Monday, June 27, 2011

First Aid Kits

Now that we've talked a bit about disaster preparation, let's talk about first aid kits.  The following are just guidelines and the best resource for being prepared for first aid is going to be your own veterinarian.  If they do not see emergencies, particularly after hours, know who to call if something happens and how to get there will likely be as valuable, if not more so, than using precious time when the more critical thing is to get the dog seen as soon as possible for the best outcome.  Especially if you are performing a community service (i.e.-police K-9s or SAR groups), it will likely be worth your time to inquire at the nearest emergency facility what they recommend for your precise needs.  While I have not personally taken one of the Red Cross first aid courses, they may also be a good resource and information on them can be found here:

Like human first aid kits, first aid kits for dogs will vary considerably depending on who is carrying them.  Some handlers may never have taken a first aid course in their life while others work in the medical or veterinary medical field.  It doesn't help to carry what you haven't been trained on how to use as you don't want to waste time on trying things you have not been trained to do.  In addition, the smaller the pack, the more likely you are to have it in your car or near you when it's needed.  The needs of working and performance dogs are also going to be different.  For example, a SAR dog searching the rubble pile or in the field will have a different likihood of injury than huskies in sprint races.  Flyball dogs will be subjected to different stresses on their bodies than field trial dogs.  That being said, there are a few common things that will be helpful to have in any first aid kit.  While you can purchase a dog first aid kit in specialty stores and online, you can also put your own basic first aid kit out of supplies you can get at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, or certain pet/farm supply stores for under $30.

-Vet Wrap:  2"
-Gauze squares (3" x 3" or 4" x 4")
-Medical/athletic tape

-exam gloves (I prefer nitrile/latex free)
-triple antibiotic ointment:  generic Neosporin.  Do not use on puncture wounds or extensive/draining wounds. 
-sterile saline:   for wound flush.  These now come in these neat spray bottles.  They are a bit pricey and run out quickly though
-muzzle:  no first aid kit should be without one!  I prefer the basket muzzles, but the cloth ones are easy to store)
-slip leash:  invaluable if you see a dog on the side of the road kind of thing (note:  don't put yourself or other drivers in harms way to catch a loose dog!).  Slip leashes also can double for muzzles
-the phone numbers of the nearest vet hospital and/or emergency clinic taped to the inside lid of the kit.  ALL trials should have the club secretary or other designated person call around to see who is open and what their hours are for weekend trials.  You may be able to save money by not shipping them to a more expensive emergency clinic if you call ahead to local clinics, who also appreciate the heads up on what's coming in.

All these can be stored in a small Rubbermaid-type or desk organizer type box that can fit in anyone's car or at the registration table at an event.  Small toolboxes are another way to store these.  I also recommend keeping a few items that dogs may not necessarily need, but would come in handy for the humans in your training group.  For example, I had a Benedryl "pen" last year in my first aid kit that came in very handy when a little boy at our July PSA trial was stung by a wasp.  I've also had decoys cut themselves and need a quick wound cleaning.  Other "human" items that are good to have:

-Band-aids, lots of 'em.  :-)
-Hand sanitizer
-Anti-histamine topical: often has Benedryl/generic diphenhydramine for insect stings
-Instant cold packs:  good for injuries, heat exhaustion, and insect stings.  These don't get quite as cold as reusable cold packs, but work fairly well

You can also keep a larger, more "advanced" kit if you feel comfortable doing so.  I often have people ask about suturing or stapling cuts or lacerations, particularly if they are out hunting or are doing SAR fairly far from "civilization."  You essentially have six hours as the "golden time" to suture up a wound for optimum results.  Suturing or stapling a wound also does very little good if the bleeding below the surface has not stopped.  Pressure using gauze is best while getting the animal shipped out.  Some other items to consider:

-duct tape:  ALWAYS useful.  :-)
-several paint stir sticks:  for splinting limbs, often free from paint or hardware stores
-oral Benedryl:  ask your vet for the dose for insect stings
-large beach towel or blanket to use for either a stretcher or to prevent shock
-jumbo cotton balls
-small bottle of dog shampoo or Dawn dish detergent
-rectal thermometer
-lubricating jelly
-kotex feminine pads:  for heavy bleeding
-eye irrigation solution
-booties for injured paws:  depending on the paw size, an infant or child's sock can also work in a pinch
-bandage scissors

Some working dog handlers, such as narcotics detection handlers, may also want to ask their vet about carrying reversal agents for accidentally ingested narcotics, if available.  I hope this list gives you a few things to think about.  Keep in mind it is not exhaustive and you may need different items based on the needs of your dogs (and the humans training with them!).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Disaster Preparation

I'm back!  I spent a good bit of the last three weeks down in Joplin, Missouri helping the ASPCA with tornado disaster relief.  I also just got back from a two day seminar sponsored by SEMA on emergency animal sheltering put on by the Humane Society of Missouri.  I'd like to share a few things I learned about preparing for a disaster in consideration of your dogs, be they strictly pets or working dogs.  Before Joplin, I was a bit lax on preparing for this sort of thing as in central Missouri, we are not in hurricane or wildfire country, not directly on a flood plain or earthquake fault line (unlike many of our other Missouri residents).  We mostly just get the odd tornado watch or warning that was more of an annoyance that interrupts a TV program than something to be taken seriously.  Until I went down and saw the destruction of the worst tornado in recent history.  Just a few days after my first trip back from Joplin, the sirens rang for a tornado warning and I immediately put on long pants, boots, grabbed my cell phone, wallet, and cash, and prepared to get in our walk in closet!  After seeing the destruction, I will never take a tornado warning lightly again!  I took some video and photos from my first trip a few days afterwards seen below:

A disaster plan does not need to be complicated.  But it does need to happen.  One of the most important lessons I learned was that you must communicate!  If you must evacuate your home, have a plan outside your area to take your animals.  FEMA and other disaster agencies learned from Hurricane Katrina that people will not always evacuate without their pets. I was at a Red Cross co-location shelter for four days where they did amazingly allow animals, but many do not.  Let others know of your plans and have a meeting place both near your home and further away.  Cell phone communication the day of and after in Joplin was sketchy at best and interestingly, many used Facebook updates from their phones as a way to communicate they were alright.  You can also use something like the Safe and Well website on the Red Cross:

So in preparing for a disaster with animals, what can you do?  Here are some tips I learned both from my experience in Joplin and from the SEMA course:

-have photos of your pets.  Most people have camera phones and taking a photo of each and storing on your phone will help if you become separated (assuming your phone is still operating!)
-have an emergency kit.  This kit should contain the follow:
  • 3 days worth of food (dry or canned).  I recommend keeping the kibble in waterproof bags, such as in Seal a Meal bags, to keep out both vermin and water.  Many cans have a pop top these days, but don't forget a can opener!  Collapsible bowls are also easy to find in pet supply stores.
  • 3 days worth of drinking water.  For most mammals (dogs, cats, horses, other livestock), most mammals drink approximately 1 gallon per 100 lbs of body weight per day.  This is a VERY rough approximation.  Obviously this will vary by the situation and the weather conditions
  • All medications 
  • A pet first aid kit.  These are available commercially or you can also put one together for less than $30.  In the next entry, I will cover my recommendations for a first aid kit
  • Photos of your pet and the most recent vaccination records.  Vaccine records are important to have if your pets need to boarded on an emergency basis.  Keep these in a gallon sized ziplock bag to avoid getting wet
  •  Dawn (plain) dish soap.  In a chemical spill or flood, Dawn is particularly helpful for decontaminating your pet.  There are many unknown nasty organisms or chemicals in flood waters that will need to be scrubbed off.  Remember, if your home is underwater, it's likely the farm store with the pesticides/herbicides and the auto parts store with the car batteries, oils, and solvents are too!
  • Carriers (small dogs and cats), spare leashes, and collars with extra ID tags.  For ID tags in general, I recommend putting the phone number of an out of state good friend or relative on the ID tags in case you or your phone are somehow incapacitated
-Another important tip for your emergency kit and first aid kit is to check it regularly!  When you change your clock for day light savings time, replace your battery in your smoke detector and take a moment to look at your kit to make sure it is still intact and does not require any updating of the contents.
-Crate train your animals.  Some dogs and many cats are not used to being contained in a crate, which will be enormously stressful if your animals will need to be kept there for any length of time during or after a disaster.  There are many resources on crate training dogs and cats and acclimating them beforehand is critical.  Trying to dig out a scared dog or cat from under the bed while sirens are going off is not the best use of your time.
-Microchip your animals and just as importantly, make sure the contact info is still good with the company it is under
-Do a few test runs to allow you to grab your own personal effects (wallet, cell phone, computer external hard drive or laptop, etc).  Care for yourself before you address your pets, as they won't be able to get your help if you are incapacitated.  Put small dogs and cats in carriers and large dogs on a leash or in crates in your safe area (interior bathroom/closet, basement, cellar) if possible.
-Use the stickers that are often given out at pet trade shows or elsewhere that state that animals are on the premises to alert emergency teams at every major access point, not just by the front door.

Hope that gives you a few things to think about to potentially save the life of you and your animals.  Next entry will be concerned with a first aid kit for pets.