How to care for a sick dog & keep them comfortable

A couple of days ago, my dog Cha Cha threw up what looked like blood. In addition, she wasn’t being her normal self, she was lethargic, walking slowly and with the telling arched back of a dog with stomach pains. 

My confirmation of her illness came about when she allowed my other dog to get near her food dish. Normally, she would jump up and have an entire fit if he tried, but this time she lazily watched him as he inched closer and closer to her bowl and proceeded to chow down.

Needless to say, I was extremely concerned that she may have gotten into something that could have done internal harm. 

After a trip to the vets’ office and a couple of x-rays later we walked away with a diagnosis of irritable bowel. You can read more about the cost of IBD treatment here.

During the couple of days when she wasn’t feeling her best, I made sure to keep these things in mind to make her feel at ease

Your Voice Matters

Dogs can easily sense the tone of your voice so make sure to speak in a calming and gentle voice. This can go a long way at making them settled and more comfortable.

Dogs are pretty smart creatures, a study done by Hungarian researchers reported that dogs can actually distinguish between tones of voices and words. The dogs studied showed activation in their brains’ reward centers when they received praise through positive intonation and the words that matched.

So, not only can they tell apart what you are saying, but also how you say it and they can combine the two aspects to interpret meanings. If you’d like to read more on the subject click here.

Let Them Rest

The life of a dog usually consists of waking up, going out, eating, sleeping for a large part of the day and repeating the cycle daily. What a life right?

However, when your pooch isn’t feeling their best they may sleep a little bit more than usual, be sluggish and slightly lethargic. Allowing them the time to simply take it easy may be just what they need to feel better.

On average, if your pup has a stomach bug, they can be out of commission for at least 24-48 hours. Be prepared for them to resist going out as much or acting like their normal selves and allow them all the time they need to sleep and recharge.

Entice them to Eat

Food is usually the last thing on your mind when you’ve just finished having an upset stomach, nausea or some other illness. The same usually goes for dogs which means you may have to do some serious enticing to get them to eat. Here are a couple of options if you have a picky eater on your hands

  • Warm up the food: You know how delicious bread smells when it is baking and wafting through the air? It is because as it being baked aromas are released and entice you to want to eat. See how evil carbs are! The same rationale goes for your dogs’ food when you heat it. Plus, since their sense of smell is a billion (maybe a slight exaggeration) times better than ours it sometimes works wonders to get them to eat.If you decide to heat their food up directly make sure to give it time to cool off and obviously always test it prior to feeding. Another great option is to just add warm water to the food.
  • Add something delicious: Adding something like warm organic, all-natural low fat, no salt chicken stock or boiled chicken breast to entice your pooch to eat is also a good way to get them to chow down. If your pup has a stomach issue, make sure what you add is super bland like the above.
  • Make a slurry: When my Cha-Cha was sick, I made her a slurry to eat and had to do the suggestion below which was to sit and spoon feed it to her. Slurries, although not usually heavy enough to fill the stomach, will get some nutrients in your dog’s body until they feel well enough to eat solid foods.
  • Hand-feed: For those dogs that still show some resistance to eating there is always the option of spoon or syringe feed them. This is usually a sure-fire way to get something in their stomachs when they need it. 

Loads of Water

When your pup is sick, especially if it is from diarrhea or vomiting, they will need water and probably a lot of it. Diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration quickly in your dog and it will be necessary to replenish the lost liquids. 

Ask your vet if adding clear Pedialyte is an option as well since this posses a lot of the nutrients your dog most likely lost. Both Pedialyte and Gatorade have lots of sodium and potassium, but Pedialyte has fewer calories and less sugar than Gatorade. So, I always opt for Pedialyte if rehydration is required.

An even better option is to give your dog electrolytes meant specifically for their digestive systems, like NaturVet Pet Electrolyte Concentrate.

Use Puppy Pads

Since your pup will be drinking water but not be able to make it outside to use the bathroom, it is recommended that you keep a puppy pad nearby to catch any unforeseen accidents. If you have a larger dog, you will most likely have to use several at once. If your dog is relaxing in one part of the house, make sure the pads are close to them so they don’t have to go far.

Peaceful Environments

Because your dog won’t be feeling their best, they probably aren’t up for play. If your pooch has an upset stomach there may also be some soreness in the area. If not handled gently your dog could end up feeling worse. While it is a great idea to keep their favorite toys around you may want to keep them in a quiet place. Most young puppies and some children like to rough house a bit much for your dog to get the peace they need.

Lots of Love

Lastly, and of course the most obvious, make sure to pile on the love. If they are small like my girl, all she wanted to do was be held and rubbed. While we always make an effort to make sure our pets feel loved, this is a time to give them lots of attention and a little extra loving.

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