The Survival Item You Forgot About: Keeping Your Dog Healthy

When listing off survival items, a dog is often treated as an afterthought when they should be counted among the “people” who are planned for. Having a healthy dog in the field can save your butt from some of the dangers in a SHTF world, so caring for your dog is critical. The good news though, is that dogs and people do not differ all that much and the supplies list should be approached in the same manner as your own.

Dog BOBThe dog should have his or her own bug-out-bag that they can wear with food, water, a medical kit, food/water dish, and even boots and a jacket. Just like all the people, they are going to be packing their own gear into the field to sustain and protect them.

A dog’s feet are not that much tougher than ours, and miles over uneven and broken ground will cause cuts or, in the case of Phoenicians like me, burns to the pads. And, just like people, a core temperature below 95° F will result in hypothermia and death in a dog. Wet coats, short hair, and extreme youth or age all increase the risk for exposure and require special consideration when having their kits made.

A dog’s BOB should not be more than 25% of their weight and should be adjusted to have even weight distribution on both sides of the body and not slide around their back. Many of these bags have leash rings and can be found in subdued colors. There are even ones in MOLLE/PALS that you can make mission specific.

Food for your dog should be dry or semi-wet food for active dogs. The dog’s bag should have a few bottles of water and an easy to clean bowl that collapses or folds down to save space. The medial kit should have:

  • Small saline bottles
  • Self-stick bandage wrap, often called Coflex
  • Gauze rolls, often called Kerlix
  • Non-stick gauze pads (sterile)
  • 2×2 and 4×4 gauze pads
  • Blood stopper, often called Styptic powder or Kwik Stop
  • Splinting material (my favorite is the SAM splint)
  • A tourniquet
  • Betadine
  • Aspirin
  • Light colored gloves

Canine First Aid
So, now that we have covered some of the gear to protect your dog, we will now cover some of the actions that can be taken help care for your dog. It is advised that you take a formal class on canine first aid/CPR. The below information is only for emergency situations where professional care will be delayed or is unavailable. Always follow up with a vet if your dog is sick or injured.

When a dog gets injured, the actions should be much the same as they are for a person. Remember, however, that even great, peaceful dogs can bite when injured and stressed, so a muzzle should be placed on any injured dog before treatment begins, so long as it is not a head or neck injury and the muzzle does not obstruct breathing.

Once the muzzle is placed, we can begin to treat:

  • ABCs: Check the Airway to make sure it is not obstructed and that it is open. Next, make sure the dog is breathing. If not, provide rescue breaths. Third, check circulation. In this case, we are talking about major bleeding control. Here’s a great video on dog CPR.
  • Rapid Trauma Assessment: Once ABCs are complete, you will conduct a rapid trauma assessment, or blood sweep. With bare hands or with light colored gloves on, run your hands down both sides of the dog’s body, moving from head to tail, looking for blood and feeling for breaks/deformities.
  • Treatment: Once major injuries are identified, begin to treat them. Remember, more blood from a specific injury does not always mean a worse injury; Also remember, that not all serious injuries will bleed (like broken bones). Pay attention to were the injury is and think what is under that injury. If there is bleeding from a thigh and a small hole with little bleeding over the lungs, treat the injury to the chest first.
  • Stabilize Limbs: After controlling bleeding, we can now stabilize breaks. A soft form splint, like a SAM splint is great, but use whatever is available, such as sticks, hiking poles, etc…

If a dog is burned, stop the burning action by drenching in cool water (not cold – water that is too cold could send your dog into shock). If the burned area is small and the skin is not broken, we can apply some sort of burn gel. Other than actual burn gel, do not place any greasy or oily substance on a burn, which can increase risk of infection. After a burn is cooled, wrap with clean, dry, non-stick dressings. Change these dressings several times a day. If a dressing does stick, you can use sterile water (saline solution) to moisten the dressing to help remove it gently. Be sure not to pull any skin off with the dressing.

To treat cuts, irrigate the wound with sterile water, ensuring that all debris is removed from the laceration. If it is a small wound, you can place triple antibiotic ointment over the cut. If it is a large or deep wound, do not use any ointment not designed specifically for large or deep injuries. Now you can place gauze over the wound and wrap in place with Coflex. If you shave the dog, you can use duct tape, however the glue may cause irritation to the dog’s skin.

Extra Tips

  • Antibiotics for animals do not always require prescriptions and can be found at farm supply stores and feed shops.
  • Dogs can take Aspirin for pain. Do not give Aspirin to a bleeding dog, and do not exceed proper dosing for your pet’s weight. The dose is:
    • < 10 pounds: 40.5 mg (half of one baby aspirin)
    • 10-30 pounds: 81 mg (a full baby aspirin)
    • 30-50 pounds: 162.5 mg (half of a standard aspirin pill)
    • 50-100 pounds: 325 mg (a full standard pill)
    • >100 pounds: 650 mg (two full standard pills)
  • Dog can take Benadryl for allergies. The dosing is 1mg per pound of body weight. If in doubt, give a smaller first dose, then monitor before dosing again.

You will also want to ensure that your dog’s vaccinations are up to date, they have a proper sized collar with a valid tag, and that they receive regular check-ups.

Seth Belt

Seth grew up in Southern Arizona before joining the U.S. Navy. While serving in the Navy, Seth was an anti-narcotics operator and an anti-submarine operator for 5 years. He was lucky enough to travel to many of the Central and South American countries, as well as visiting many South East Asian nations and islands. One of Seth’s greatest joys from his time in the Navy was teaching new Sailors firearms education and safety. After leaving the Navy in 2010, Seth returned to Arizona and had a rough time learning how to be a civilian again, often working jobs that could barely pay the bills. After going to school, Seth became an Emergency Medical Technician in the Phoenix Valley, where he now lives with his wife and son.His areas of knowledge cover military, firearms, and emergency medicine.
Seth Belt

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