Caring for Emaciated Dogs


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Rescue groups and animal shelters are often presented with undernourished and thin homeless dogs. Ideally, they should be taken to the vet for a thorough examination. In the absence of veterinary assistance, the shelter personnel must take the following steps:

  1. Create an animal chart so that you can keep track of the daily health status.
  2. Thoroughly inspect the dog for identification markers like inner thigh or ear tattoos or microchips. It is necessary to keep in mind that tiny subcutaneous implants can move around. So you need to scan the whole body.
  3. Record the temperature and weight of the dog. Also make a note of the animal's estimated regular weight.
  4. Do a thorough and meticulous physical exam. Check the oral cavity for any fractured teeth or bone fragments that are lodged between their teeth as well as lacerations under or to the tongue. Also, check for ear and eye infections; check beneath their tail for anal sores, maggot infested infections or tapeworm segments. Check their paws for signs of an abraded pad or an interdigital infection or the presence of unwanted foreign matter
  5. Probe his abdomen with your fingertips. To do this effectively, you need to restrain the head of the dog while he is made to stand up. Kneel/stand at the hip of the dog and face forward. Place the fingers of your left and right hand along the opposite sides of his belly and move them slowly towards the middle while probing for any lumps or masses. If he cramps up when you apply pressure, he needs veterinary care. If he is pain free during abdominal palpation, he is safe.
  6. Check the tongue and gums for color. A grayish or pale color indicates anemia due to blood loss or from the ingestion of a rodent poison. Similarly, if you notice hemorrhagic areas on the white of the eye or gums, you need to take him to a vet right away. Ideally, the tongue and gums must be pink or reddish.
  7. Give the dog some water to get a fair idea of the dog's ability and interest to drink.
  8. Check for signs of dehydration. The easiest way to do it is to grasp the skin fold at his neck and pull it upwards to check for elasticity. If the dog is hydrated normally, the stretched skin will immediately snap back into its original position. If the skin seems to dissipate in a slow motion, the poor elasticity is a sign of dehydration.

The rescued dog must be checked for serious medical disorders like anemia, kidney failure, bowel obstruction or pancreatitis. Since most of the dogs that are admitted to shelters sustain injuries when they were homeless, they need to be carefully evaluated for burns, broken bones or gunshot injuries. Garbage ingestion usually leads to a bacterial enteritis, bloody diarrhea, pancreatitis or intestinal blockage. The dog needs to be carefully vetted for all of the above.

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