The first thing you must realise is that an injured or sick dog is in pain and will probably be afraid. He may often feel that his master (who has perhaps unintentionally aggravated the injury) can't be trusted any more and his natural tendency will be to run away and hide which is obviously not very useful if he needs treatment!
Handling a sick (or bad tempered) dog
1. Go up to the dog in a firm, but kind and quiet way. Use his name a lot if you know it and in any case talk gently to him. Let him sniff the back of your closed fist (an open hand may make him think you are going to hit him).
2. Do nothing to injure him further.
3. Restrain the dog by wrapping him securely in a blanket or other suitable material so he won't injure himself any more - nor be able to bite or claw you. Protect yourself, if necessary, with heavy gloves.
4. If you can get the dog in a situation different from the norm, say on a tabletop instead of the ground, this will make him a little uncertain and therefore more tractable.
Many dogs won't need a muzzle, but if you have to handle a strange or injured dog, it's not a bad idea to use one
TAKING THE PULSE
A dog's pulse is easiest to take on the large artery running down the inside of the hind leg. Feel for it with your index and middle fingers just below the point where the leg joins the body. A normal dog's pulse is between 80-140 a minute. Faster is a characteristic of shock or fever while a weak or almost non-existent pulse needs immediate veterinary attention.
TAKING THE DOGS TEMPERATURE
You should take a dog's temperature rectally, so use a proper rectal thermometer (not an oral one, as the mecury bulb can easily break). Shake the thermometer until the column of mercury is just above the bulb (about 96?F, 36?C). Get someone to hold the dog on a table gently but firmly. Lubricate the thermometer with soap or petroleum jelly and insert it into the dog's anus with a gentle twisting movement until about half the length is inside. Remove after about 3 minutes, wipe with cotton wool and read. The average dog's temperature is between 100-103?F (most about 1 01.5?F), or to 39?C.
Giving your dog pills
Many dogs are past masters at the art of pill-detection, even when one is crushed and mixed with their usual food. Although the vet will try to give you drugs made as attractive as possible to animals, often your dog will take a bit and spit it out. The best way of making sure the pill goes down is to administer it yourself. Hold the pill between the index and middle finger of your right hand. Put the thumb of your other hand behind the dog's large upper fang tooth and press up on the roof of the mouth. At the same time, press down on his lower jaw with your right thumb, push the pill far down his throat, close the mouth and tap the dog briskly under the chin. The dog will usually be startled by all this and will swallow the pill.
Difficult dogs will have to be pilled by the vet and, when at all possible, the vet will give the drug by means of an injection. If your dog is exceptionally nervy, ask the vet if you should tranquillise him before coming to the surgery -and, if so, with what? Never give the dog any drug which hasn't been prescribed for that particular dog at that particular time and never use up old drugs.
To give a dog liquid potion, don't use a spoon. Put the right amount of medicine into a small bottle. Pull out the corner of the dog's lip to make a 'pocket' and pour the medicine in, a little at a time. Don't raise his nose too much or the liquid may cause the animal to choke.
If a sick dog really will not eat, sometimes you may have to force-feed him. Even more vital you must replace lost fluids by feeding him liquid in the same way as you'd administer liquid medicine (see above) as this helps prevent dehydration. Glucose mixed with boiled, cooled water is an ideal liquid to give but not milk.
If you are nursing a convalescent dog (not one that's dehydrated), the easiest way of force-feeding is to make the food liquid enough to feed as fluid. If a sick dog has a temperature, he should not be fed solid food anyway but even when the temperature is normal it is easiest to give several small meals rather than one or two large ones. Give a little at each feed or the dog may vomit it up again (a few teaspoons of food every 2 or 3 hours is about right). You should also measure the fluid intake and make sure the dog gets about 1 tablespoon of liquid/water per 5kg of its own weight per hour. You can use milk to form part of this allowance, as long as it doesn't cause diarrhoea and the dog is not dehydrated.
Loss of body fluids and salt is much more danger-ous to any dog than lack of food, so if you suspect your dog is dehydrated through either vomiting or diarrhoea, give him frequent small doses of glucose and water, salt and water or just plain water. If he cannot drink for himself, spoon or squirt the liquid into his mouth with a syringe (without the needle, of course).
Don't use milk or brandy, but half a teaspoonful of milk of magnesia could help if he is vomiting. With diarrhoea, con-centrate on water replacement, and you can try human kaolin and diarrhoea mixtures, as these are sometimes a great help.
It is vital that the dog doesn't get seriously dehydrated. Signs are decreased elasticity of the skin, so pick up a fold of skin from the middle of his back - the skin should spring immediately back into place. Any sluggishness or tent-like appearance means the dog is dehydrated. Other signs are drying of the mucus membrane lining the mouth and eyes, sunken eyes and some appearance of shock.If you notice any of these signs, you should get to the vet at once. Meanwhile treat the dog as outlined above.
NURSING A SICK DOG
Like any human patient, a sick dog needs careful nursing to help him get better, but try not to fuss over him too much. Sleep is vital and he should be left in a quiet atmosphere with lowered lighting. Give the dog a comfortable bed out of the way of draughts (especially at his eye level) and a good arrangement is to provide him with a tea chest or similar box.
Make the bed cosy with old blankets and newspapers, and change these when they get soiled. Keep the dog warm with a well-covered hot water bottle (kept hot), or a heating pad (again well-covered so the dog can't burn himself).
If the weather is not too bad, and the dog not too sick, you could let him out of doors to relieve himself, but always keep him on a lead and wearing a coat. If possible, you should try to arrange out-of-door toilet use, as this is not only more pleasant for you but a house-trained dog may suffer mentally if he has to relieve himself indoors. If he can't go out, you'll have to protect the floor of the room with thick layers of newspaper laid on top of old vinyl floor covering. Clean the room and bed frequently, remove any excreta at once and, if possible, groom the dog daily.
Newspapers or blankets provide suitable bedding but only use blankets if the dog is clean. In any case they should be covered by an easily washable and renewable sheet. If the dog is incontinent put newspaper under his rear end to keep the bed dry, with cotton wool between his thighs and under the tail. Sponge with weak antiseptic and warm water several times a day and sprinkle his rear end and abdomen with talc. Use zinc ointment in the same way if the dog has diarrhoea.
Change the dog's drinking water frequently and, if the vet approves, offer him some of his favourite titbits to tempt him to eat. You may have to force-feed if he simply refuses to eat. If necessary, bathe the dog's eyes and nose with warm salt water and, if the skin on the nose gets cracked, a little cod-liver oil smoothed on should help.
A very sick dog is best confined to one room or a small area, but when he is a bit better you can let him wander freely round the house if the vet approves. Most really sick dogs will be hospitalized by the vet.
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