Caring for dogs who are convalescing

If your dog has been ill or had an operation, you’ll have to give him some special care and attention. Here’s a guide to what you need to the dietary and medical needs of a recovering dog.

Your dog needs sleep, rest and peace While he’s recovering, your dog may feel weak, and gets tired easily. He’ll probably spend more time than usual resting or sleeping. But don’t worry, this is a natural reaction to illness or surgery. It means your dog is conserving energy while his tissues heal and his body gets back to normal.Your dog’s special dietary needs Good nutrition is especially important for a dog who’s been ill, injured, had an operation, or not eaten in several days. If he doesn’t eat properly at this time, his wounds may not heal right away, and he’s more likely to get an infection. Supplying the right amount of high-quality nutrients also prevents your dog’s body from using his own important tissues as energy sources.Proteins: Proteins are the major building blocks in the repair process, and are important in helping your dog’s immune system to fight infection. The protein needs of convalescing dogs are usually higher than they are for normal and healthy dogs.

Fats and carbohydrates: Fats and carbohydrates are excellent sources of energy. Dogs need larger amount of energy than normal, so the tissues that have been affected by illness, injury or surgery can repair themselves quickly. Increasing the level of fat in your dog’s diet provides them with a more “Concentrated” food. So your dog needs to eat smaller amounts of food to receive the higher levels of energy needed for repair.

Minerals and vitamins: Convalescing dogs need to eat food that gives them the correct balance of minerals and vitamins. This helps speed up the healing process, decreases the recovery time, and builds up depleted body stores.

The medical needs of a convalescing dog

Stroke and groom him gently, and look for any changes in his coat or skin. If he has an injury or has had surgery, check to see if this area has any redness or discharge. Watch for any weight loss or gain, lumps or swelling, vomiting or diarrhoea. Tell your vet right away if you notice these signs or anything else unusual.

Giving medicines to your dog: Always remember to give the full course of the treatment of any drug your vet prescribes. Don’t stop giving the medicine because your dog seems better. This may cause your dog to become worse, and may make future treatments harder. If you think your dog is reacting badly to any drug, get advice from your vet right away. Your vet can show you how to give the medicine.

Caring for dressings: Your dog may need bandages, splints, casts and other dressings, if he’s recovering from an injury or surgery. These may be put on to protect the wound from dirt or to discourage your dog’s natural tendency to lick a wound. Keep the dressing clean and dry by keeping your dog away from dirt and water, especially puddles.

When to contact your veterinary practice

Here’s a list of signs worth reporting to your veterinarian:

  • Collapse or convulsions.
  • Increased frequency of urination, increased amounts of urine produced, or urination in the house by a previously house-trained dog.
  • Greatly increased thirst and water intake.
  • Persistent cough or abnormal breathing.
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting that lasts for more than 24 hours.
  • Loss of appetite for more than 24 hours.
  • Weakness or lethargy.
  • Swelling, bad odour, or change in colour of the skin around a dressing.
  • If a dressing slips out of place, falls off, or is chewed off.
  • If your dog is determined to chew a dressing or lick a wound.
  • Lameness or a change in the way your pet walks or runs.
  • If your dog is in obvious discomfort. Persistent head shaking, excessive scratching, pawing of ears, or rubbing his hindquarters along the ground may be signs of distress.

What to feed dogs while they’re recovering

Good nutrition is particularly vital while a pet is recovering from illness, injury or surgery, so your vet may prescribe a special diet for your dog. This diet will include all the nutrients and energy a convalescent dog needs, and may be in a more concentrated form. Besides, your dog should always have access to clean, fresh drinking water. If he can’t move around at all, you may need to take special care to make sure he has water right at hand (or paw).

How to encourage your dog to eat

  • Feed your dog small amounts, often. Divide the daily allowance of food into small meals of fresh food.
  • Warm the food gently to just below body temperature. Don’t try to give your dog food that’s very hot.
  • Leave the food beside your dog for about 10 to 15 minutes, and then remove it if he seems to have no interest in it. He’s more likely to eat fresh food if you offer it to him later on.
  • Some dogs have exotic tastes and may like flavourings such as garlic powder. Ask your vet what flavourings would be fine to use in your dog’s food.
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