How to Put Together a K9 First Aid Kit

Since I mentioned the K9 First Aid kit in my blog about having an emergency plan for your dog, I have been asked, how to put one together. Putting together your own kit might be cheaper than buying one and you can add to it over time. Here are some important tips and ingredients for your K9 First Aid kit:

1) Only add tools, medications and other things you actually know how to use. While Subcutaneous Fluids look fancy and professional in a kit, it is useless, if you do not know how to actually use it.

Check for mucus membrane color and capillary refill time

2) The best kit will not help you much, if you do not know if your dog is sick or can’t diagnose what is wrong. In order to know that there is something going on with your dog, you need to know your dog. Over a course of a couple of weeks, take your dog’s vital signs every second day: temperature, heartbeat, mucus membrane color and capillary refill time. Check eyes and ears, so that you become familiar with your dog and your dog gets used to a quick health check. Write down the values on a piece of paper. For temperature and heartbeat, repeat the check after exercise and about 10 minutes after exercise to see, how much the levels rise and how fast they go down again. Knowing your dog’s regular body temperature, which can be between 100 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on breed and individual dog, can help you to quickly diagnose hyperthermia (heat distress and heat stroke) – or hypothermia (core body temperature too cold) and treat it fast. This alone can save your dog’s life! Calculate the average levels of your dog’s vital signs and write them on a piece of paper, which you will keep in your kit. It’s easy to have it laminated at a store like Kinko’s.

3) If your dog has certain conditions, like allergies, seizures, etc., make sure, you have a supply of their medication in your kit. Ask your vet to prescribe you an extra amount, so you can store it in the first aid kit.

4) Here are some basic parts of a K9 First Aid kit:

  • Saline – to wash wounds and eyes
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) – 0.5 to 2mg per pound, every 8 – 12 hours, relieves allergy symptoms. If your dog suffers severe allergies (e.g. bee sting), this will NOT save your dog, but may give you additional time until you are at an emergency clinic.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – one teaspoon per 10 pounds induces vomiting. Do NOT induce vomiting if your dog is losing consciousness or has ingested anything, that could hurt your dog when coming up (sharp objects, chemicals, etc.). Do NOT use Hydrogen Peroxide for anything else. It has been used for washing wounds in the past, but has now been proven to be ineffective. Instead use an antibacterial spray or cream.
  • Antibacterial wash, spray or cream – do not use a ‘triple antibiotic’ such as Neosporin. Although many dog owners, even veterinaries, recommend it, they can actually be poisonous to dogs. Safe antiseptics to use for dogs are for example Betagen or simply Betadine.
  • Scissors – to cut bandages
  • Bandages (non sticky)
  • Adhesive tape – band-aids won’t stick to the fur
  • Sterile pads and/or Gauze 
  • Alcohol Pads – can help disinfect a small area, but is also poisonous to the dog when ingested.
  • Digital Thermometer – non-digital thermometers contain mercury and can harm you and your dog, if they break. Digital Thermometers are safer and usually faster.
  • Non-latex Gloves
  • Water
  • Tweezers – can be used for ticks or small objects sticking in your dog (e.g. piece of glass in the paws). Do not pull out any bigger objects or objects which are deeply imbedded. Instead secure these objects with gauze or bandages around it and go to the emergency clinic as quickly as possible.
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Chart with your dog’s normal vital signs and levels – temperature, heart rate, mucus membrane color, capillary refill time
  • List with emergency clinic contacts, Poison Center telephone number, regular veterinary contact

5) And here are some items I pack additionally:

  • White, clean towel – if I suspect my dog having a wound, but I can’t find anything, I can wipe him or her down with a white towel, to find any possible bleeding fast.
  • Muzzle – a dog in pain will bite. It does not matter, if it is your own sweet dog or not. Do NOT muzzle your dog if you induced vomiting, if your dog is losing consciousness, if your dog is in heat distress or has difficulties breathing.
  • Collapsible bowl – can be used as a water bowl
  • Additional leash – a leash can be used as a muzzle
  • Wire cutter – if the dog in distress has a choke chain and the head swells (e.g. due to allergies), the only way to get the collar off, might be the wire cutter.
  • Syringe/Pipette – makes it easier for your dog to swallow Hydrogen Peroxide or other medication.
  • Flashlight
  • Treats – to calm your dog
  • Activated Charcoal – can help with a poisoned dog. Always go to the emergency clinic as fast as you can or call the Poison Center if you suspect poisoning.
  • Styptic Powder – can stop bleeding fast. Only used on small wounds.
  • Honey – is an antibacterial substance that can seal a clean small wound and prevent infection.
  • Survival Blanket – can help a cold dog or a dog in shock
  • Instant Cold Wrap – can numb a painful area and cool down a dog. To cool down a dog in heat distress, do not place cold wrap directly on the fur. Use a towel or bandages and apply between the legs, ears or stomach area. Do not restrict the dog’s mouth or nose.

A good K9 First Aid can save your dog’s life

Check your kit regularly and have an inventory list. This helps you in case of emergency to keep track of what you have and where you have it. Check for expiration dates and replace old products. Take a First Aid class and keep current – you can also keep notes on how to perform K9 CPR, etc. in your kit.

Keep a kit in your car, if you frequently travel with your dog and check with your veterinary for more ideas on what items could be life saving. A K9 First Aid kit is just that: First Aid. Always check with your veterinary or when in doubt, go to an emergency clinic right away. Cuts, abrasions and bruises in your dog’s face may need veterinary checks because of their vicinity of the eyes. Dog bites can leave small but very deep wounds and need to be cleaned very thoroughly. Always keep a close eye to wounds and abrasions, if they do not appear to heal, if the area gets more sensitive or seems swollen, go to a veterinary or emergency clinic.

The number of the Animal Poison Control Center is: 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435) – there is usually a fee for the call.

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Are You Ready When Disaster Strikes?

There is an emergency scenario in almost all parts of our world: Fires, earthquakes, hurricanes… Some are more common than others, but we all live with the thought of one of those potential dangerous situations. So much so, that there are now even TV Shows about people, who prepare almost full time for emergencies, like Nat Geo’s latest hit ‘Doomsday Preppers‘. While they might take things to the extreme, we all know, that we need to be prepared in case of a situation, where food and water are not easy to come by, or evacuation is mandatory. One of the worst things about emergency situations is, that they are unpredictable. They can hit from one second to the next. Even if there is some warning, like in the case of a wild fire closing in or a weather related disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, there may be little time to prepare. That is why it is so important to have a plan. For us dog people, we have to plan for our canine family members as well. Catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina showed us, how essential it is, to even have crates for the dogs. Most shelters will not allow dogs, unless they are crated. And that is yet another example, of why it is so important to crate train your dog.

An additional leash can be used as a muzzle

Let’s start with the obvious: food and water. Most organizations recommend a 3 day supply. Personally, I like to have enough for two weeks. Dogs need about 1.5 ounces of water per pound body weight, when they are relaxed. Be generous though. When dogs are stressed (which is likely in an emergency scenario) or active, they start panting and their need for water increases. When you store dry food, make sure, it is in a safe air tight container, to avoid any water getting in and spoil it. Change it every once in a while, so it doesn’t expire. Use the same brand you normally feed. You don’t want to change your dog’s food in an emergency situation and risk diarrhea, when you might be short on medication, veterinary access or water. If you feed raw food, you might want to think about a high quality kibble to store for emergency situations, since freezers may not be an option. If your dog food is in cans, don’t forget the can opener!

Paperwork may be more important than you think. Keep a copy of your dog’s current license, vaccination records, medical data (allergies, medication) and other information, such as name, date of birth, regular dog food, temperament (e.g. fearful of strangers) – and don’t forget a list with emergency addresses, emergency clinic and your regular veterinary. If you have to evacuate to a shelter, they will want to see your dog’s records – and if you have to leave your dog behind, you can tack a copy of all these information on your door for the rescue personnel. I recommend to have these records laminated. In case you do have to leave your dog behind, keep them safely contained inside with enough water for a couple of days and some food.

A K9 First Aid Kit can save your dog’s life

Next: Medical supplies. Prepare a K9 first aid kit – it is essential to have, not only in emergency situations. I even keep one in my car. A lot that goes into K9 first aid kit can also be used for humans – two flies with one strike. Additionally, I always store a couple of cans of pumpkin, no sugar or any other ingredients, the regular store-bought kind. It helps with diarrhea and constipation and most dogs like it enough to eat it with their regular food. Make sure, you have an adequate amount of your dog’s medication, if needed. Talk to your veterinary clinic about getting a bigger refill, so you can store some in an airtight container. They might also be able to recommend supplies for the first aid kit.

You will also need every day items, such as your dog bed, water and food bowls and pick up bags. I include some favorite toys to play and some chew toys like a Kong. Store everything in a carton box, so you can just grab it and go. An additional set of leashes is also useful.

Once you have everything organized, you need to make a list of nearby shelters, including motels, who are pet friendly. Write down the number of your local shelter – they may have more information in case of emergency. Make sure your dog’s tags are up to date and include your phone number and address.

All these steps don’t take much time. Dedicate a Sunday afternoon or Saturday morning to create an emergency preparedness kit and a plan! Enlist the help of your kids to put it together, so they are more aware, too. FEMA has some interesting and useful articles on their website, here is one specifically for pet owners:  FEMA – Information for Pet Owners.

Why it is a good idea to crate train your dog – and how to do it

Lately, dog crates have gotten some bad rap by animal rights activists. On PETA’s website, an article states that ‘Crating is a popular because it is convenient. But this inappropriate practice deprives dogs of the opportunity to engage in some of the most basic activities, such as walking around, stretching out to relax, and looking out a window. Obviously, it prevents them from relieving themselves or indicating the need to relieve themselves as well.

Transporting a Dog

Fact is, no one should leave a dog in a crate for longer than 8 hours. For me personally, even 4-5 hours is a long stretch. But a crate can provide safety and stress relief for the dog – not to mention, it can help speed up the recovery from an injury or illness. There are many reasons to crate train your dog, but here is one of the most important ones: if your dog has to spend a night at a veterinary clinic, it’s the wrong time to get her used to the crate. Being sick in a strange and scary environment is enough to deal with. If it’s the first time in a crate, the confinement will make it even more frightening. A crate should be a place where your dog feels safe and comfortable. It should be big enough, so the dog can stand up and turn around.

Dogs are not people. While the thought of us being closed in a small space with no way out may be abominable, dogs like to spend time relaxing and sleeping in a den. If trained correctly, it is a safe haven for them. I have observed many dogs, who, when being overextended or tired, walk right in their crate, curl up and chill. A crate should never be used as a punishment and it should be a dog’s territory – meaning, don’t let your kid crawl into the crate with the dog in there, as cute as this may look. Respect your dog’s place. For those of us, who have high drive, active dogs, with no ‘chill button’, a crate can provide out time and give your dog a much needed break.

Here’s another great use for the crate: it is the best way to transport a dog when driving in a car, keeping dog and passenger safe. When crate training a dog, it is important to take lots of time. Don’t rush into it and don’t think, you can just shove the dog into the crate, close the door and voila!

  • Put your dog’s food dish in the crate and let her eat in the open crate. Don’t close the door. Let her go in and out as she pleases.
  • Put a treat in the crate and let her go in and get it. Connect a word to the action (e.g. ‘Crate’)
  • When she is going in the crate reliably, start closing the door once she is in the crate, only to open it immediately again and praise her.
  • Have her go in the crate without a treat, close the door, open it again and give her the treat
  • Once she goes in comfortably without a treat, you can start using a treat dispenser toy like a Kong filled with yoghurt or peanut butter, or a bone, if you are comfortable with it, put it in the crate, close the door and let your dog go at it. Make sure you open the crate door before the dog is done with the treat.
  • Now your dog is ready for the next step. Have her go in the crate, close the door, step away for a couple of seconds, then come back and let her out again. Repeat often and increase the time you are away from the crate. Open the door only if your dog is not barking.

If you have a dog who has severe separation anxiety or fear issues, you may have to change and adapt some of these steps and add more. I recommend starting crate training as early as possible and whenever the dog is tired from exercise.

So, yes – a crate can be a cruel confinement, if used incorrectly. But with some common sense, it is an important tool, a safe haven and a great way to transport your dog.

Exercise and Training are Key!

How to Avoid a Flea Infestation

Soon it’s flea season again. Everyone who has dogs, knows these itsy black shiny parasites, lightning fast and jumping up to 7 inches high and 13 inches long, that’s about 200 times their body length. It sets the world record for jumping for all known animals, relative to body size. Their anatomy is amazing, really, but I, for one, am not interested in seeing one up close and live. At least not anywhere close to where I live and most certainly not on me or my dogs.

Wildlife can bring fleas into the backyard

Fleas come out of their hiding once it gets warmer. Their ideal temperature is 70 – 90 degrees and they can overwinter easily. Adult fleas can survive two months to a year without food. When you see a flea in your home, you need to know that there are over ten times more, hidden as eggs, larvae and pupae, which you can’t see. Creepy, isn’t it?

Dog fleas can be kept in check with once-a-month topics or flea collars, but not everybody wants to treat their dogs with these chemicals, if it is not necessary. Fleas are not a given fact, if you have a dog – even if you take your dog everywhere you go. Some dogs (and humans) will never encounter a single flea. Preventative medication is not without risk for dogs – some react with severe allergies or reactions. Furthermore fleas can become used and immune to some of these drugs. Unless your dog is severely allergic to flea bites or you suffer from a weakened immune system, monthly treatment can be avoided. Here are some tips on how to decrease the risk of having fleas without heavy medications:

  • Vacuum often. A neat little trick is to keep a piece of a flea collar in the bag or container of your vacuum cleaner. The collars are inexpensive and can be cut into several pieces. Fleas will be killed when they come in contact with the collar. Otherwise you will need to empty the bag or container immediately, as fleas can survive and jump out.
  • Wash the dog’s (and your) bedding once a week. Also clean kennel areas, dog houses and crates, if your dog uses them and don’t forget patios and porches.
  • Groom your dog. At least check the fur every two days. Fleas like the area around the tail or the chest and stomach, where dogs can’t scratch easily. Special flea combs can help trap fleas. You can also find out if your dog has fleas when you find dirt in their fur. Take a white paper napkin, remove the dirt, add a little water and rub the dirt in the napkin. If it appears red, it may be flea dirt.
  • Use a dehumidifier with air conditioning. Flea larvae need at least 50% humidity to survive.
  • Washing your dog with a mixture of apple vinegar and water can help to repel fleas. You can also fill a spray bottle with this mix and spray your dog every once in a while. It is also said that giving your dog garlic can be effective repellents, but be careful. While garlic has many excellent attributes, too much garlic can be toxic to your dog!
  • Eliminate food and water sources for flea carrying wildlife such as racoons.

Natural remedies for killing fleas include cedar oil and diatomaceous earth. Use the same care when applying these methods as you would with conventional products.

If you find fleas on your dog, by all means, use topical flea medication. But don’t forget that your dog might react to it. Watch your dog over a period of at least 48 hours. Because of possible severe reaction, I recommend topical solutions over pills. If your dog reacts, you can wash off the topical medication with soap and water. When applied with the above tips, you should be able to easily combat a flea infestation without the monthly chemical sledge hammer.

Shaking the head could be a sign of fleas being in or on the dog's ears

Understanding Ingredient Labels Amidst Dog Food Scare

There are many aspects that go into finding the right food for your pet. When you hold a bag of food in your hands, skip over the cute dog and savory meat pictures. What really counts are the hard fact ingredients. And boy, can they be misleading! Per the Food and Drug Administration, the ingredient list on a food label is the listing of each ingredient in descending order of predominance. This means the first couple of ingredients make almost the whole food. If the first ingredient on the list is corn, then your food is pretty much made out of, well, corn. But from here, it gets tricky – the order the ingredients are listed on dry food is made before the food is processed and the water extracted. So if chicken is one of the first ingredients, it may actually turn out to be one of the last, after the food is processed, because it is obviously a lot lighter when dried. Yet it will still be on top of the ingredient list. Here are some other potentially misleading labelling practices:

  • Chicken Byproduct Meal, for example, reads like there is still chicken meat included. It consists however of dry, ground, rendered parts of the carcass such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines. There is typically no muscle meat included.
  • Animal fat is obtained from the tissues of mammals and/or poultry in the commercial processes of rendering or extracting (AAFCO). Since it is not required to originate from slaughtered animals, the source can include roadkill or euthanized animals. This is the same for anything that is named ‘Animal’ like Animal Digest or Animal by-product.
  • Brewer’s Rice are the small milled fragments of rice kernels that have been separated from the larger kernels of milled rice (AAFCO). This processed product misses many of the nutrients containted in whole ground rice and brown rice.
  • Propylene Glycol is an approved additive for dog food. It is toxic to cats and may be lethal for dogs in higher dose. It is also used in anti-freeze.
  • Wheat Gluten is the substance remaining when wheat is washed to remove the starch (AAFCO). It is used as a binder in dry food and has almost no nutritional value. Corn Gluten Meal similarly has almost no nutritional value.
  • Beef and Bone meal are rendered product from beef tissues, including bone. These are parts not suitable for human consumption.
  • Meat and Bone meal has the same source issue as the ‘Animal’. It can be from any mammal, including roadkill or euthanized animals. It can also contain animals like rats or sick animals, some may have been treated with medication.
  • Poultry does not mean chicken! It can be sourced from any fowl. Poultry Meal does not even have to origin from slaughtered fowl, which again, makes it possible to include roadkill and euthanized birds.
  • Any type of sweeteners, like corn syrup, cane molasses or plain sugar, have no place in dog food. Just like salt (or Sodium Chloride) or yeast culture, it is being added to make the food more appealing to dogs.

So check the ingredient list when you are shopping for your dog’s food – compare different foods and check the Internet for more information. A healthy diet makes for a healthy pet!

Should Dogs Eat Raw Meat?

There is no doubt, that our dogs are meat eaters. Dogs have the digestive system of carnivores. This makes their digestion completely different than ours, even though many of us do so enjoy a juicy steak more often than not. Since dogs historically don’t cook their food, their digestive system is made to deal with the benefits and disadvantages of raw food. Dogs cannot chew as well as we can, their jaw does not move sideways and their teeth are made to rip off flesh of a bone. If you have a dog, you may have noticed that often they do not take the time to work their food in tiny pieces – instead they literally ‘wolf’ down as big parts as they possibly can. This may well be an explanation why they only have about 1,700 taste buds as compared to our whooping 9,000! Cats, who are true carnivores, have even less – they have to make do with just about 470. The dog’s saliva acts as lubricant and helps them to swallow big pieces of food. It also lacks the enzyme which helps us breaking down our food already while we chew. Once the food reaches the stomach, a very strong gastric acid helps process it. The gastric acid of a raw fed dog is normally stronger than ours and is partially the reason, why bacteria on food such as salmonella are not as big an issue with healthy dogs as it is with us. In the wild, dogs don’t only eat fresh kill but also food that has been laying around for quite a while. In fact, many dogs bury their food and eat it a couple of days later. I have observed my dogs doing that – not something for our noses, that’s for sure!

Dogs have a very short digestive system. It takes about 8 hours for them to digest food whereas we need between 24 and 72 hours. Their large intestines are only about 8 inches to 2.6 feet long, depending on the size of the dog, where as ours is about 4.9 feet long. When you look at true herbivores, such as cows and goats, theirs are even longer. Plant matter is much more difficult to break down and does take more time. And it makes sense to pass food that may rot, like raw meat, through the system much faster, while plants are less delicate.

So, is a dog strictly a meat eater? While meat should be the main ingredient in a dog’s diet, our canines absolutely benefit from different food sources. Many dogs like fruits, such as berries, apples or bananas. Leafy foods, such as herbs and veggies should be prepared in a food processor, frozen or blanched to make them adjusted for a dog’s digestive system. Feeding raw meat to healthy dogs can be great for them, but you may have to be extra cautious when handling it as we are more susceptible to things like salmonella. Dogs can lead healthy and long lives without being fed raw meat, but given their digestive system, they are made for it. Ultimately, it will depend on what you are comfortable with feeding your dog. And there is nothing wrong with that.