Caring for a Sick Dog

Applicable For:
  • Dogs

Just like people, dogs get sick. However, unlike people, dogs cannot tell us when something is hurting or when they feel ill; this often leads to dogs being brought to the veterinarian too late. Owners need to be constantly vigilant to the signs of illness in their dog; the quicker an illness is caught the better chance it can be completely cured. At the first sign of illness, owners should take their dog to the veterinarian.

Owner should watch for lack of energy; changes in temperament; tendency to hide or the desire to be left alone; a dramatic increase or decrease in thirst and appetite; dull coat or itchy skin; weepy or cloudy eyes; unusual coloured or blood in the urine or stool; vomit with blood in it; excessive vomiting; constipation or diarrhoea; elevated temperature; rapid pulse or excessive panting and drooling; difficulty urinating and restlessness. Dogs displaying any of these symptoms should visit a veterinarian to ensure they are not sick.

Dogs that are sick or in pain may snap or even bite. This is done in response to the pain not out of aggression or bad behaviour. Owners should be extremely gentle with the dog and be calm and compassionate. If needed, a muzzle can be improvised from a bandage or piece of material to ensure the dog does not hurt anyone.

When taking a dog's temperature, giving medication or when the dog is getting a check up, it is important that the dog be held securely so they are not able to snap or bite. Owners should wrap one arm under the dog's neck, along their chest, so the dog's lower jaw rests on the crock of the arm. This leaves the other hand free to administer medication, pat the dog or to provide an extra secure hold.

It may be necessary for owners to take their dogs temperature. A dog's normal temperature is 100.6 F (38 C); toy dogs have a slightly higher temperature of 102.5 F (39.0 C). A dog with a higher temperature has a fever. To take a dog's temperature owners should lubricate the thermometer with some Vaseline and then gently insert it into the dog's anus. The thermometer should be left in for three minutes to get an accurate temperature. After three minutes, remove and check the thermometer for the dog's temperature. Taking a dog's temperature is easiest with two people, one to restrain the dog and one to take the temperature. It is easiest to have small dogs stand on a table or counter.

To give a dog medication that is in pill or powder form, simply hide it in some hamburger or soft food. Most dogs will gobble down the food and will not even notice the medication hidden in it. For exceptionally picky dogs, owners may need to pack the medication in some ground beef balls and then stick the medicated balls down the dog's throat. Always watch the dog carefully to ensure they swallow it. To give a dog drops or a large amount of liquid, owners can try simply adding it to the dog's food. However, some medications should not be given with food or have too strong of a taste that the dog may refuse to eat the medicated food; in this case, owners will have to try a different approach. Owners can either pull the dog's lip out so that a little pouch forms and slowly pour the liquid in or fill a syringe with the liquid medication and carefully insert the syringe into the dog's mouth and slowly empty it. For both techniques, the dog's head should be raised slightly upward to ensure the liquid does not run out of his mouth. If the medication is in suppository form it is best to have a helper hold the dog, the suppository should be gently inserted into the dog's rectum as far as possible.

Sick dogs should be kept warm and quiet, and should be kept away from other dogs. Owners should seek veterinarian help immediately.

Located in: Nutrition and Care