After surgery or serious illness, nutrition plays a major role in recovery. The right diet will help your dog feel better faster while giving muscles and tissues the support they need to return to a healthy state. It's normal for your dog to eat very little during the first few days of recovery, but if his appetite doesn't return, contact your veterinarian.
Protein is necessary for building and repairing muscle and tissue. After surgery or illness, your dog needs extra protein to help with the repair process and to enhance his immune system. While fat gives a dog's body energy for healing, fatty meats can cause stomach upset; so offer lean meats that contain only small amounts of fat. Recommended protein sources include chicken, turkey, eggs, lean ground beef and cottage cheese. All meat should be cooked, preferably by boiling, and diced into small pieces to make it easy to digest.
Complex carbohydrates give your dog's body the energy it needs to make repairs, whether muscles are knitting back together after internal surgery or stomach lining is thickening after a bout with parvovirus. Good sources of carbohydrates that are gentle on your dog's digestive system are cooked rice, pasta and potato. White rice is generally preferred over brown rice because it is easier for your dog to digest. Any type of pasta is suitable; potatoes may be white, yellow or sweet, but they should be boiled and not fried, and not raw.
Add a teaspoon of yogurt to each meal as a source of both protein and probiotics, which improve digestion. Check with your veterinarian before adding yogurt to meals for your recovering dog, however, since dairy products can give some dogs diarrhea and may not be worth the risk if your dog has been suffering from vomiting or loose bowels.
At the start of a bland diet geared for recovery from illness or surgery, the ratio of protein to carbohydrates should be 1 to 1. In other words, serve equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates. After about the first week, if your dog is getting better and has not had any problems with diarrhea or vomiting, gradually start increasing the amount of carbohydrates each day until the meals consist of approximately two parts carbohydrates to one part protein.
Offer your dog small meals every two or three hours rather than one or two large meals throughout the day. Start out by offering just a few teaspoons of food for his first meal. Make sure he keeps it down, and gradually increase the amount. Don't let him eat too quickly or too much at once. It is better for him to hold down the food than to eat more and vomit, causing irritation to his throat and stomach, and possibly straining an incision. Increase the amount of food after the first two or three days, slowly, until he is eating normal portions. When your dog has recovered, transition him back to his normal food by gradually adding a little of his normal diet to each meal and taking away some of the recovery diet, until he's completely feeding on his normal diet.
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