Jan 28

How to Care for Your Sick Dog

How to care for a sick dogPhoto Credit: Jana Comer

I can’t sleep tonight. My dog, Athena, is sick. She started showing symptoms at 5:05 Friday. It is now the wee hours of Monday morning. I know that I will be able to talk to her veterinarian in a few hours, but her coughing keeps me awake. I am not awake because of the noise, but rather, I am worried about her health and would like to alleviate her suffering.

When my dogs are sick, I feel totally helpless for several reasons. Dogs cannot tell me where it hurts, how bad it is, etc. I have to guess, and this makes me uneasy, I can’t understand the severity of their illness, which is (of course) essential to providing the proper level of care. Since my dogs always get sick at 5:05 PM on Friday, I have to decide: “Should I take my dog to the animal hospital emergency room or can it wait until Monday morning?”

Also, just like I hate to see a child suffer, I also hate to see a dog suffer. I want to give it something to make it feel better, but what medicines can I safely give my dog? Does the illness need to run its course or should I intervene? If so, how urgent is it? No blog post or article can answer these questions, but I hope that the information provided in this on will be helpful.


Do find web sites with veterinary information. Stick to sources you trust. For example, I trust the following:


Do invest in first aid and animal health books. These books are a great source of information. It is important that you have them on hand because you never know when you will need them. Here are some of my picks:

Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook:

Book description: Hardcover and Kindle edition from Amazon; 656 Pages. The guide dog lovers have relied on for more than twenty-seven years, this handbook has been extensively revised to include the latest information on everything from canine healthcare to nutrition to holistic treatments. Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, Fourth Edition, is the definitive guide for every dog owner. It puts vital information at your fingertips, with:

  • An index of signs and symptoms to help you find information fast
  • Clearly written, step-by-step directions for handling common canine ailments and problems
  • A chapter on emergencies that explains what to do immediately for shock, broken bones, burns, dehydration, heat stroke, poisoning, insect stings and bites, wounds, and more

The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Keeping Your Pet Happy, Healthy & Active:

Book description: Paperback and Kkindle edition from Amazon; 496 pages. The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook is the one essential and truly readable book for these devoted dog owners. Surpassingly clear and complete, with more than 100 illustrations and diagrams, it covers everything from choosing the best dog to puppy care, nutrition, vaccines, behavior, first aid, and senior care, plus thorough discussions of more than 100 canine illnesses. Reflecting the latest advances in veterinary medicine, this edition offers up-to-the-minute advice on “design dog” breeds, pet food safety, homemade diets, changing vaccine protocols, new medications for allergies, car sickness, obesity, and heart disease, developments in surgery and cancer treatment, pet insurance, and more.


Do give supportive care. Keeping some broth handy can be very useful. Use broth (not milk) to encourage your dog to drink fluids. If your dog is not eating or drinking water, it might drink a little broth. While it’s not a source of calories, it will prevent dehydration. Another use for broth is that it can “dilute” a toxin, but use this technique only under the advice of a vet. If your dog has been poisoned, take it to your vet, a local animal hospital, or call the ASPCA poison control hotline (listed above) immediately.

Keep baby aspirin on hand, It can be a pain reliever, fever reducer, and has other uses as well. Consult your vet for dosing instructions and whether aspirin is an appropriate medicine for your dog’s condition.

Other supportive care includes providing soft blankets where it can lie down, make sure the temperature is comfortable, and generally make your dog more comfortable.


Do keep a log of symptoms. For example, if your dog has a cough, record the time, intensity, duration, and what she was doing before the coughing started. As you notice a symptom, write it down. This may prove to be valuable information for your vet.


To be continued… A future post will cover what NOT to do for your sick dog.


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