Few experiences in life are more heart-wrenching than having a sick child. And yes, for some, this includes their four-legged, full coated pet. After all, pet parents take great pains to ensure their furry pal stays healthy and doesn’t get sick.

The thing with sick pets is that they cannot directly communicate their pain, making it difficult to tend to their illness properly. So just how can you care for your sick dog? Read on below to find five vet-approved caregiving tips to get your furry friend back on his paws.

1. Recognize the symptoms

Dogs indicate illness through subtle changes in behavior or appearance. Dogs have a behavioral instinct to mask signs of illnesses. And as they cannot communicate in the same manner we do when we succumb to illnesses, it’s important you recognize the symptoms of a sick dog.

Keep watch for some of the signs below. They may indicate an issue that can only be treated with veterinary care. Others may just need special care at home.

Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Decrease in or loss of appetite
  • Decrease in energy or activity level
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Abnormal vocalization (whining or crying)
  • Excessive scratching or licking of the body
  • Foul odor coming from the mouth, ears or skin
  • Hiding

If symptoms worsen or new symptoms appear, report them to your veterinarian immediately. Any new symptoms could be an indicator of the illness becoming more serious and requiring an emergency veterinarian service.

Do you have a senior dog? You’ll want to take special care and watch for common conditions for senior dogs. Knowing what to look for so you can be proactive in contacting your vet is hugely important.

2. Keep your pet hydrated

When your dog displays symptoms of illness, too often than not, they will be losing a lot of fluids due to loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea, or fever. Dehydration can have a serious effect on a dog’s bodily functions, particularly when they’re sick. Veterinarians emphasize giving dogs lots of fluids while they are sick to aid in their recovery.

Offering your dog a bowl of water may not be enough when they’re sick. Dogs tend to lose electrolytes during illnesses and those must also be replenished. Alongside fresh clean water, offer your dog electrolyte supplements such as flavorless Pedialyte or chicken or beef bouillon broth.

3. Make your dog comfortable

When your dog is ill, the smallest detail will make the biggest difference. Help your furry friend find more comfort by offering a nice cool spot or warm spot to lay or snuggle down on. If your dog is still up to it, take them for a short walk.

The fresh air and the ability to sniff around may perk up their spirit. Be cautious with your walk, though. Keep it short and sweet so they don’t tire themselves out and get worse in the process. Make sure you get approval from your veterinarian before going for a walk.

4. Keep a log of what’s going on

Maintaining a log of your dog’s behavior and habits when they’re sick will be important in making an accurate diagnosis in the unfortunate instance that your dog gets worse. Keeping track of any prescribed modern veterinary medicines and their potential side effects, as well as your dog’s behavior towards the medication, ensures your pet receives the best care if they have to visit the vet.

Be sure to also report on bathroom habits as this will inform the veterinarian how well your dog’s body is functioning.

5. Give them lots of attention

By nature, dogs are affectionate animals. As such, one of the greatest gifts we can give them as pet owners or parents is love. Giving affection and sharing love, especially during times of illness, can calm your dog, helping him feel safe and secure.

If you can, try to stay home to give him some affection and love. Not only will this give you both time to continue bonding, but you can continue recording changes in your dog’s habits and behavior. Just don’t reward negative behavior.


Anyone who’s ever owned a dog can attest to how much they wish to give their furry companion a long and healthy life. The tips above can go a long way in doing just that. Just remember, in some instances, caring for your sick dog at home is insufficient. When those moments arise, be sure to get your dog to the veterinary hospital or to your own trusted veterinarian.

This is a guest post from Dr. Max Spicer.

Dr. Max Spicer is the Managing Partner and Senior Veterinary Surgeon at The Veterinary Hospital in Dubai. He has taken strides towards providing comprehensive service by hiring veterinarians that are flexible, approachable, and highly specialized in their respective fields.