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Dr. Jo
Dr. Jo, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 2808
Experience:  DVM from Iowa State University in 1994; actively engaged in private regular and emergency practice since that time.
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How do I start to feed a dog who has been starved?

Customer Question

How do I start to feed a dog who has been starved?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Jo replied 1 year ago.


I'm Dr. Jo and I'm here to help you with your question about these dogs. I'm so happy you're going to be able to help them.

(typing more)

Expert:  Dr. Jo replied 1 year ago.

I'm so sorry you're having this problem, but glad you're looking for the information you need. You may join the conversation at any time by typing in what you want to say then clicking REPLY or SEND. Then we can chat back and forth until you're satisfied with the information I've provided.
So I may know we're properly connected and that you understand how the website works (including that I'll need to earn your good rating in order to receive any compensation for helping you), please type in a short response below. You may rest assured you'll have my full attention and will receive a complete response once I know you're there.
Thank you.

Expert:  Dr. Jo replied 1 year ago.

I'm also really glad you're asking, because there are some important steps to take to avoid causing new problems. Refeeding syndrome is a serious concern.

Expert:  Dr. Jo replied 1 year ago.

Depending on the severity of their situation, they may require veterinary care at first. In the hospital, I use the following guidelines for how to start feeding a starved dog...

First, it's important to be sure dehydration is adequately corrected before starting food. That usually requires IV fluids. Otherwise, feeding a dehydrated animal (or with electrolytes and acid base abnormalities) can be problematic.

Next, I use the dog's current weight to calculate their RER (resting energy requirement - in kcalories). I'm usually pretty conservative, to try and prevent problems related to volume intolerance (vomiting, nausea) or refeeding syndrome (metabolic abnormalitites associated with refeeding). We do not have good predictors of which patients will show these problems, so it is impossible to say how important is slow reintroduction in this case.

I usually give only 25% of RER first day, so it takes me 4 days to reach full RER. Closely monitor for any signs of food intolerance (nausea, vomiting, weakness).

The goal is to initially stabilize her weight, and then re-gain. Once you are at full RER for a couple of days and the dog is doing well, I would increase the amount fed by 10-15% weekly. Once you reach the desired body weight, start decreasing the amount of kcal fed by 5-10% to prevent further weight gain. Once she is weight stable at the weight you would like her to be, the kcal needed for that is her true maintenance.
I would probably use a lower fat diet (fat is usually very digestible but it is the most complicated nutrient to digest).

I know this all sounds very complicated, and I can help you sort through it when you return online.

I'll be going offline for the evening myself shortly, but will be notified of any response via email.

Expert:  Dr. Jo replied 1 year ago.


Just checking in to ask how the dogs are doing? Is there anything else I can help you with?

Expert:  Dr. Jo replied 1 year ago.
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Dr. Jo