How to care for sick animals
It was embedded in us as veterinary students that 50% of animal healing is accomplished by just giving it that extra attention.
It is, indeed, true because one outstanding thing I notice is that the essence of being a good veterinarian is not necessarily in what we treat our patients with but how much of ourselves we give to them.
Most often some of the cases you think are hopeless tend to be just fine when you give them that extra love and care.
I, especially, admire farmers who are dedicated to the treatment and healing of their sick animals. However, you find those farmers who will just inject an antibiotic and leave the sick animal alone to fend for itself. But you should see when a bull is sick then they start ailing with it. They become frantic and spend sleepless nights caring for it.
We can’t blame them though, because they say that importance is measured by how much time we are willing to invest. The more time you spend on something, the more you reveal its importance and value to you.
In this article, I wish to discuss a few general points on how to care for a sick animal. As farmers, we have to try to treat all sick animals almost like the way we treat our bulls because it is often more important to look after sick animals properly than to give them medication only.
The most important thing before you start any treatment is to isolate a sick animal from the rest of the herd. If there are more, assess if you can isolate them together or rather keep them separate. Some dominant animals might hassle others, even when they are sick.
It’s like they are shedding their frustration of being sick onto others by bullying them. It might be better to isolate sick animals according to size, age, weight, horns or no horns, as well as the severity of their conditions.
Actually, if we don’t have a ‘sick kraal’ or isolation camp, it’s high time we did that in our villages. We can even build some shacks and cement them with fresh cow dung mixtures of sand or sand with concrete.
In an ideal situation, the isolation bay/kraal should be a proper place of at least 50-100 meters away from healthy animals. It should shelter the animal from the sun, the wind or rain but still provides adequate fresh air. Make sure the animal has a clean dry place to lie on.
The second important point is to give plenty of fresh water and good food. I often tell dog owners to give their sick dogs some of those juicy tins or packets. I bet you can’t imagine yourself sick in a hospital eating oshifema (thick porridge).
You want to drink and eat healthy foodstuff like yoghurt, fruits, polony and viennas and drink 100% juices. That’s exactly how our sick animals need to be treated.
Sometimes, when they are too sick to eat, be there to feed them with your hand or a bottle as often as they can take. Remember that a sick hungry animal will find it more difficult to fight off the infection.
Another point of importance is to keep the animal clean and warm. You have to remove feaces or dung regularly to avoid flies accumulating around the sick animal.
Normally, healthy animals are able to keep themselves clean but sick ones are usually too weak to bother themselves with cleanliness.
Similarly, sick animals fail to regulate their body temperatures properly, thus, cover them with a blanket or a rug. After all, it’s all about what’s best for the sick animal.
Ideally, it is preferable to attend to the feeding and watering of healthy animals first before you visit sick ones. This will help you avoid spreading infections or contamination to the healthy ones.
Otherwise, you might have to disinfect your boots and remove your overalls after attending to the sick animals. In addition, after dealing with sick animals, it is important to always wash and store all equipment used properly. You also have to use a disinfectant to clean the sick bay thoroughly after the animals have recovered or died.
Prior to any treatment, it is crucial to consider the nature and severity of the ailment. As much as we wish every sick animal to recover, sometimes there is just no hope despite our care and support.
For example, there is nothing much that can be done for a bull’s broken leg. Even if it survives, it becomes lame.
Similarly, we have to be realistic in our approach to treatment and care of sick animals. If after, let’s say, one week of intense treatment and support, the sick animal is still worse off, it is much preferable to rather sacrifice it than watch it suffer.