How to Manage Pet Care When You Have a Chronic Illness

  • By Frankie Wallace
  • 29 August 2022
  • 4 minute read

Dealing with a chronic illness can be both difficult and overwhelming. Depending on the type of condition you face, it could impact almost every aspect of your life, limiting what you can do on a daily basis, as well as how often you can spend time with others.

You might think that having a pet would be a daunting task when you’re trying to manage a chronic condition. While there may be challenges, there are also plenty of benefits. The human-pet connection can improve both your physical and mental well-being and add more to your life than you think.

With that in mind, let’s cover some of the benefits of pet ownership, especially for someone with a chronic illness. We’ll also cover a few of the potential risks, so you can make an informed decision, and offer some tips on how you can effectively care for your pet, no matter your condition.

Benefits of Pet Ownership

There have been countless studies on the benefits of owning an animal. Physically, they can keep you active and boost your motivation. When you’re dealing with a chronic condition, you might not be able to go to the gym or do intense workouts every day. However, walking around the neighborhood with a four-legged friend is low-impact and beneficial, and can also help mitigate risk factors for certain vein diseases like spider veins and varicose veins.

Mentally and emotionally, pets can help with:

  • Reducing stress
  • Increasing feelings of relaxation
  • Reducing the risk of depression and anxiety
  • Socialization

They can also help to fight against feelings of loneliness and isolation. If you have trouble leaving your home or aren’t able to interact with others as much as you’d like, your animal companion can serve as a source of constant comfort and friendship. That’s a big deal for people with chronic conditions since loneliness has been known to weaken the immune system and increase your mortality rate.

Finally, a pet can help you to maintain a sense of independence. A service animal can be trained to help you with daily tasks, if needed. But, even a pet that has the most basic skills can encourage you to stay both physically and cognitively active, improving your overall quality of life.

How to Manage Pet Care When You Have a Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions
Photo by Blue Bird and top photo by Sam Lion via

Are There Any Risks?

While there are clearly countless benefits to pet ownership, there are some potential risks to consider when you have a chronic condition. First, you have to decide if you are able to take on the additional responsibility. Depending on the type of pet you get, it can be a lot of work just to make sure they have their basic needs. If you have limited mobility or are easily worn out, a “pocket pet” or smaller animal might be your best option.

With smaller pets, you can also designate a specific area in your home to keep them safe and comfortable. The perfect pet room should include things like:

  • Pet-friendly furniture
  • Plenty of toys to keep them entertained
  • Food and water
  • Storage space
  • A comfortable bed

If you find that you’re allergic to certain animals, letting them have their own room will also keep them comfortable at night without having to be in your bedroom, so you can breathe easily.

Pets might also expose you to certain pathogens and diseases. Fleas and ticks are a major risk for furry animals, and the illnesses often caused by those pests can transfer to humans. Thankfully, most flea and tick preventatives are extremely effective, and if you don’t feel comfortable applying them yourself, a veterinarian can do it for you.

If you have concerns about getting a pet or you want a breakdown of what the risks might mean for you, talk to your doctor before making a decision.

Providing the Right Kind of Care

In addition to having a pet room for your four-legged companion, there are several things you should keep in mind when it comes to managing care. Your own health should be your top priority. If your pet is making it hard to manage your health, consider reaching out for help. There are shelter programs all over the country that have pet-owner assistance programs. You can also find a qualified local dog walker if you have an active pet that needs to be walked and/or played with each day, and you have limited mobility.

It’s important for both you and your pet to maintain a consistent routine. Doing so will make life easier for you, and as your pet gets used to it, they’ll be calmer, more consistent with their behavior, and might even be able to help you with some of the actions in your own routine.

Finally, consider in-home veterinary care if you have difficulty leaving the house. If you truly want a pet and are looking forward to how they might improve your quality of life, don’t let mobility issues keep you from getting one. Weigh out the pros and cons and don’t be afraid to ask for the help and support you need when it comes to caring for your companion.

What helps you to manage pet care with chronic illness? 

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