Sick Dog, Special Diet: A Guide to Feeding Your Dog When They Are Sick

Sick Dog, Special Diet: A Guide To Feeding Your Dog When They Are Sick

Discover the dos and don'ts of feeding a sick dog, why they need a special diet when they’re on the mend, as well as tips for transitioning back to a regular diet after recovery.

Dog eating foos from bowl. What to feed a sick dog  with no appetite.

When your pup isn’t feeling well, getting them to eat can be a real challenge. Even the most food-motivated dogs can turn up their nose to their favorite foods and snacks when something’s not right in their bodies. Switching out their usual kibble for a gentle alternative (that’s vet-approved!) can help soothe what is ailing them, as well as peak their interest at meal time and help them on their road to recovery.

What should you feed your dog when they’re sick?

Your dog needs one key thing to heal: healthy, nutritious meals. When they’re not interested in their food, it can be challenging to find ways to get your pup the nutrients they need to get their strength, energy, and health back.

Focusing on simple, easy-to-digest, natural meals is going to be essential. While you may think that the bland foods you’re offering may not pique their interest, sometimes just the simple fact that you’re preparing something new is enough to get them over to their food bowl.

Depending on the issue at hand, it’s best to discuss with your vet first to ensure that the meals you’re preparing for your pup are safe for them in their current condition. Certain conditions may require you to adhere to a very specific diet, while other illnesses may call for easy fixes and ingredients you can find in your pantry (or during a quick trip to the grocery store).

If your dog is having tummy troubles…

A sudden flare-up of stomach issues is one of the most common causes of having to temporarily change your dog’s diet. Whether they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t have, or they’re just feeling a little off, sticking to these simple foods is a great place to start, so long as your vet has ok’d it!

  • - Boiled chicken

  • - White rice

  • - Sweet potato (unseasoned, cooked, and peeled)

  • - Pumpkin (unseasoned, cooked, and peeled — canned works, too!)

  • - Bone broth

  • - Eggs (scrambled or hard-boiled, unseasoned)

  • - White fish (deboned, cooked, unseasoned)

  • - Baby food (according to the AKC, baby food is very easy to swallow and digest and is a great way to give oral medications. Veterinarians recommend feeding Stage II meat-based baby foods like chicken, lamb, and turkey, as long as the baby food does not contain any garlic or onion powder.)

If your dog is having an arthritis flare…

It may not be something you usually think about when you think of your dog being “sick,” but if your dog is having an arthritis flare and they’re suffering, there are some key ingredients you can incorporate into your pet’s diet that can help reduce inflammation.

  • - Turmeric

  • - Blueberries

  • - Kale

  • - Omega-3s

  • - Ginger

  • - Kale

  • - Sweet potatoes

  • - Carrots

  • - Pumpkin

We’ve got some great treat options that include many of these ingredients! Shameless Pets treats were made for dogs of all sizes and ages, so everyone can benefit from the healthy ingredients and functional health benefits they provide.

If your dog has the flu…

Similar to humans, when your dog is down and out with a serious bug like the flu, they’re likely to have a decreased appetite. To keep their strength up, they’ve got to eat to help them fight the illness.

  • - Entice them with strong-smelling foods, like fish

  • - Encourage the intake of more liquids by adding bone broth or low-sodium, organic chicken or beef broth to their meals

  • - Lean, unseasoned, ground beef

  • - Boiled chicken and rice

What foods should you avoid feeding a sick dog?

Just as important as knowing what to feed your dog, you should know what not to feed your dog when they’re sick.

You’ll notice that on most of these lists, the recommendation is to cook the food in the simplest way possible — that means no seasoning. Bland is best! If your dog has a specific condition, it’s always best to confirm with your vet what they should or should not be eating to ensure you’re providing them with the best diet for their unique needs.

In general, avoid giving your sick dog:

  • - Oils

  • - Butter

  • - Seasoning (this extends from something as simple as salt to garlic, onion, and every seasoning in-between — keep it bland!)

  • - Raw foods (egg, meats, and vegetables)

  • - Milk or dairy products

  • - High-fat foods

  • - High sodium foods

How do you transition back to a normal diet?

Once your dog is on the mend, you’ll likely want to get them back on their normal diet regimen. As long as the vet has ok’d the switch back, you can begin to take steps to transition your dog back to the food they’re used to.

One of the easiest ways to begin the transition back to your pup’s normal diet is to slowly — and in small amounts — incorporate their food into the meals you were given them while they were sick.

So, if you were offering chicken, rice, and sweet potato, start slowly adding their kibble into the mix. As the days go on, you can begin to eliminate the added foods one by one — less rice, then less chicken, then less sweet potato (or whatever your ingredients of choice happen to be!) until your dog is fully back in their normal diet.

If your pup was on a special diet because of stomach upset, you could consider adding a probiotic supplement to their meals (so long as your vet has ok’d it!) and finding digestive support treats to add to their diet, too (we can help with that)!

The takeaway…

Your dog’s diet is an integral part of what keeps them feeling healthy and happy. Ensuring that you know what to (and what not to!) feed your pup when they’re under the weather is essential. Knowing that many of these items are household staples allows you to stock up and have them on hand just in case you need them.

As always, be sure to confirm with your vet before altering your dog’s diet to ensure that you’re giving them the nutrients they need to heal and be well.