This Article is About
vitamins and minerals
essential nutrients
nutritious diet
fighting spirit
remarkable progress
extra energy
nutritious food
lack of interest
healing process
energy sources
Convalescent Diet - What To Feed A Dog In Recovery
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Convalescent Diet  -  What To Feed A Dog In Recovery

A lot can happen in two weeks. To start with the dog slipped a disc which partially paralysed both his back legs. He was hospitalized for several days during which time he had intensive daily sessions in a hydrotherapy pool. The prognosis was grim, and we were devastated. A week later the vet let us bring him home because the dog's fighting spirit had resulted in some remarkable progress.

We are noticing small improvements daily with his walking. His back legs are weak, and although he can stand, he tends to wobble and will fall over without support. He has daily physiotherapy and massage administered by myself. The big worry since bringing him home has been his lack of interest in eating and drinking. To date he has lost 4 kg in weight.

The vet warned us that the medication he is on could affect his appetite. We are having to coax him to eat, when he really needs lots of nutritious food to help his body recover from the recent trauma. There are specialist commercial foods designed for convalescing pets, but ours was not tempted by any of the ones we tried. In desperation I decided to use home cooked recipes to try and tempt him to eat more normally. So exactly what should be included in a nutritious diet for a dog in recovery?

Firstly, the vet warned against feeding the dog his normal diet because the balance of nutrients was not sufficient to meet his needs during convalescence. He still needs protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, but in different proportions to help speed up the healing process.

Essential nutrients for convalescing dogs

  • Additional protein – The protein needs are much higher for convalescing dogs simply because protein is used by the body to repair damaged tissue. It also helps the dog’s immune system to fight off infection.
  • Fats and carbohydrates – In order for damaged tissue to repair itself quickly extra energy sources are required. Fats and carbohydrates are great sources of energy.
  • Vitamins and minerals – Dogs recovering from illness need a balance of vitamins and minerals to enhance the healing process.

It is common for dogs to lose their appetite when convalescing. It's the owners who have the problem of trying to encourage them to eat in order to restore their health. Initially, we tried hand feeding some of the recommended commercial food, but to no avail. He just turned his head away. We even tried putting some of the food in his mouth, but he just spat it out. As a last resort, I found some home cooked recipes online and decided to try them out to see if they could stimulate his appetite.

These are some of the recipes I’ve used with some success over recent days. To start him off, we fed him a light diet. The recipe below is good for convalescing dogs that have not eaten much for several days:

Light Meal

2 cups of cooked brown rice

1 soft boiled egg

1 cup of cottage cheese

¾ cup of parsnip

Small amount of melted butter

I cooked all the ingredients and then mashed them together with the butter. I served the meal slightly warm. After a couple of days his appetite improved so I started to introduce the following recipes.

Chicken and rice

1 cup diced or ground chicken

½ cup of rice (brown is preferable)

1 soft or hard-boiled egg

1 tbsp. oil

½ cup cottage cheese

½ cup of mashed up veggies (carrots, peas, and broccoli)

Meat stew

1 Ib minced meat

1 ½ cup brown rice

4 to 5 cups chicken stock

4 cups of mashed veggies

I am now using the same recipe proportions, but occasionally add salmon or tuna as the protein instead of the chicken and red meat. I also add supplements; omega 3 and powdered glucosamine with chondroitin. Recently, we have seen a marked improvement in his appetite.

How to encourage convalescing dogs to eat

• Heating the food slightly seems to stimulate the sense of smell and taste. Just make sure the food is not too hot.

• Hand feed if necessary.

• Feed small amounts often throughout the day rather than a couple of large meals.

• Leave food down for 30 minutes. If the food is not eaten then remove it. Try again later with fresh food.

• Make fresh water available at all times.

It’s hard to believe now, but before his spinal injury the dog was on a diet to lose weight. Labradors are well known for their love of food, but his lack of appetite over the last two weeks has seen his weight plummet. Now I’m faced with the opposite situation. He currently needs a nutritious diet to aid his recovery and build his weight back up again.

At the moment, the dog is spending much of his time resting. Even "visits" to the garden seem to tire him easily. Being sedentary could easily see his weight pile back on again if I do not get the diet right. Any surplus weight will seriously affect his recovery and make it more likely that he could further damage his spine. In fact, being overweight probably contributed significantly towards his present condition.

Thankfully, the signs are looking good. Since putting him onto home cooked food things are slowly getting back to normal. He has put some weight on, but that is to be expected from a position of eating little over several days. I have been so impressed with the home cooked recipes that I intend to continue with them even after he's better. The trick will be holding his weight within the ideal range for his breed. No pressure then!

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