Caring for Sick Dogs

This page looks at the topic of how to take care of sick dogs at home. It outlines the various important things that we need to do to keep our dogs comfortable. It also describes how to monitor the conditions of sick dogs, how to keep the dogs clean and how to give them medication.

Sleeping Dog There are a number of advantages to care for a sick dog at home. One obvious advantage is that home is familiar to the dog and definitely less stressful than staying in a hospital.

Dogs usually recover faster in their home surroundings. At home, a dog parent can pay closer attention to the needs of the sick dog, and extra meticulous cleaning can be given to the dog to keep him more comfortable and less miserable.

More importantly, the dog can get a lot of tender loving care and personal attention from his human family members!

Of course, there are cases in which a sick dog is best taken care of at a hospital. For example, conditions that are life-threatening or very messy (e.g. severe vomiting and diarrhea) make it difficult, if not impossible, to have the dog at home. In most cases, your vet will only allow your sick dog to go home with you when he or she is confident that you can provide adequate nursing.

When you bring your dog home from the hospital, you need to give your dog nursing care, such as giving him medication, keeping him clean, monitoring his physical and mental conditions, as well as paying attention to his nutrition. If your dog has little or no appetite, you may need to work harder to get him to eat.

The first thing to do is to find a place in your house which is quiet, safe, cozy and warm so that your sick dog can rest comfortably. Keep the area clean and change the blankets or towels frequently. Make sure that your dog has easy access to toilet, sunlight, and fresh air.

How To Care For A Sick Dog At Home

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Feeding a Sick Dog

A sick dog may need a special diet or additional supplements while recuperating, so be sure to consult your vet about the kind of foods and supplements that should be fed to your dog.

Very often, a dog who is not well (especially one with a fever) chooses to fast for a day or two. If your dog does not want to eat for a few days, do not force him. Fasting is a natural way for the body to get rid of toxic materials and wastes. Just make sure that he has sufficient water so he does not get dehydrated.

However, if your dog does not regain his appetite after a few days' fasting, and he is losing weight or becoming weak, then you need to tempt your dog into eating by giving him tasty food that has a strong aroma, such as freshly broiled chicken or turkey. Sprinkling a little garlic powder on the food may do the trick as well since many dogs like the taste of garlic. Other herbs that are not only appetite-stimulating but also nutritious include peppermint, fennel, ginger, alfalfa, and dill. Just sprinkle some of these dried herbs on your dog's food.

Dogs love to eat foods that have strong smells. By warming the dog food a bit, therefore, it becomes more aromatic and may just be the way to get your dog eating again.

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Monitoring the Dog's Conditions

Caring for sick dogs also include monitoring and recording the sick dog's health conditions. This can be very helpful in tracking his progress of recovery. The records can also be invaluable information for your vet.

Your daily recording should include the following:

  • Your dog's body temperature.
  • Your dog's pulse.
  • The amount of food and water intake.
  • The frequency of urination and defecation. Note any abnormality in urine or stools.
  • The times and amounts of medication given.
  • Any change in your dog's physical or mental conditions.

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Giving the Dog Medication

Many people caring for sick dogs find it hard to give medication to their dogs. Be patient, approach and speak to the dog softly. Pet the dog and calm him down before trying to give him the medicine.

Liquid Medication

  • Use one hand to pull out the corner of your dog's lower lip to make a little "pocket".
  • Use the other hand to tilt your dog's head back and pour the liquid into it with the other hand. You may find it easier to use a needle-less syringe to get the liquid in.
  • After the medication is in, hold the dog's mouth almost closed and gently massage his throat, or blow on his nose. This can induce swallowing.

Pills and Capsules

  • Using one hand, grasp around the upper jaw and insert your thumb and fingers in the gaps just behind the fangs.
  • Using the other hand, hold the pill or capsule between your thumb and the first finger, and use the remaining fingers to press down the lower front teeth. This will pry the jaw open.
  • Quickly insert the pill into the throat and induce swallowing as describe above.

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Cleaning Sick Dogs

Caring for sick dogs also involves keeping them clean.

Your sick dog can be fouled by vomiting, diarrhea, or skin discharge and you really feel that he needs a good scrubbing. However, do not bathe your dog if he has a fever, or if he is still weak and not yet fully recovered.

Even if you cannot yet give your dog a full bath, you can still keep him relatively odor-free by cleaning his body openings. Sick dogs very often have discharges from various body openings; if you can regularly clean his openings, he will be much more comfortable and less smelly!

Cleaning the Nose

  • Saturate a soft cloth with warm water and carefully clean the nose to remove any secretions that may have formed.
  • If the nose has become raw and dry due to irritations from nasal discharge, apply some vitamin E oil to it once it has been cleaned. Do it 2 to 3 times a day.

Cleaning the Eyes

  • Add a quarter teaspoon of sea salt to a cup of distilled water. Stir well.
  • Saturate a soft cloth with the solution and carefully wipe the eyes to remove any secretions that may have formed.
  • If the eyes are mildly irritated, put a drop of almond oil into each eye. For dry or ulcerated eyes, put a drop of cod liver oil into each eye.

Cleaning the Ears

Please refer to our page on Cleaning Dog Ears for steps to clean your dog's ears.

Cleaning the Anus

If your dog has been suffering from diarrhea, his anus can get inflammed. In serious cases, the surrounding area may become irritated and even infected with bacteria. It is therefore important to keep this area clean.

  • Soak a clean soft cloth in warm water and use it to sponge the anus and surrounding area gently. Do not rub since it will irritate the area further.
  • After it is dry and clean, apply some calendula ointment (2 -3 times daily).

    Grooming Wipes

    Earthbath Natural Grooming Wipes Green Tea Leaf Wipes

    These grooming wipes sure come in handy when caring for sick dogs takes up a lot of your time. Use a few of these wipes to quickly clean up your dog.

    They contain natural ingredients (e.g. green tea leaf extract, aloe vera) and can be used to clean your dog's paws, belly and bottom.

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