How to Care For a Sick Puppy

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Episodes of vomiting and diarrhea aren't uncommon in dogs of any age and don't always indicate illness, but puppies have special vulnerabilities. Stress and sudden dietary changes can affect the equilibrium of a pup's system. And since their mouths are so close to the ground, puppies can snatch and swallow things that aren't good for them. When your puppy gets sick, it's wise to let a veterinarian decide whether there's anything serious to worry about. If not, administering TLC at home should have him up and bouncing around in short order.

Serious Versus Transient Illness: Symptoms

After your pup has had all his vaccinations, he'll be immune to many of the worst diseases puppies are likely to contract. In the interval between the first and second set of shots, he's still at risk. If you notice flu-like symptoms such as sneezing or watery eyes and your pup seems unusually lethargic, he should be checked out by a vet as soon as possible. Any evidence of blood in vomit or stools should be treated as a medical emergency. If he only seems slightly under the weather and you've decided to take a wait-and-watch approach, call your vet if vomiting hasn't stopped in 12 hours or diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours, advises Charlotte, North Carolina, vet Jim Dobies.

Creating a Therapeutic Environment

Creating a quiet recovery area for an ailing pup away from other pets and temptations to romp around with members of his human family allows him to get the rest and sleep he needs to start feeling like himself again. If the onset of your puppy's symptoms of illness occurred soon after you brought him home, it's possible he might be pining for the family he left behind. If so, he might find a heating pad set on low underneath a layer of bedding reassuring. Be sure to leave enough room for him to move off of the heating pad it if he chooses.

Gradual Food Transitioning

A sudden change of diet can throw a puppy's system out of kilter, says New Jersey critical care veterinarian Christian Charlton. If your pup began acting out of sorts soon after adoption, finding out what he was being fed and combining that food with his new diet might help settle his tummy. If that's the root of the problem, gradually phasing out his original food over a period of seven to 10 days should clear up any vomiting or diarrhea, Charlton says.

Offering Food and Water

Never withhold water from your pup, especially when he's been vomiting. If he's losing fluids from throwing up, it becomes more important than ever to keep him hydrated and provide him with electrolytes and keep up his blood sugar level. Smart water or Pedialyte can boost his electrolytes. A bit of white corn syrup or pancake syrup rubbed along his gumline will increase his blood sugar level. If he's been vomiting without experiencing diarrhea, withhold food for 12 to 24 hours to allow his stomach to rest, advises Colorado veterinarian and author Jennifer Coates. For diarrhea alone, offer food, but keep it bland and easy to digest, such as boiled white rice mixed with bits of boiled white chicken, until his stools return to normal consistency. After that, gradually switch back to your pup's regular food, Coates says. If you're unsure of your puppy's condition, always err on the side of taking your puppy to the vet.

How to Give Medications Orally

Prescribed oral medications may be essential to your pup's recovery -- but only if he swallows them. If a pill is supposed to be given with food, try hiding it inside a tasty "meatball" of cheese or canned dog food, Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine suggests. If your puppy manages to detect the pill and spits it out, try opening his mouth gently and carefully, dropping the pill as far back on his tongue as possible, then closing his mouth and blowing sharply on his nose, or stroking his throat, to initiate a swallowing reflex. Liquid medications in eyedroppers should be squirted into a pouch between the dog's teeth and cheek.

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