Prep Your Pup

Nowhere Will You and Your Dog Need Each Other More Than in a Sur­vival Sit­u­a­tion

RECOIL OFFGRID - - Contents - By Alexan­der Crown

Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Ve­teri­nary Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, 36.5 per­cent of U.S. house­holds have dogs — that’s a lit­tle over 43 mil­lion. With the re­cent nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in Hous­ton, Puerto Rico, and Cal­i­for­nia, it’s cru­cial to keep your pets in mind when mak­ing your bug-out/ in plans. Our furry friends do have a few spe­cial needs, and may also re­quire a spe­cific type of care in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions. Movies and video games of­ten show large well-trained pure­breds as the ideal sur­vival com­pan­ion in post-apoc­a­lyp­tic set­tings, but even a small mutt can be a real as­set for its alert­ness and com­pan­ion­ship. Ei­ther way, our pets are our fam­ily, and we need to be ready to sup­port them.

We spoke with Dr. Emily Gar­rett, DVM, a vet­eri­nar­ian who spe­cial­izes in large an­i­mal medicine, surgery, and or­tho­pe­dics. Gar­rett re­in­forced the im­por­tance of pre­par­ing to care for your four-legged friend in emer­gency sce­nar­ios.

“Dogs have been known to step up to the plate in all kinds of sit­u­a­tions: warn­ing their own­ers of in­trud­ers, sens­ing dan­ger be­fore it hap­pens, and a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent jobs that dogs have been trained for. These can in­clude sens­ing blood sugar in di­a­bet­ics, alert­ing own­ers of seizure ac­tiv­ity be­fore it hap­pens, and find­ing lost peo­ple. Their acute senses and un­wa­ver­ing loy­alty make them far bet­ter com­pan­ions than some hu­mans, and we should be ready to care for them.”

A Brief His­tory

Man and dog have been work­ing to­gether for mil­len­nia. Ev­i­dence shows that early wolves were do­mes­ti­cated by man to aid in hunt­ing ef­forts. It’s also the­o­rized that early hu­mans were aided in Eu­rope, elim­i­nat­ing com­pet­ing Ne­an­derthals with the help of their four-legged com­pan­ions. Many guard dog breeds in his­tory de­vel­oped from farm and work­ing dogs, and their loy­alty to their own­ers made them prime choices for roy­alty.

Dober­mans, Rot­tweil­ers, and Ger­man Shep­herds all have roots to work­ing dogs of the past. As time has gone on, we still see how dogs can be an im­por­tant part of our lives and of­ten our ca­reers. From fam­ily hunt­ing dogs and mil­i­tary work­ing dogs to the “lap dog” breeds that alert us ev­ery time a car drives by, our dogs have a place by our side and de­serve the same level of loy­alty that they give us.

Plan Ahead

Your dog is part of your life and there­fore should be a part of your sur­vival plans. Know­ing your ca­nine and its needs is the first step to this prepa­ra­tion. Be sure your dog is up to date on all vac­ci­na­tions and sees the vet­eri­nar­ian reg­u­larly for check­ups. Gar­rett says to es­tab­lish a re­la­tion­ship with your vet — they are there to make sure your an­i­mal is healthy and safe.

Sim­i­lar to your long-term food stor­age for your hu­man fam­ily, have a sup­ply on hand for the dog. An easy way to plan your dog’s food is to mon­i­tor ex­actly how much it eats. Ev­ery time a bag of food is ex­hausted, make note of the date. Do this over the course of sev­eral months to ac­count for sea­sonal changes. From this in­for­ma­tion, you can stock­pile sev­eral months of dog food eas­ily. Wa­ter needs are sim­i­lar to a hu­man, with ½ to 1 ounce per pound of body weight per day.

Whether you’re a road war­rior roam­ing the waste­land with your throat-rip­ping Shih-Tzu or holed up in your house with a Corgi, dogs are sus­cep­ti­ble to in­juries. Know­ing the signs and treat­ment pro­ce­dures can mean life or death for your furry pal. Here are a few in­stances to be aware of:

Shock: Much like hu­mans, dogs will ex­pe­ri­ence shock dur­ing trau­matic events. Di­ag­nos­ing and treat­ing shock in ca­nines is paramount to the an­i­mal’s sur­vival. Gar­ret gives the fol­low­ing ad­vice for dog lovers, “Es­tab­lish a base­line with your pet, and know their de­meanor. Know what is nor­mal for your pet, color of the gums, tem­per­a­ture, heart rate, as well as res­pi­ra­tion rate.” For some con­text, a healthy Labrador will have a tem­per­a­ture from 99 to 102 de­grees, a heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute, and a res­pi­ra­tory rate of 12 to 20 breaths per minute. Check with your vet on what the ex­pected healthy vi­tal signs are for your spe­cific dog.

Signs of shock in­clude:

Pale or white gums

Heart rate over 150 bpm

Fast breath­ing, greater than 30 breaths per minute Weak­ness and anx­i­ety

Treat shock by lay­ing the dog on its side and el­e­vat­ing its hind legs with a pil­low or pack. Stop any bleed­ing through a tourni­quet or pres­sure dress­ing. Pre­vent body heat loss by wrap­ping the dog with a space blan­ket. If the dog isn’t breath­ing, per­form car­dio pul­monary re­sus­ci­ta­tion (CPR) by mas­sag­ing the dog’s heart for 10 to 15 sec­onds, then give 10 to 15 sec­onds of mouth to nose breath­ing. Gar­rett says to sing “Stay­ing Alive” to keep a good rhythm. Con­tinue this method un­til the dog re­sumes breath­ing. Once the dog is sta­bi­lized, seek a vet­eri­nar­ian as soon as pos­si­ble. Or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Red Cross of­fer train­ing on proper ca­nine and fe­line CPR. See side­bar for de­tails

Heat­stroke: Dogs can be more prone to heat-re­lated in­juries, es­pe­cially breeds that are dark in color and with thick hair. Dogs do not sweat like hu­mans and cool them­selves via res­pi­ra­tion in the form of panting. Dur­ing stren­u­ous ac­tiv­ity or aus­tere con­di­tions, dogs will al­ready be stressed. With the on­set of heat­stroke, your com­pan­ion may not last long.

In the event your dog is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing heat­stroke, it may dis­play bright red gums/tongue, in­creased sali­va­tion, a ner­vous or scared ex­pres­sion, or a rec­tal tem­per­a­ture in ex­cess of 105 de­grees (ad­mit­tedly, this method is a lit­tle less con­ve­nient to check, but may be nec­es­sary). If these signs are present, the dog will need to be rapidly cooled. Use the fol­low­ing meth­ods, if they are avail­able:

Sub­mer­sion in cool wa­ter (mi­nus the head, of course) can be ef­fec­tive at low­er­ing the core tem­per­a­ture.

Ap­ply ice packs to the head and neck area to re­lieve ex­cess heat Pro­vide the dog with as much wa­ter as wanted Mas­sage the dog’s legs to in­crease blood flow Move the dog to shade and, if avail­able, rub iso­propyl al­co­hol on the dog’s paw pads Shade, rest, and wa­ter are the keys to pre­vent­ing heat­stroke. Ex­tra cau­tion should be taken with short-nosed dogs, like Bos­ton Ter­ri­ers. If you’re hot and tired, so is your dog. Be sure to take ad­e­quate breaks dur­ing long move­ments or times of ex­er­tion. If heat­stroke does hap­pen, sta­bi­lize as best you can in the field, but seek ve­teri­nary treat­ment im­me­di­ately. Se­condary con­se­quences of heat­stroke may be­come fa­tal if left un­treated.

Punc­ture Wounds and Lac­er­a­tions

Punc­ture wounds en­com­pass a va­ri­ety of in­juries, rang­ing from step­ping on a sharp ob­ject to the dog be­ing shot. In­juries should be treated quickly and with care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to pre­vent in­fec­tion. If the dog has suf­fered in­juries to the ex­trem­i­ties, ap­ply­ing a tourni­quet to stop blood loss may be nec­es­sary. Ac­cord­ing to Gar­rett, a tourni­quet should be used if the limb is sev­ered or badly bro­ken. For lesser in­juries, a tourni­quet may not be ad­vis­able due to pro­longed pres­sure caus­ing dam­age to healthy ar­eas. Clean the area around the wound with wa­ter and an­ti­sep­tic, then cover with a dress­ing. Try to pre­vent the dog from scratch­ing or bit­ing the ban­dages. Get the dog to a vet­eri­nar­ian im­me­di­ately.

If the an­i­mal’s chest or ab­domen has been punc­tured, as­sess the dam­age. The use of hemo­static gauze is ap­pro­pri­ate to aid in clot­ting and slow bleed­ing, but this should only be done if you’re sev­eral hours away from pro­fes­sional help. Wrap the wound tightly. If the in­jury has caused in­ter­nal or­gans to be ex­posed, try to wash any de­bris away and gen­tly push them back into the body. Cover them with a damp cloth. Treat the dog for shock and seek vet­eri­nar­ian help im­me­di­ately. Do not al­low the dog to lick or chew on its wound.

If the dog has been stabbed or im­paled by an ob­ject, don’t re­move it. If pos­si­ble, cut down pro­trud­ing ob­jects to a smaller size to pre­vent un­nec­es­sary move­ment. Wrap the ob­ject and se­cure the dress­ing to the dog’s body to fur­ther sta­bi­lize it and pre­vent more in­ter­nal dam­age.


Most dogs are good swim­mers, but some breeds may strug­gle to stay afloat. Re­cently the news was lit­tered with sad sto­ries of dogs sur­viv­ing (or not sur­viv­ing) dur­ing the in­tense flood­ing along the Gulf Coast. Make no mis­take, dogs are sur­vivors to the core, but even they can be­come tired af­ter many hours of pad­dling. Look into pur­chas­ing a floata­tion vest for your dog, es­pe­cially if you live near hur­ri­cane or flood-prone ar­eas.

Re­triev­ing a scared, tired, pan­icked dog from wa­ter can be very dan­ger­ous. Use a pole or rope to pull the dog to

safety, if pos­si­ble. En­ter­ing the wa­ter should be avoided, but if nec­es­sary bring an ob­ject the dog will be able to cling to. Once the dog is out of the wa­ter, if it’s con­scious, dry the dog and keep it warm.

If the dog has lost con­scious­ness be­gin by emp­ty­ing the lungs of wa­ter. This can be done by hold­ing the dog up­side down and swing­ing it side to side and up and down. With larger dogs, squeeze the chest area while hold­ing the dog up­side down. Lay the dog on its side and be­gin CPR. If the heart is beat­ing, but the ca­nine isn’t breath­ing con­tinue ar­ti­fi­cial breath­ing with the mouth-to-snout method. Con­tinue to treat the dog for shock.


As much as we love them, dogs do dumb things like swal­low toys, socks, bones, or other ob­jects that are im­pas­si­ble to their air­way. When Fido has a blocked air­way, be care­ful when check­ing or help­ing with chok­ing as the dog may be in a panic and bite.

Open the dog’s mouth by hold­ing the top jaw and rolling the jowls over the teeth and open the bot­tom mandible with your other hand. At­tempt to re­move the ob­ject with your fin­gers or use a blunt ob­ject to pry the item out. If you’re un­able to re­move the ob­ject with your fin­gers, a mod­i­fied ab­dom­i­nal thrust will be nec­es­sary.

For a large dog, sim­i­lar to a hu­man, thrust at the base of the rib cage. For a small dog, turn it up­side down and shake the dog vig­or­ously back and forth. For the small dog, if grav­ity didn’t help, put the an­i­mal on its side and squeeze be­hind the ribs while push­ing up­ward to­ward the throat. Re­move the block­age with your fin­gers. If the dog has lost con­scious­ness dur­ing this es­capade, be­gin CPR.

Fi­nal Thoughts

Treat­ing and pre­vent­ing in­juries in dogs is sim­i­lar to do­ing so for hu­mans. You know your dog best, and it’s im­por­tant to pay close at­ten­tion to its be­hav­ior. Dur­ing dif­fi­cult times, you and your dog will be stressed. Much like hu­mans, your dog is go­ing to rise to its level of train­ing and phys­i­cal abil­i­ties. Small dogs may need to be car­ried while you’re on the move, so prac­tice car­ry­ing your dog in ways that are com­fort­able for both of you. El­derly or dis­abled dogs may sim­ply need to be pulled in a wagon or trans­ported to safety in a ve­hi­cle.

As a re­spon­si­ble dog owner, you should prac­tice rel­e­vant skills with your dog. Take them for walks with their packs, tra­verse dif­fi­cult ter­rain, or bring them to a body of wa­ter to prac­tice swim­ming. This will help both of you un­der­stand ex­pec­ta­tions as well as bring at­ten­tion to ar­eas of weak­ness. Al­though car­ing for a dog in a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion is an added re­spon­si­bil­ity, with ad­e­quate prepa­ra­tion your four-legged friend can be one of your great­est as­sets.

Older dogs may re­quire med­ication or spe­cial di­ets. Don’t for­getto in­clude these items in your bugout sup­ply.ClarkandCom­pany/is­tock­

Ca­puski/is­tock­photo.comLike hu­mans, all dogs need reg­u­lar ex­er­cise.Keep­ing them (and your­self) fit is a sim­ple way you can dou­bledown on your odds of sur­vivaldur­ing a cri­sis.

Bill Ox­ford/is­tock­ Cal­cu­late how much food your dog con­sumes per month and use that to de­ter­mine an am­ple sup­ply of backup food that can be used in an emer­gency.

Bill Ox­ford/is­tock­ Dogs may in­stinc­tu­ally not ex­hibit any pain when they’ve been in­jured. Be sure to check your dog thor­oughly for in­juries fol­low­ing any dis­as­ter.




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