living with a dog in rehab

The title of this post sort of sounds like I have a drug-addicted dog. Which I suppose could be a thing, given the assortment of dog valium and the like around. But that’s not what it’s about.

Recently Loki, my working-line border collie, managed to run over a piece of metal stuck in the ground while I was at work. He gouged a chunk of skin off his toe pad. As a result, he has been bandaged up and restricted to crate rest and light walks for the last week and a bit.

So if you find yourself with an injured or sick dog (and this is not my first stint at having a high-energy dog on restricted activities – thanks Lumen) what can you do? Even I’m suffering with Loki’s lack of exercise so if you haven’t been through this experience before, I can imagine you would quick be at the ‘pull your hair out of your head’ stage.

Poor, sick Lumen. One morning she vomitted blood. By the afternoon she was having her stomach opened for an exploratory surgery that found ulcers bleeding into her stomach and hugely swollen lymph nodes.

Poor, sick Lumen. One morning she vomitted blood. By the afternoon she was having her stomach opened for an exploratory surgery that found ulcers bleeding into her stomach and hugely swollen lymph nodes.

Here’s what I do, and of course, this all depends on WHY your dog is on restricted activities. Obviously you would treat different injuries and illnesses with different cares. A leg injury would need to avoid much movement altogether, where Lumen’s stomach surgery gave us a bit more freedom in that respect. Always check with your vet as to what is appropriate for your dog.

  • Crate train. Oh, if I could not put either one of my dogs in the crate when they wanted to have mad wrestle sessions, life would be so much more difficult. Instead, I put them in their crate, they lie down quietly, look around, and then usually fall asleep. Nobody complains about being in there. If I had to go out for the day I would be ok leaving them in there if they were on serious crate rest. As it is, I take Loki to school with me because sleeps all day there tethered on a long line in the office. Basically just a big crate with occasional visitors.

    photo-22 (1)

    Yes, she looks VERY unhappy here but it’s because her stomach was shaved for her operation and she is a very sensory dog and all she wanted to do was lay on very soft things and never come out.

  • Kongs and food dispensing toys. These are your friends. Big time. Your dog will probably put on weight. Their life will probably revolve around eating in some way or another, and sleeping. This is ok. But don’t waste those precious calories through feeding in a bowl. Use food as a way to exercise your dogs’ brain. I stuff Kongs with BARF or raw meat, sometimes with a dry biscuit in the middle to take up space, and then I freeze them. This way they get some of their meal at the same time as working hard to eat. There’s heaps of ways to stuff a kong but this is the easiest way for me because, let’s face it, I’m lazy. We also have a selection of food dispensing toys. I think my favourites are the Kong Genius range. We got a few in the medium size (for our Aussies/BCs) and hooked them together and that took them a little while to figure out, but they have the technique down now. Recently we bought two Kong Geniuses in the ‘small’ size because the hole to get the biscuits out is smaller. This is providing them with much more of a challenge, and they get less food in one hit. Bonus.
  • Tricks/training. Shaping tricks is EXCELLENT mental exercise and there is a huge range of tricks you can teach to suit any injury or illness. While Lumen was recovering from her stomach surgery, I taught her to limp with one leg and probably others that I can’t remember right now. With Loki’s paw, I’ve been working on his ‘sit pretty’, ‘throw a towel over your head’, ‘DJ shuffle’, lifting front legs one at a time and so on. None of these involve movements that will aggravate his paw.
  • Involve your dog. I don’t know about you but if my husband and I are out and about on our property, gardening or planting things, or doing maintenance, and our dogs are just snuffling around hanging out with us, they go inside and crash. Depending on why your dog is on rest, you could tether him outside with you while you do things or let him wander around if he’s calm and that’s appropriate. Similarly, if we have guests over, our dogs tend to be so excited to have visitors that they sleep very well when the guests leave. Maybe you could have a “get well soon!” party for your dog!
  • Go places. Similar to above and, as always, dependant on what’s wrong with your dog, you might be able to take them out to weekend markets or other stimulating environments (the other day we hit up two pet stores and a vet with Loki) to give them some much needed mental enrichment and a break from your house. This is appropriate for both Loki’s paw as the vet informed us he’s allowed to go for walks, and would have been fine for Lumen’s stomach a couple of weeks after her surgery. You can treat your dog like a puppy and go on a socialising tour of busy places. If they have a fancy and visible bandage, they might even get sympathy pats!!
Loki is very lucky as he is allowed to come to school with me while I teach. He is so calm there and will sleep the majority of the day away, sometimes on top of the filing cabinet. This also lets me stress less because I don't have to worry if he's at home chewing off his bandage.

Loki is very lucky as he is allowed to come to school with me while I teach. He is so calm there and will sleep the majority of the day away, sometimes on top of the filing cabinet. This also lets me stress less because I don’t have to worry if he’s at home chewing off his bandage.

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