have a good reputation?
- Are the dogs healthy? Backyard breeding and puppy mills are a HUGE problem and not only should you not want to support them financially, but you are also very likely to end up with a sick dog.
I often hear many people balk at the price of dogs from a breeder. Do your research and check out many different breeders. You may pay more up front for a dog from a reputable breeder, but it will most likely save you money down the line on vet bills. If you find a “great deal” that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Owning a dog comes with a lot of responsibilities, but also a lot of stuff!
Make sure that you have most of this before you bring your fur baby home.
The last thing you want to be doing is making an emergency PetSmart run because you realized you never bought a harness and your wild child puppy tries to choke himself with his collar. Trust me.
Some of these preparation items will depend on the age of your dog, but they are all necessities.
A Crate That Is The Correct Size
I’m a huge advocate for crate training. It reduces anxiety for your dog and is also just much safer!
The rule for crate sizing (especially when potty training) is that there should only be enough room for your dog to turn around. Don’t give them extra room!
They’ll just use one corner for the bathroom and one to sleep in. My first crate for Moose came with a metal divider that could be moved as he got bigger. I recommend finding a crate like this to save money!
Harness and Leash
Make sure you have a harness and a leash that will fit your dog comfortably. Frenchies have large chests, so I had to look at specific brands of harnesses for Moose that would fit correctly.
I am a big hater of retractable leashes (you can research them), so I would try finding a regular leash that is comfortable to hold.
Make sure you have ID tags made ahead of time! I am always shocked that people don’t do this.
Moose has ID tags for every harness he owns. You can get basic metal ones at the pet store, or cute ones on sites like Etsy. I am obsessed with these funny dog tags on Etsy!
Toys, Toys, Toys
If your dog is anything like mine, toys are a necessity. Find toys that can stimulate your dog mentally to help wear them out!
You can decide if you will be taking your dog to get groomed or doing it yourself. At the minimum, always have a small bottle of doggie shampoo available for any emergency situations (like when your dog steps in gum on his walk – true story)
Will your new dog have any food to bring home with them? Research about the best brands of dog food (rule of thumb: if you can buy it at the grocery store, please don’t feed it to your dog!)
I love using dog food adviser to research the best foods. You can also sign up for dog food recall alerts so that you will receive an email every time there is a recall, which I highly recommend.
In addition, if you are switching your dog’s food, make sure to look up how to do this properly. You must switch their food slowly to avoid making them sick.
First Aid Kit
You can buy a first aid kit like this one, or put one together yourself!
Optional Items (puppies or untrained dogs only)
- “Accident” clean up spray – You NEED this for potty training – one of these sprays are the only way to get the smell fully out
- Bitter apple spray – Huge help with training puppies not to chew everything in sight
- Training treats – Very small, soft treats specifically for training
So the last things you should think about before getting a dog in your 20’s are the most important. If you cannot come up with a plan for any of the items listed below, you probably aren’t ready for a dog.
- Where will you take your dog to the vet? Is this vet reputable? Do they have experience with your breed? Can you get same day appointments (this is so important, trust me!!!)
- Locate the nearest 2 emergency vets to you and program all of their information into your cell phone contacts – phone number, address, everything! You don’t want to be frantically looking up this information in the event of an actual emergency
o How much will owning this pet cost? Do you have a budget? How will you finance emergency costs?
- The following are routine costs associated with a pet: food, vet care, toys, grooming
- Make sure to consider emergency costs, which can be pricey! Moose had surgery a few years ago and this cost was substantial. Purchasing pet insurance is an option for these types of costs and something I wish I had done earlier! Research different coverage options and see if this is a good choice for you.
Every Day Care
Do you work long hours? Will you be able to walk your dog during the day at all? What if you have an after-work event?
Come up with a plan for your dog in these scenarios. Is there a dog walker you can utilize? A day care? This is an added expense! Check out Rover, Wag, or local Facebook groups for your breed for options.
Is your housing arrangement pet friendly? Are there breed restrictions? Is there an added fee for having a pet (factor in this expense!)?
How accessible is your housing (i.e. is it easy to take them out for walks or do you have to walk down 7 flights of stairs first?) If you move, is pet friendly housing easy to find?
What will you do with your dog when you go on vacation? Will you board them, find a sitter, or leave them with your best friend?
Once again, check out Rover or Wag and make sure you allocate for this added expense! I know that every time I take a vacation it will cost me an extra $150+ to pay the dog sitter.
I add this in no way to discourage you from getting a dog. As I said, Moose is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
However, owning him means that I do not have nearly as much freedom as many of my friends.
I cannot stay out all night at a party or go to happy hour right from work without considering him. My boyfriend always spends the night at my apartment because he lives on the 3rd floor (no thanks steps) and Moose runs around all night when we are there.
I believe that these sacrifices are worth all the love and puppy kisses and laughs that Moose brings to my life, but not everyone will feel that way. Make sure you consider any lifestyle changes you may have to make!
Having a chronic illness…… is a dog too much work?
This is a question that has a different answer for everyone. Having Moose as a puppy was definitely extremely difficult, and he is definitely not as well behaved as he could be. He mostly listens to me, but I definitely wasn’t able to spend as much time with him working on training as I would have liked to because of my health.
I have seen people argue that getting a dog while being chronically ill is impossible. I do not think this is true at all! Although I am responsible for taking care of Moose even if I don’t feel well, the happiness he brings into my life helps me feel better even when I’m at my worst.
I am fortunate enough that when I am having a particularly bad day, my boyfriend will take Moose out for me. If I know that I have a very busy week or big event planned, my dad will watch him for the day. If I didn’t have this help sometimes, it would make it a lot more difficult (but still possible!) for me to have Moose.
I have mentioned services like Wag and Rover for finding dog walkers or sitters, and these are a great resource for helping out on days when your chronic illness is really acting up as well!
I also order Moose’s food through Chewy, which allows me to save a trip to the pet store (with a potentially heavy bag to carry around), plus I can set up an autoship so that even if brain fog takes over he still has food. You can get 30% off your first autoship order and can pick your auto ship frequency after you purchase!
I really do LOVE Chewy and they have the absolute best customer service along with great prices on treats, toys, and even prescriptions. I also am able to get him lots of toys that keep him busy on days when I’m not up to playing with him a lot.
However, even if you have a support system and utilize these resources, a dog might not be the best fit for you! Ultimately, the only person who can decide that is you. Hopefully this information will help you make an informed decision about owning a dog with a chronic illness!
Do you want a dog at some point? Why or why not? Let me know below!