We have all heard stories and seen images of dogs in hoarding situations. While often started with good intentions, these facilities are overflowing with so many dogs they are not able to be adequately attended to. Dogs may be underfed and malnourished, suffering from undetected medical issues, sleeping in their own feces, develop sores from time spent on rough surfaces, or be poorly socialized. Dogs rescued from these situations need some extra TLC.
Dogs that are underweight should be refed slowly. The skinnier they are the slower they should regain. Instinct urges us to quickly pack as many pounds on to eliminate protruding ribs, but too much food too fast can make a dog very sick. Increasing their intake gradually gives their bodies a chance to catch up and wake up. Bland diets are easier on the digestive system, but some pups need a few special treats in their food to entice them to eat. In some cases, dogs may be free-fed and overweight. This calls for a gradual decrease in food and a reasonable exercise regime. Healthy nutrition not only restores dogs to a healthier weight but improves coats and nails. It reenergizes a dog and prepares them to match the activity level of their new lifestyle. Proper grooming is also important to relieve discomfort and help a dog feel its best.
Mental health is equally important as physical. With so many dogs and so few caregivers, it is impossible for them to get sufficient attention from humans. Typically, they do not get out on walks or exposed to stimuli typical to everyday life. Depending on where they came from before the hoarding situation, they may or may not have experience interacting with people. It is easy for shyer dogs to become lost in the crowd and remain wary of their surroundings. Patience is key when introducing shyer pups to different types of noises and people. They may have handling sensitivities and not like certain areas of their body touched. Warning signs of being uncomfortable include ears tucked back, growling, and avoidance. Flooding a dog with scary things causes them to shut down. Moving at a slow, gentle pace allows a dog more freedom. Oftentimes as relationships are built with their people or as they get to play with other dogs, dogs gain confidence in the world around them and shed their shy exterior. It is good practice to accept a shy dog as they are and celebrate any level of progress made.
It is vital to have a veterinarian examine dogs from hoarding situations, as with so many dogs it is easy for conditions to go unnoticed. Even if we cannot see anything visibly wrong, the chances of this dog having recently received medical care are slim. If there is an issue, early intervention and treatment is typically the most successful. Hoarding situations have amazing dogs that make fabulous pets, they just may need a little extra time and care to acclimate into everyday life