Feeding a Starved Dog the Correct and Safest Way
Hearts can easily be broken at the sight of an emaciated dog. With bones clearly visible from its muscle-less skin, you cannot help but feel sorry for the four-legged animal and have feelings of contempt and anger to whoever put the dog in this situation.
You are not alone.
Like many individuals who happen to get in contact with severely malnourished dogs, you will naturally give him lots of food to chow on just so he can get back into shape in no time. Such good intentions do have its drawbacks, unfortunately. For severely starved dogs, the best solution is to bring it to the nearest veterinary clinic.
The Physiology of Starvation
Before you raise your brows, try to understand what happens to the body when starved. The body requires energy in the form of glucose to perform many of its vital functions. When a dog is starved for the first 24 hours, it goes into survival mode. By this time, the dog will release some of its stored glucose in the form of glycogen from the muscles and the liver. His body uses this energy source for the next 48 to 72 hours.
If the dog still has not eaten after 3-4 days, it initiates another level of survival mode, biochemically changing proteins and fats into valuable sources of energy. When proteins and fats are used for energy, chemical imbalances in terms of fluids and electrolytes result leading to a variety of symptoms that are often seen in emaciated or starved dogs. The dog’s body uses this energy until it can finally have its meal or, unfortunately for some, just give up.
The Danger of Sudden Overfeeding
When you give lots of food to a severely starved dog, the sudden inflow of energy-rich food complicates the survival mode that the dog’s body is still in. With the sudden surge of carbohydrates comes an equal surge in insulin. This increases the removal of valuable electrolytes from the blood and into the cells. The result is that there simply not enough electrolytes, particularly potassium, magnesium, and phosphate, left in the blood. This can lead to fatal arrhythmias where the heart cannot control anymore its rhythmic contractions.
The Safe and Correct Way to Feed
The veterinarian will perform a head-to-toe assessment to check for the overall state of health of the dog. He will check the dog’s temperature, weight, heart rate, and any signs of physical abuse. The dog’s abdomen will also be assessed including its oral cavity for teeth and gum health. The dog will then be given a bowl of water to see if he still can drink and to assess the gravity of his dehydration, although this can be accurately assessed using physical examination techniques.
Based on the dog’s weight, the veterinarian will compute for its average daily caloric intake. This will then be divided accordingly depending on the number of feedings you will provide. Generally, small frequent feedings are preferred compared to three square meals a day.
If you decide to take the dog home, be sure to follow the instructions of the veterinarian. Even if the dog will want some more food, resist the temptation of giving it extra because what you want is for the dog to safely switch back from its survival mode into the usual regular healthy mode.
If you can ascertain that the emaciated or severely starved dog does not have any serious medical conditions, you can gradually feed it on your own without taking the dog to the veterinarian. Just remember to take it slow and make the feeding gradual.