Helping your animal companion make a safe recovery


Is your companion in need of home care and rehab? Here are some safety and design tips to help ensure his comfort and recovery.

When a sick or elderly family member comes home from the hospital, a home health care worker may visit your house to make sure the space is safe and conducive to the patient’s recovery. But what about when your dog or cat is sick or injured, and in need of similar care?

Your companion animal is subject to some of the same illnesses, treatments and therapies we are, so shouldn’t you pay just as much attention to his comfort and safety at home as you would for a human relative? Coming off surgery or recovering from an accident is difficult for all involved, but for your dog or cat, there are extra burdens. He can’t tell you where or when it hurts, he’s not able to play with his other four-legged friends, and he may feel generally miserable and uncomfortable.

Helping your animal recover at home means appointing yourself his personal home care worker. By ensuring his living space is safe and comfortable, you’ll help speed his return to health and mobility. What you need to do will depend on the type of injury, illness and/or procedure your dog or cat has undergone.

Surgical procedures An animal that undergoes any type of surgery or related procedure will likely have some sort of incision, stitches and/or raw patches from being shaved. Here’s how to help make his post-surgery less stressful:

• Set aside a quiet area where the patient can rest peacefully away from the rest of the household. A kennel or crate in a guest bedroom or quiet corner of the main bedroom will do just fine. If you don’t have a kennel/crate, confine him to a specified area with gates. The goal is to keep him quiet.

• Place lots of warm blankets for the animal to sleep on, and use some sort of thick pad, rug or raised bed so he isn’t lying directly on the floor. This will give him some extra comfort.

• Low light (close the curtains, turn off lights) and soft music create a calming atmosphere.

Dr Lisa Kluslow of the Silver Spring Animal Wellness Center in Glendale, Wisconsin suggests you have your animal sleep in his confined “post-op” area the night before any type of procedure, so he gets used to sleeping there. Make sure to supply the area with soft bedding, dim lights and quiet music, just as you would after the surgery. Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature – the right temperature depends on your animal; a husky will feel better in a cooler room, while a smaller/short-haired dog will like it a little warmer.

Cancer treatments

Our fur-kids are just as susceptible to the ravages of cancer as we are, and often require some of the same treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. To help your dog or cat get through these treatments, follow these tips:

One of the most important things is to keep him out of the sun, including direct sunlight from windows. When going through radiation/chemo, an animal’s skin is much more susceptible to burning. Curtains need to be drawn in the room where he’ll be recuperating. A natural sunscreen should be applied to any bare skin.

Again, a quiet area with soft comfortable blankets, no noise or soft music playing will help your companion rest.

Physical rehabilitation therapy

Companion animals sometimes break bones, sprain muscles or have back and spinal issues (think Corgis and dachshunds). They may need hydrotherapy, massage or other treatments in order to recover. To help keep the animal nimble and avoid further injury:

• Use runners with non-skid rubber backing throughout the home, especially on hardwood or tile floors, so your companion can move about without sliding or slipping.

• Place food and water at a height that will eliminate added stress to his neck and spine. Raised feeders are becoming more popular and easier to find.

• Jumping up on furniture and running up or down stairs (indoors or out) is a big no-no for animals with these concerns. Ramps are a must. They’re inexpensive, easy to install and minimize risk of re-injury. Portable steps and ramps that require no installation can be placed next to furniture and beds, safely allowing your animal access to his favorite spot. This reduces strain on him – and on you if you have to continually pick him up.

Caring for an injured or ill animal at home can be stressful for everyone. Creating a safe and nurturing space for your companion will assist in his recovery and give you peace of mind as he heals.

Good scents

If you have a dog recovering at home, aromatherapy can play a role. Clary sage and lavender essential oils are wonderful to use in a diffuser (be careful using essential oils around cats). Both these oils increase melatonin, which has been shown to help with recovery.

Protect the corners of walls and tables from e-collars by applying a single scent to all corners. The dog will learn to easily associate that particular scent with an area to avoid.

This same technique can be used for a sight-impaired dog when training him to know when stairs or corners are nearby. Dr Kluslow suggests a floral or citrus scent on vertical surfaces, and musky or earthy scents on horizontal surfaces.

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