Living With A Poorly Dog

Over a month ago Nelson sustained extreme damage to his front leg after a viscous attack from another dog and following several surgeries, my highly active 9 month old puppy was put on strict crate rest – as you can image it was a tough time.

Following this traumatic experience for both Nelson (and myself) I’d like to talk through a few behavioral / mental issues that can happen when your normally active dog suddenly becomes restricted.

Something to bear in mind when out for a walk is that your dog doesn't just get their energy out with the exercise; dogs can smell up to a weeks-worth of ‘history’, so when out their minds are engaged taking in smells, as well as socializing – which as a result uses more energy. Therefore crate rest is both physically and mentally boring for your four legged friend often resulting in depression, anxiety and destructive behaviour.

So crate rest can seem very cruel, especially as your poor pup doesn’t understand the change in routine, which is hard for both of you – and he can't tell you how its effecting him.

In order to make the harsh change in routine less traumatic; the crate which Nelson initially saw as something to be scared off was filled with his toys and some treats to keep him calm and thefirst time in the crate I sat with him. As a result, he embraced the crate well, even though he mastered ripping his bandage off, even with his cone of shame on.

Nelson was restricted to literally toilet breaks and that was it. This then increased to 5 minute walks. I would carry him to a location to ensure the best 5 minutes with new smells to engage his mind. When it was allowed to be 10 minutes, we were able to think about asking friends to join. This proved key for Nelson as by this stage his personality was changing, 10 mins with his friends would be enough to settle him down and forget about his leg. As his walks increased as did his social interaction.

As you can imagine trying to keep the wound from getting dirty or wet in Cornwall was challenging, but my friends were willing come for cuppa & cake with their pups, or allowed me to borrow their dogs for 10-15 minutes so Nelson could still get interaction, which both of us were very grateful for.

You need to ensure you are still keeping their mind active, this will help them to become less depressed and stop them getting bored. To keep Nelson going during this time we went back to the basic tricks, like paw, then upgraded the trick to high five. I hide treats under cups and moved them around to get him using his nose and mind.

Signs to look for; these will depend on the length and extent of the restriction that your dog has. Nelson was not allowed walks, literally out of a wee and back in the crate (or cuddled on our laps if we were home). With a massive change to routine and being stuck in the same 4 walls you notice their personality may change. Your dog may display signs of anxiety for example hyper alertness, loss of appetite and heightened senses.

These are similar systems a human may display if suffering from anxiety or depression, especially after a traumatic experience. When reintroducing regular exercise try not to rush this, your dog will need to rebuild his stamina, and you don't want to over exert them, especially with paw related injuries as this could make you go back wards. start with longer lead walks, then occasional off lead and on, gradually increasing their time.

Each dog if different but if like us you have a fab vet, great supportive family & friends, then you can help your dog get through this tough time.

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