A post should appear every Sunday
Sunday January 16th 2023
Warning to the squeamish: this post is all about what goes into and what comes out of a dog, so perhaps you may not wish to peruse it over breakfast. Perhaps indeed, you may not wish to peruse it, period.
Isis is not her usual enthusiastic self when we play ‘hunt the special treats’ at J’s on Sunday afternoon. It takes her much longer than usual to find three of the four treats, and she gives up on the fourth one, retires to her chosen spot and goes to sleep.
She eats her evening meal, but when Monday comes she only nibbles at her breakfast. While we’re out walking, she has diarrhoea.
(This has only happened once before. It was soon after she had left Portugal, and during her first visit to Wales. She was still very underweight and permanently ravenous. While I was asleep, she found and devoured an outsized, raw sweet potato still covered in soil.)
She seems fine when we go for a walk. When we get back, she retches and deposits a small, acidy looking pool on the floorboards. I assume that’s the result of the missed breakfast, and think nothing of it. When we visit the vet for Isis’s booster vaccination and the vet asks about her general health, I answer that she’s fine, and pass off the diarrhoea which hasn’t happened again, and the morning’s little upchuck, as a mere hiccup.
In the evening, she refuses her meal, and later produces another acidy looking pool. She’s looking decidedly sorry for herself now, and has that sad, damp, head-hanging look. I stay with her overnight, and have to mop up two more nasty little pools. She refuses food except for half a gravy bone.
She is definitely ill. But what should I do? It sounds daft from someone who has had dogs for most of her adult life, but except for her summer skin allergy, Isis has never been ill. And Ellie, my previous dog, only had one, very brief, bout of vomiting over the fourteen years of her life. So it’s well over twenty three years since I have had to treat an indisposed dog.
(Indisposed cats are quite a different matter. Chucking up their food never seems to bother them much. After noisy and histrionic heavings, they glare at one accusingly, as though one were responsible for the nasty little heaps deposited on the rug or the duvet. Then, swishing their tails irritably, they leave the polluted scene to seek somewhere cleaner and more hygienic.
Not so dogs. Typically, as soon as she feels queazy, poor Isis stands bolt upright, looks dismayed, and hastens down from her bed to the floor. She then attempts to make her way outside to avoid defiling our house. Should she – heaven forfend – vomit in the house, she looks distraught, even though, of course, I would never express disapproval. She is not easily consoled: it takes a huge amount of sympathetic head stroking to convince her that it’s not her fault and no-one’s cross with her.)
Now, what must I do? I remember that cold boiled water rather than tap water is a good idea when treating gut problems, but, although I recall that twelve – or is it twenty-four? – hours of starvation may be the way to proceed, I can’t remember the diet she will need, or the frequency of feeding. I text my close friend Nick the Animal Man, explaining (in graphic detail) what has been going on. I express the hope that he is not eating his lunch, then continue:
‘Should I starve her until tomorrow, or try to tempt her to eat a little?’
He replies within minutes:
‘I would starve her tonight unless she seems really hungry, then you could try her with a very little boiled rice, and possibly a tiny amount of chicken breast. If you decide to starve her, you could use the rice and chicken tomorrow.’
‘Have problem as she’ll not eat chicken. Would scrambled egg do?’
‘Yes, just enough to make the rice palatable.’
Isis doesn’t seek food. She just sleeps all day. But foolish Human has forgotten to take her dish away, and in the evening, crunch, crunch, Hairy One helps herself to a few kibbles.
Inevitably, it’s not long before she throws up again.
On Wednesday morning I place a flat dessert spoonful of rice and the same amount of scrambled egg in a little cat bowl. She comes to the kitchen door looking hopeful, and I hold the little bowl out to her. She eats hungrily, her whiskers tickling my fingers. She finds it hard to believe that’s all she’s getting, but being Isis, she doesn’t say anything.
I consult my mentor once more. Yes, this amount once an hour should be fine.
She has five of these tiny meals throughout the day, but, of course, no bedtime treats.
All is well.
Now I am less worried.
On Thursday, I double the amount of rice and scrambled egg, and give her three meals. To her delight, we also try a short walk.
Again, all is well, so I buy some minced steak from Nigel, the butcher over the road. On Friday, I give her three meals the same size as the day before with half a dessert spoonful of cooked mince added to each.
On Saturday she has just two meals. They include equal portions of rice, egg and mince and a handful of kibbles. We have a longer walk today. She is eating enthusiastically, and bouncing around happily.
Today I have increased her kibble to the usual amount, and added a taste of dog meat. We’ve fed the crows in Highbury, she’s happily hunted for treats at J’s, and now she’s sleeping soundly.
So no more worries then?
Of course there are worries – I’m a dog owner. Now I’m wondering if I’ve fed her too much today.
I think I may have. Oh dear.
Isis came from Aeza cat and dog rescue in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to http://www.dogwatch.co.uk.