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Can’t Get to the Vet? How to Care for Your Dog at Home

Veterinary care is an essential, albeit sometimes expensive, part of proper dog care. You can never put a price on the health of your canine companion, but, just as you don’t rush to the doctor for every little ailment you get, you shouldn’t need to bring your dog to the vet every time he has a minor issue.

Caring for your dog at home can help keep your dog healthy and strong, and it can enhance the bond between you and your favorite furry friend — not to mention the money you’ll save on vet bills.

However, before you examine your dog at home, be sure you can answer these questions. Then, take a look at these home-care tips.

Scratching the Itch

Itching is caused by stimulation of certain nerves within the skin by mediators of inflammation. Thus, any skin condition that causes inflammation can cause itching. The act of scratching may stimulate the release of inflammatory mediators and worsen the itching causing a vicious cycle. But there are things you can do at home to help scratch your dog’s itch.

First, look at the skin. Examine the skin where the pet is itching the most. If it is the ears, you may notice red, inflamed or smelling discharge in the ears which is consistent with an ear infection. That may be the cause of itching in that area. Licking of one ear may be associated with a skin infection or lesion in that area. Itching everywhere with hair loss is most often associated with allergies or flea infestations. Look closely for fleas. Flea allergy is the most common allergic skin disease in the United States. You may see the live active flea or “flea dirt.” Flea dirt looks like small flakes of pepper and is actually the bowel movement of the flea.

If you can identify fleas, a soothing bath that kills flea and is safe for dogs may be helpful. Flea prevention products would also be recommended. Home cleaning for fleas is also essential as for every flea you see on your pet- there are 200 in your home or yard in different life forms waiting to soon become an adult. If you only treat your dog — it won’t help as new fleas continue to jump on him. Dogs with flea allergy tend to scratch their back ends leading to lesions on the rump, hind legs, tail, and belly. There may be few to no fleas seen on the dog since it takes just one flea to make the dog react.

Dealing with Ear Infections

Several factors, including long floppy ears, water or hair in the ears, allergies, trauma, tumors, foreign material in the ears, allergies, autoimmune disease and generalized skin diseases, can predispose dogs to ear infections. Specific home treatments are dependent on the underlying cause, but there are general approaches you can take to treat ear infections.

If possible, clean the debris from the ear. Use a commercial ear cleaner, which you can get at your veterinarian’s office or at many pet stores. To prevent future ear infections, check your dog’s ears regularly. Dry your dog’s ears well after swimming or bathing by using cotton balls to gently absorb water in the visible outer section of the ear.

However, if the ear infection presists or if other symptoms are noted, call your veterinarian promptly. If your pet is not eating, acts lethargic, is vomiting, is having diarrhea, or if any other physical abnormalities begin, it is important to see your veterinarian. Your pet needs your help and the professional care your veterinarian can provide.

Alleviating Vomiting and Diarrhea

Vomiting and diarrhea can be caused by a variety of problems including eating too fast, eating too much, eating something that is not digestible, changes in the dog’s food, eating spoiled food or garbage, infectious agents (including bacterial, viruses, or parasites), as well as systemic problems such as cancer, diabetes, pancreatitis, kidney disease, or liver disease. Vomiting and diarrhea can affect your dog by causing extreme fluid loss, which leads to dehydration, electrolyte disturbances, and/or acid-base imbalances.

To care for these afflictions at home, first look for any predisposing causes, such as exposure to trash, change in diet, or plants your dog may be eating, and eliminate those causes. If the cause is unknown, try withholding food and water for four to six hours. Oftentimes, the stomach lining may be very irritated. Give the stomach some time to rest. If the vomiting or diarrhea stops, you can give small amounts of water and gradually offer a bland diet.

You can also try over-the-counter medications such as Pepcid AC, Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate (for dogs only!), but be sure to consult with your vet first. And, of course, if the vomiting and/or diarrhea continue or worsen, if you note blood in the vomit or feces, or if other symptoms appear, call your veterinarian ASAP.

Caring for Lacerations

Laceration can be caused by a variety of traumatic events. The most common causes of lacerations in dogs include getting cut on glass or sharp objects in the yard (especially rough wires around fencing), jumping through a glass window, bite wounds, and injuries that break the skin as a result of being hit by a car.

Specific treatment of a laceration depends on the degree and depth of injury, in addition to associated or secondary injuries. The best thing to do is to take your dog to your veterinarian to help you determine the extent of the injury, but if you cannot take your dog to your veterinarian, you can carefully evaluate your dog’s wound at home. He could be in pain so take special care not to be bitten when examining the wound.

Clean the wound with lukewarm water, and flush it extensively. If your dog’s wound is bleeding, take a clean towel and gently apply pressure. If the wound is superficial, if possible, try to clip the fur around the wound. Take care not to get hair in the wound. You can place sterile KY Jelly in the wound to protect it while clipping the hair. This allows the hair to stick to the KY Jelly instead of the wound.

If your dog appears to be in pain, is not eating, acts lethargic, and/or if you notice swelling, redness, or a foul smelling discharge, see your veterinarian right away. A laceration is always an emergency and should always be examined by a veterinarian. Even small cuts can be deep and can penetrate important structures that require sutures or additional treatment.

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