You have to admire veterinarians. They have to know how to care for animals of all types from pets to exotic, wild, and working beasts. Their patients can’t tell them exactly what’s wrong and must depend on information from those who provide the day-to-day care for the animal.
We’re fortunate to have a healthy dog in Poppy, but when the time comes that she needs care, we’ll be ready to provide it.
They also depend on us to follow through with the care they prescribe. That makes you the most important caregiver of your animals. Yet, for many of us, there is a steep learning curve especially in the case of a long-term illness.
When you learn that friends are dealing with a sick pet, offer them the same support, and perhaps respite, you might give to someone caring for a sick person. They are under the same physical strain, restrictions, and stress that all caregivers face.
Here's a photo of our dear, little Maggie Mae in her younger and healthier days.
Tips for Sick Pet Care
Over the years we’ve built coping skills that are useful when a dog is sick. We have shared the work. This included sleeping on different shifts as we dealt with our Maggie Mae’s cognitive dysfunction and sleeping in street-ready clothing so we could get her outside fast, if needed.
If you are not able to share the responsibility with a family member, consider hiring someone to give you time away from the situation. Ask your veterinarian if a vet tech might be available to sit with your sick animal for a few hours. You could also check with your groomer, dog walker, or ask a friend or neighbor you would trust with the task.
Disposable puppy pads and washable incontinence pads are great stress relievers. If you can avoid cleaning up a mess, that is one less stress adding to a difficult situation. (We also used disposable dog diapers for Maggie.)
If a dog was vomiting, we placed open pads in every room, ready to be quickly positioned under the dog as it began to gag. If you are not quick enough, the pads are great tools for clean up since they are designed to absorb liquids quickly.
Written records of all medications given; temperatures taken; symptoms noticed; changes in behavior, eating, drinking, and elimination are key to helping your veterinary team provide their best care. Since the days when our Sassy developed a seizure disorder, we have kept notebooks for all our dogs.
It is so nice to watch a group of healthy dogs play together in the park.
For Healthy Dogs and Cats
The American Veterinary Medical Association publishes this list of animal emergencies that require an immediate veterinary consultation:● “Severe bleeding or bleeding that doesn't stop within five minutes
- Choking, difficulty breathing or nonstop coughing and gagging
- Bleeding from nose, mouth, rectum, coughing up blood, or blood in urine
- Inability to urinate or pass feces (stool), or obvious pain associated with urinating or passing stool
- Injuries to your pet's eye(s)
- You suspect or know your pet has eaten something poisonous (such as antifreeze, xylitol, chocolate, rodent poison, etc.)
- Seizures and/or staggering
- Fractured bones, severe lameness or inability to move leg(s)
- Obvious signs of pain or extreme anxiety
- Heat stress or heatstroke
- Severe vomiting or diarrhea – more than two episodes in a 24-hour period, or either of these combined with obvious illness or any of the other problems listed here
- Refusal to drink for 24 hours or more
Words: Penny & Ed Cherubino
Photos: ©2017 Penny & Ed Cherubino
(Adapted for BostonZest from one of our City Paws newspaper columns.)