The Blessing of Caring for a Sick Dog

Golden Retriever Puppy Plays with Toy

Skinny Honey in recovery.

When you’re worried, washing soiled bedding, and driving to the vet in the middle of the night, it’s hard to imagine there is anything good about having a sick dog.

But here’s the blessing I’ve found.

Gift of Attention

Honey is with me most of the time.

We take long walks every day. She sits under my desk when I’m working. I see her more than I see my husband.

But I’m often distracted or doing something else when we’re together.

Our daily life is nothing like the time I spent caring for her when she was sick.

When your dog is sick, nothing you usually do feels important.

Caring for a Sick Dog

When Honey was only a few months old, she swallowed a squeaker. We watched her carefully but saw no sign of the squeaker or any symptoms.

Months later, Honey developed a mystery illness. She lost weight. She was vomiting and had diarrhea. But then she’d recover and be fine for several days.

It wasn’t until we saw the x-ray that we remembered the long-lost squeaky. Honey had emergency surgery that afternoon.

Before she was diagnosed and while recovering from surgery, Honey was the center of my world.

Worrying about her wasn’t fun. Cleaning up after her digestive distress was gruesome. And the vet bill was shocking.

But I enjoyed keeping Honey amused while her surgical incision healed. I had nothing else on my mind but her.

Caring for a Dog at the End of her Life

Shortly after we brought Shadow home from the SPCA, the vet diagnosed her with bone cancer in her jaw. Despite a prognosis of a couple months, Shadow lived with us for two years.

Shadow - mixed breed dog

Shadow on a good day.

Toward the end of her life, I took her to a holistic vet for acupuncture.

Because the vet was so far from our home, he taught me how to apply the needles and I gave her treatments every morning.

The needles remained in place for a half hour, during which Shadow had to stay still.

I don’t believe the acupuncture was effective. But those weeks we spent quietly together are among my happiest memories of Shadow.

We did nothing else but enjoy the time together.

I wasn’t glad Shadow was so ill. But spending time caring for her was a true blessing.

Suffering and Blessings

I don’t mean to make less of how horrible it feels to have a sick pet by focusing on the bright side. A few of my blogville friends have sick dogs right now. And the worry comes through in every sentence they write.

Miles away, there is little I can do to help.

But I hope that as they try to make their loved dog well that they appreciate every moment they have to focus on their friend.

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  1. Your post is touching. I’m sorry you had to experience the sadness and worry to realize the blessing it could be. Honey has grown into a beautiful Golden and I’m sure your bond with her strengthened during her recovery.

  2. Your thoughts hit home & your post brought back memories of caring for our Becca. We adopted Becca at age 9 – she had been a service dog who carried a pack and was surrendered when her orthopedic issues prohibited her from serving any more. She was not an affectionate dog – and for a Lab that was kind of strange. She had very bad arthritis and a fused spine from her years of work. We did acupuncture and water treadmill therapy and whatever we could to ease her pain. It was during those times, and only those times, she would let me ‘nurse’ her and care for her. She eventually succumbed to bone cancer and during her final weeks when we we tried chemotherapy (which made her very sick) I was finally able to establish a loving bond with her. She had resisted, but finally I felt she reciprocated our love – I don’t think she had allowed herself to do so before so regimented she was as a service dog. We learned a lot about stoicism from her – we miss her every day.

  3. We know all to well the worry of having a sick pet and also caring for an old one. Nothing seems to help until they are better or at least pain free. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  4. Sue at The Golden Life says:

    My heart always goes out to those who are caring for a sick pet. Before Callie, I’d had a poodle who I had gotten from a breeder on Long Island. Kissy was more than just my dog, she was the love of my life for the 15-1/2 years of her life. She was my proverbial shoulder to cry on, walking partner, best friend, etc. Any time she was sick, I took a sick day from work without caring whether they liked it or not. My first responsibility was to my family, and she was my family. When the time came for Kissy to cross over the Rainbow Bridge, I was inconsolable for months. Fast forward to 2 weeks ago, when Callie had her bout of gastroenteritis, and I was hurting right along with her. Poor baby couldn’t even celebrate having had the staples removed from her leg. BUT, she was the center of my world that night. So glad that the vet was able to observe her most of the next day and give her the meds she needed to feel better. I played with Shadow all day to keep myself occupied but I still jumped out of my skin each time the phone rang.

    I hope all the sick pets are feeling better very soon!!

  5. Your post reminded me a lot of the last weeks of Treat’s life, and the last couple of years of Lilac’s. There were a lot of moments that I treasured during the ends of their lives. Treat had a spinal tumor and her back legs didn’t always follow her commands. She could get up and walk around at the end, but she was really wobbly. That last weekend, I needed to do some weeding in the flower garden, but I wanted her nearby. So, hubby carried her and her bed outside and arranged Her Highness in a shady spot where she could see us and we could see her. But of course she wasn’t going to just lay there! She had to get up and wander around, just to prove that she could. We also enjoyed Dairy Queen Strawberry Cheesequake Blizzards, which were her very favorite. It forced me to be really present in my moments, with both of them, to enjoy those times that wouldn’t happen again.

  6. Woof! Woof! We just send Golden Healing Thoughts to one our doggie friends who is ill and just recently found out that my doggie brother that lives close by have cancer. All the stuffs that is going through my mom’s mind. That is why she is always thankful for every moment we spend together. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

    BTW: hope you received our recent email. Golden Woofs

  7. What a lovely post. During those hard times when a beloved pet is sick, we sometimes forget to just focus on the time spent in each other’s company. This post is a great reminder to cherish every moment.

  8. I don’t see how your could have approached this subject more beautifully. It is a wonderful, insightful post. Thank you!

  9. There is just such a helpless feeling when we have a sick pet and they can’t tell you what is wrong. Probably because they don’t understand either. But you are right, it is a tender, bonding time that is different from our normal activity. I will remember this post if or when I need it in the future.

  10. Thank you for this post. I’m going to stop googling and worrying about what I can’t change and go hug my dog.

  11. Global Dachshund Crossposting says:

    A beautiful reminder to ” be here now “. Thank you

  12. Max's Ma says:

    What a wonderful way to see those times

  13. It’s so true – nothing else that we normally do seems very important right now. We were able to pick Cali up from the hospital last night and she managed to eat a little bit for us. We are trying to give her as much love as possible and feel so happy that she is home with us again. Thank you for such a great post :)

  14. This post made me cry. It reminds me of when my Sheltie Cassie died. I had her since I was 10 years old and she got really sick when I was 23. Those last few hours were the saddest. But I’m sure she appreciated me being by her side, just as it meant a lot when she comforted me all those times in the past when I was hurt, sick, or sad.

  15. I always feel so helpless when one of my dogs is ill…I want so badly to help, but just don’t know what to do except hold them and show them all the love I can

  16. What a wonderful post…and I’m so glad Honey isn’t sick right now. I was worried for a minute. Sorry you lost Shadow so soon after adopting her, but I’m glad you do have some sweet memories to remember intertwined with all that sadness.

    P.S. Now I’m even happier Toby took care of that rock on his own.

  17. thanks Pamela. These are just the words I needed to hear and that everything is going to be alright.

  18. That’s all you can do: give them all the love you’ve got. My heart goes out to everyone having troubles right now, but I love the spirit of your post.