Recovering from an accident, illness or surgery can be stressful for everyone in the family – even your dog. Here are five tips we discovered to help you and your dog through your recovery process.
Valentine’s Day 2021 will be one I’ll always remember. Not because of chocolate hearts or a romantic dinner. But because I spent the evening at a local Urgent Care center. With a broken (not heart but…) wrist.
You know the old saying, “Pride goes before a fall”….?
I grew up in northern Indiana. So snow and ice are no big deal to me. And I pretty much prided myself on being light on my feet. In fact, I had JUST told my family: “I’LL take the dog out. I have EXTREMELY GOOD BALANCE on ice. You guys will FALL and get hurt.”
Long story short, I fell. Slipped down icy steps (all nine of them) and shattered my left wrist. How I climbed back up those totally iced over steps to get back inside the house I’ll never know. Inside, I collapsed on the floor (there were some choice cuss words involved) and told my family I was pretty sure something was broken.
We don’t deal well with snow or ice here in middle Tennessee. Most everything was closed; the roads were a mess. We couldn’t even get down the front steps (the ones I slid down a few minutes earlier) to the car. Instead, we had to exit through the back and try and make it down the frozen yard. Let me paint the picture clearer; our yard is on a steep slope. We could have tobogganed down.
Luckily, the nearest urgent care was still open. An x-ray confirmed a fracture but we were referred to an orthopedic surgeon.
With more icy weather coming in that night, I had to wait a few days before the office was open to make an appointment. And then it was nearly a week later before we were able to schedule surgery to rebuild my wrist. Hanging out at home for a week and a half with multiple fractures was an experience I pretty much want to check off my list of “Things I Never Want to Do Again.”
Then began the recovery process.
If you find yourself with an unexpected emergency, a serious illness or surgery, you’ll probably be super-stressed over your recovery. And about how your dog will handle it all. These tips to help you and your dog through your recovery will ease that anxiety.
First of all, I’m sending your gentle hugs. And understanding. And this first bit of wisdom that you will or already have discovered on your own:
There’s nothing you can do but trust. Let go and trust. Everything will be okay. Good people are there to help.
Also, if you are feeling less-than-enthusiastic about caring for your dog’s needs (or others in the family) that is okay. It is perfectly fine.
Did you hear that? I’m giving you permission to put yourself first.
Now that you’re home, it’s time to get some plans in place to make things easier to care for your pets. It will benefit you and those people who are there to assist you. Here’s what we learned and what helped the most.
Quick Note: These tips are for those who have had a short hospitalization (less than a week) or are recovering at home from an injury. If you are faced with a longer stay at the hospital, then you’ll need different advice and that deserves a separate post.
1.Rally the Troops
Now’s the time to get your peeps together.
At the beginning of this recovery journey, you might not have the energy or presence of mind to arrange the help you need for your dog. If that’s the case, talk to your family and let them handle plans.
If you are living with family, lucky you! You’ll have built-in help.
If not, call your friends and nearby family. Let the neighbors, your co-workers, and friends from any activities or groups you attend know your situation and that you would greatly appreciate help.
Next, get specific with what type of help you need with your pets. There’s nothing worse than having someone tell you “Let me know if you need anything” because then neither of you know what is expected. Even if it’s a small favor of running an errand to the pet store, give volunteers a defined task to do.
And don’t heap everything on just one or two people. Spread out the work. People are much happier to help when it’s a small task or spread out over several days.
If you have a large, fenced area for your dog to get some exercise, this may not be an issue. But active dogs need more than just a romp in the yard. And if you’re a city dweller, you’ll definitely need help taking your dog for daily walks.
If you have enough assistance so your dog can continue her normal walking/pottying routine, great. But if not, please don’t let it worry you. Do what you can with the help you have.
Obviously potty breaks are more important than walks. If your support crew is unavailable during the middle of the day, a dog walking service or pet sitter can help fill in the gaps.
You might be fortunate enough to live in an area where there are pet adventure services. These businesses will come to your home, pick up your dog and take them on a long hike to help burn off excess energy. It may feel like a splurge during this time, but it helps relieve some stress for BOTH of you.
This was a big one for me! I am committed to keeping our yard dog poop-free. Unfortunately, no one in my family was as committed to the task. Hmmm…
For several weeks I was not able to get outside to take care of things. And my OCD was kicking in…so I employed some help.
Poop scoop services can be a blessing. Some of them also offer dog walking – so you might be able to kill two birds with one stone!
You can also hire a responsible neighborhood teen who might like to earn some extra bucks.
Mealtimes may not seem like a big deal. But for raw feeders like me, it was a big stress.
Many times we put so much effort into preparing our pups balanced, species-appropriate meals, that we feel no one else is going to know exactly how to do it! And if no one else in your household is committed to a raw diet, they may not be as willing to cut up fresh organs and bones and measure out the right supplements as you are.
No one in my family wanted to do that, so during my recovery, we switched all our pets to pre-made raw meals. They come at a premium price, but during your recovery, they may be just what you need.
Take advantage of online ordering and delivery if possible.
And if you have no choice but kibble? That’ll do.
Let go of the worry. Your dog won’t fall apart if he doesn’t get the exact diet he’s been eating. He will adjust. This is just temporary.
There is a reason I stress that all dogs, even raw fed, need to be familiar with eating kibble. During emergencies, kibble may be the only available food to eat.
An occasional high-quality raw-based kibble is a must for your dog to accept. Dehydrated raw is also convenient. Chloe has a handful of kibble as a nighttime snack in her crate.
Recovery from an accident or illness is stressful for everyone in the family. Your dog relieves stress with physical activity. But she can also burn off that edginess by using her mental prowess, too.
At the beginning of your recovery, you may be too sore, too tired or too sick to provide your dog with much attention other than a gentle pat on the head. That is okay. Your dog will understand.
- Dog puzzle toys are perfect for her to stretch her brain power.
- Frozen kongs or chew treats burn of physical and mental energy.
- Practice basic obedience or easy tricks your dog knows. Reward with yummy treats.
- If your dog knows how to walk on a treadmill, put her to work!
- Have your helpers put together a busy-box: take a large cardboard box and fill it with things such as plastic bottles, scrunched newspapers, cardboard tubes, etc. and throw in a handful of treats in the bottom.
- Snuffle mats are another great brain game.
- Have your family/friends hide treats throughout the house and then have your dog “find it!”
More “Sage Advice”:
Focus on Your Healing
You have one job and one job only: healing your injury or illness.
We all wear many hats. And sometimes it feels like everyone in the world needs something from you.
The truth is: nothing else is as important right now. Not the housework, your job, or your family’s wants and needs. All of that will still be there when you are back to normal. So don’t let it distract you or convince you to concentrate your energy elsewhere.
After all, the goal is to return to wellness. If you’re not better, how can you give to others? Allow yourself the grace to focus on healing your body at this moment in time.
It’s tempting, I know, to want to keep a tight handle on day-to-day life. You might even want to wrest control from those who are there to lend a hand. And if you’re a perfectionist? It’s easy to feel everything will fall apart if tasks are not done ‘just so.’
The truth is: life will go on without your influence. If your partner doesn’t walk the dog the same way you do or the kids feed him the wrong food, it will be okay. No lasting damage is done.
Just take a deep breath, relax and surrender to the help your family and friends are offering. Allow others the grace to give to YOU in the ways they can.
Allow Your Dog to Adjust
I’ll bet all of us envision that if we are sick or hurt, our dog will be right there for us at all times, nursing us back to health with that comforting nudge of a wet nose and never leaving our side.
The truth is: every dog is an individual and will react in different (and sometimes unexpected) way to our health challenges.
Nine times out of ten, if your dog is already a snuggle monster and wants to be with you all the time, she’ll probably continue while you’re in recovery.
Other dogs may behave differently. Your dog may decide to:
- Keep his distance and keep watch from across the room.
- Ignore you.
- Be apprehensive or afraid of you for a bit.
- Become hyper-reactive, guarding you from any dangers they perceive.
- Care less about your injury and just want you to get up and get on with life.
Your dog will also be adjusting to a change in her routine. Boredom, depression or anxiety can create unwanted and unexpected behaviors. It’s all temporary and as your health improves, these behaviors should go away.
Allow your dog the grace to process this change in his life in whatever way is best for him.
Note: Any new behaviors that are aggressive in nature should be referred to a professional trainer as soon as possible.
Keep Yourself Safe
Last, this seems a no-brainer, but sometimes we need a reminder…
Don’t risk your healing process by being a superhero. Or worry about “hurting feelings.” Keep yourself safe.
- Take steps to make certain your dog won’t accidentally injure you. If your dog is used to jumping up or climbing on the sofa with you, you’ll want to keep a sturdy pillow handy to cover your incision or injury. A good “down” command is great to have. Reinforce that with some yummy treats you can toss on the floor for your pup.
- Canines can smell surgical incisions. Some may have that instinctual urge to lick those areas. (Yep, that’s why we put the cone of shame on them after neutering.) Be AWARE! Make sure you keep your incision clean and free from dog drool, wet noses, dirty paws and sharp nails.
- Do you have physical limitations? It’s tempting…but don’t ignore them!
Story Time: Home alone while my fam was out shopping, Chloe decided she needed to potty. Pretty urgently. I knew my fam would be home soon, but what the heck? I still was in my brace and only had the use of one arm. But holding a leash in one hand was pretty easy, right? I could stay on the deck, not even walk down the stairs and let her do her business.
What I didn’t know: the neighbor’s dog was in the backyard. When I opened the door, the dog barked and Chloe whipped through my legs, wrapping the leash around my ankles and under the door jam, effectively spinning me around and slamming the door between us! Thankfully I didn’t fall but with only one useable arm, I had a heckuva time trying to get the door open and free the leash from underneath it. It could’ve been bad. Really bad.
- Keep your dog safe, too. Have prescription medications? Store them in a location inaccessible to your dog. If you are stuck in bed or lying down, keep them near you in a zippered bag or personal cooler. Try placing the bottles in a large sealable Yeti cup.
- Use care when taking pills out of the bottle so you don’t drop them where your dog could reach them.
- Using a wheelchair or crutches? Make sure your doggo is well away from you when you move. If your dog is well-trained, it’s easy to give him a sit-stay while you maneuver. If not (and especially if you have a ‘wild child’ on your hands) you might want to have someone keep him on leash until you’re settled back in a stable position.
- Go-ahead to resume activities? Continue to be pro-active as you ease back into life. Have someone accompany you on your first dog walk. Ask for help with lifting or to give you a hand with grooming, bathing, nail trims, etc.
Last piece of advice: don’t take it all too seriously. Even if it is serious. If you can laugh through it, you can get through it.
The recovery process will be a distant memory quicker than you’ll realize! You’ll be back on your feet and enjoying life with your dog in no time flat. With these tips to help you and your dog through your recovery, healing will be a breeze.
Keep these tips on hand – Pin to your favorite Pinterest board!