So your vet says "A few weeks of crate rest is needed here."
So what now?
Nothing prepares you for this. OK, you may have a dog crate anyway - but will this be the one to use? Probably not.
Crate rest is usually advised after major surgery following illness or an accident, and means that it is essential for your dog's movements to be controlled - and there is usually no better place to control movements than in a dog crate. But it doesn't end there!
You need to ask your vet exactly how much movement is allowed; what posture is best for the dog - lying on its side with legs straight out? Or on its tummy? And of course, how long will this go on as a period of 4, 6 or 8 weeks is not unheard of, and in some cases can be as long as 6 months. So its important you get this right.
The dog is usually confined in the crate almost full time, being let out for toilet duties only, and then only on a leash - certainly in the early days. You may even have to carry your dog to the toilet area. Discuss this with your vet so that early healing is not impeded. Don't allow your dog to become too excited on these toilet trips, and never allow any jumping up or bouncing. As they say - 'keep calm and carry on.'
It is essential that you choose the correct size of dog crate, and it is not unusual to choose a very big crate - 54ins / 60ins/ or even 72ins, although small breeds will obviously be OK in much smaller crates. You must agree the size with your vet, and have the crate waiting in your home for when the dog returns home, as even with very fast delivery periods, the dog needs the crate straight away - crate rest means crate rest. Croft have what is perhaps the biggest size range available from any supplier, so you should find the size you need.
And then you move on to the next phase. The recuperation.
Kitting out and positioning your dog crate.
Remember that the crate is about to become your dog's world view, so make it comfortable. Discuss everything with your vet in case there are special needs, but it is not unusual to include some comfortable hygenic flooring, such as Vetbed, which can be easily washed and dried - not forgetting to have two sets of almost everything so there is never a problem. Traditional dog beds are rarely recommended for crate recovery as they tend to dominate the dog's lying position. If you need to leave water bowls inside the crate then make sure they can be firmly secured within the crate, remembering that your dog may not be as agile as it once was.
The recovery crate must be kept in a draught-free position, yet be somewhere that the dog has a view of family life. This can cause a problem if there is too much going on and your dog has disturbed sleep. This is important because much healing is done during sleep. So have a crate cover or a blanket ready to hand to put over the crate giving your dog as few sleep impairment moments as possible.
Once you have chosen your dog crate and have done the basics of comfort, the healing process really does become a team effort with you and your dog. Boredom is often the biggest problem so be prepared to have lots of toys and chews, and use them on a rotational basis. More is better.
Companies such as Kong have a wonderful choice of strong and safe stuffable toys which you can pack with biscuits, treats, cheese or almost any tasty bit. You may want to tie the Kong to the side of the crate so that it does not roll out of reach and force unnecessary movement.
Chewing is a great relaxing pastime, but make sure that the chew is safe and will not cause choking. Of the nylon chews we always advise Nylabone chews, although other makes are available. However, don't go for the cheapest chew, or those which can be chewed open and expose a whistle or rattle which can be swallowed. Check out your local pet shop for quality puzzle toys - anything to fight boredom. It really is worth while spending extra to ensure safety and a feeling of well-being.
But don't go overboard with fattening treats. Remember that as your dog is not taking much exercise it may not need the usual intake of calories. Again, discuss this with your vet.
Two's company, so buddy up!
Does your dog like to be cuddled? If so give lots of cuddles, inside the crate if that is possible. Our larger crates will easily take you and your dog. You should also give lots of grooming and stroking - massage brushes are a great idea and avoid hair pulling. This will make your dog relaxed and less likely to want to get up and about - remember this is crate confinement so make it as good as you can.
You can also use this time to train your dog in simple tasks which demand little in the way of exercise - such as 'don't touch', 'sniff out the treat' and so on.
Some advocate the playing of relaxing music during your one-on-one time together avoiding noisy high tempo music. Relaxation is the key.
And finally .....
Crate rest is not great - much like being in hospital for a long time is not great, but it is necessary and can be made as pleasant as possible. Use the time to bond together.
Your first duty is to get the right size of dog crate, and be prepared to get another smaller one as healing progresses. No-one said it was going to be cheap, but you can make it rewarding and ensure the healing time is as short as possible.
This is an ongoing series of blogs about dog crates and puppy crates which is intended to be of help. If we have not answered whatever is troubling you yet then click on the link below and ask us to write a blog about your concern. Or if you have any other questions about crates, cages, play pens, dog runs, healthy diet or any other doggy question then let us know. If we can help, we will.