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Caring For A Sick Dog: The Dos (And The Dont's)

How To Make Your Dog Feel Better, Not Worse

By Meredith Alling. October 09, 2013 | See Comments

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Caring For A Sick Dog: The Dos (And The Dont's)

When your dog is feeling a bit under the weather, it can be a stressful time for both of you. Here are some ways to nurse your sick canine back to health, without making them feel worse than they already do.

Dogs can’t care for themselves when they are under the weather, so it is up to pet parents to provide loving support and the conditions for a successful recovery. Properly caring for your sick dog not only helps them to feel better faster, it can also save you money by eliminating the need for return trips to the veterinarian.

This article will cover everything you need to know when it comes to caring for a sick dog, including proper rest and exercise, how to avoid tummy upsets, post-op care, and identifying problems.

Rest and Exercise

All dogs need rest and exercise in the right amounts. You may need to adjust the amount of time your sick dog spends on these daily activities while they recover.

  • Sick dogs need a lot of sleep and rest. Provide a quiet and comfortable place for your dog to relax that is free of disturbances, including other pets or young children who may be a bother. You may want to keep your sick dog in a private room or separate area of the house to ensure that they are left alone.

  • Ask your veterinarian about any physical needs that your sick dog may have. Some dogs will have to take time off from exercise (including walking, running, jumping, and playing) and it will be up to you to make sure that they do. This may mean keeping your dog confined in a crate with a comfortable bed.

  • Other sick dogs are more capable of exercise, but be aware that sick dogs have weakened immune systems, and overexertion could make your dog’s condition worse. Focus on low-energy activities, and contact your veterinarian if your dog seems to be struggling.

Avoiding Tummy Upsets

Sick dogs can be susceptible to tummy upsets, but there a number of ways to help your dog avoid this uncomfortable side effect.

  • If your veterinarian has prescribed a special type of food for your sick dog, feed them separately from other pets so that they are not able to access the regular food.

  • Make sure that all members of the household are aware of your dog’s dietary restrictions, and that even small pieces of treats or other food could cause your dog’s stomach to get upset.

  • Eating or drinking too fast can cause an upset stomach. Monitor your dog’s consumption, and if you see that they are not able to slow down, separate their food and water into smaller servings.

  • Many foods can ease an already upset stomach, including small amounts of bland foods such as boiled chicken, white rice, and scrambled eggs. Always consult your veterinarian first to be sure that the food you are offering your sick dog is OK.

Post-Operative Care

If your dog has undergone an operation, chances are that you will need to follow up with some at-home care.

  • If your dog’s surgery required the use of anesthesia, it may take a while for them to return to their old self. Provide a quiet and comfortable place for your dog to rest, and keep an eye on their balance. You may need to help your dog walk while they recover from the effects of sedation.

  • Your veterinarian may limit your dog’s activity for several days, or several weeks, after an operation. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions very carefully -- failing to do this is a common cause of post-surgery complications.

  • Depending on what kind of operation your dog has had, your veterinarian may prescribe medications such as painkillers, ointments, or drops. Make sure that you understand the proper dosage and how to administer the medication correctly.

  • Follow all instructions provided by your veterinarian with regards to feeding, bathing, cleaning wounds, changing bandages, and post-op gear such as elizabethan collars. Many veterinarians provide a fact sheet for pet parents to reference following a surgery.

Identifying Problems

Dogs can’t tell us when something is wrong, so it’s up to pet parents to carefully monitor their pet’s recovery and take note of any problems.

  • If your dog is taking medication, be aware of any side effects. While some may be normal, others could signal that something is wrong.

  • Keep an eye on your dog’s urine and feces. In some cases, your veterinarian may warn you that these processes might not return to normal right away. In others, abnormalities could be a sign of a serious problem.

  • If your dog has been injured or undergone an operation, regularly check wounds and look out for any redness or swelling which may indicate an infection.

  • If your dog’s condition is not improving, getting worse, or if you observe any unusual symptoms or behavior, contact your veterinarian.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Caring For A Sick Dog at a glance

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  • 1Properly caring for your sick dog speeds recovery and could save you money on vet bills
  • 2Adjust your dog’s rest and exercise schedule based on your veterinarian’s recommendations
  • 3You can avoid tummy upsets by adhering to dietary restrictions and monitoring food and water intake
  • 4Look out for problems following an illness or injury, and contact your vet if something seems wrong