By: Alaskan Outlaw – December 9th, 2020
It’s a quiet Thursday night, you are relaxing in front of the television when your dog begins to whine an instant before you feel the bang. Your whole home shutters, then within seconds, the floor moves back and forth, your armchair swaying in synchrony to the floor. Plates and glasses rattle within the kitchen cabinets with doors tapping, and inevitably something falls off a shelf and shatters on the floor. You are surrounded by creaking and moaning as your home struggles to absorb and dissipate the energy of a 6.5 earthquake that is obviously pretty close and shallow. Instantly, you and your family rush to climb under your dining room table, latching on to the table legs, and each other. Meanwhile, your dog stands in the center of the dining room watching you, while attempting to keep all senses activated for any danger. The dog remains out in the open until someone in your family yells out for them to come to you. When the dog arrives under the table, he is greeting with an embrace, the dog panics and bites the holder. The dog is under an enormous amount of stress and is incapable of understanding what is going on. Your family members are upset and panicking, thereby further stressing the animal. Within moments the home comes to rest, and things seem to calm down. Within seconds the first aftershock hits with similar actions, although not as strong, it lasts for about 10 – 15 seconds. When the dust settles, and once again the earth is quiet, you and your family climb out from under the table and begin to survey the damage. Your dog also emerges, and it seems he has transformed again to the sweet dog you had before the quake, although somewhat disorientated. There are tons of reasons we need to include pet control in our emergency plans, and we need to be very cautious about guessing the disposition of the animal under duress.
Greetings, and welcome friends, family, neighbors, fellow veterans, Alaskans, and Americans wherever you are. Welcome to the Alaskan Outlaw podcast, I am the Alaskan Outlaw, and I will be your host, for what I hope will be an informative discussion about a subject that is near and dear to my heart. During any news broadcast regarding a natural disaster, I always see a stray pet, lost and afraid in the background. In all the chaos, a human partner forgot their commitment. This has led me to culminate my thoughts about caring for our pets (particularly canines) before, during, and after, a natural disaster, or community emergency. In addition, in my opinion, many dog owners fail to remember that the commitment we make to our pets include helping them understand the chaotic sights and sounds associated with these interruptions to our normal lives. Without the intrinsic knowledge of what is happening, many animals resort to their natural instincts, which can lead to a giant misunderstanding with the pets bearing the brunt of the misguided repercussions.
Many of those pet owners out there seem to forget about their dogs during a natural catastrophe, essentially demoting them to property during an emergency. This changed for me decades ago when I was introduced to the term “working dog”. If you’ve never worked with a “furry tornado with laser-beam focus” before, I am here to say that my canines are my partners. They are not “my kids”, nor are they just “my dogs”, I have formed a life-long partnership with them. As I learned to understand the mind of my canines over the years, it struck me that many pet owners don’t fully understand the responsibilities of being a K9 dog handler. Because whether you considered it or not, the day that little heart stealer came home to your house, you became one. From that day, until he/she passes, their whole world revolves around you. As the “alpha” of your pack, your job is to teach them everything, and responding to emergencies is just one very small part.
Today I’d like to talk about keeping your canine safe, and healthy. I’m not going to discuss anything about what’s the best of this, or that. I am going to discuss some basic first aid, and general field cares for your partners. Every time I see a natural disaster happen on the news, I instinct fully look for and find, somewhere in the background, is a homeless pet wandering around aimlessly. They are confused, they do not comprehend what just happened, or why their owners abandoned them. So, with this vision in our minds, I’d like to introduce you to my bible of canine care. Written by Dr. Randy Ackerman DVM originally written in 1994, the book, “Field Guide to Dog First Aid”, has become my “go-to” for field care of injuries to my canines. With that said, I’d like to introduce you to some of the injuries you’re likely to see, some basic first-aid, and finally some behavior changes you may see in “old yeller” when they are injured, or scared.
Later in the show, I’ve invited an awesome dog handler from here in south-central Alaska. With more experience, and success than most of us will ever see, I’ve put some questions to him to get his perspective on ensuring that we do the right things to help our furry partners get through to the other side, safe and secure.
So, let’s start with some common injuries as well as the basics of first aid. When talking about common treatments with dogs, we need to cover the same basic A, B, C’s that we cover when we are with human patients.
- A is Airway. Is their airway clear of obstruction? Breathing cannot happen without a clear airway. Check your dog’s airway as far back as you can see, if there is something close attempt to dislodge it, otherwise, you can perform a modified Heimlich maneuver on the dog to attempt to clear the airway. If you know the item may be sharp, attempt to get to a vet hospital quickly.
- B is Breathing. Can the animal breathe on its own? Dogs need oxygen just like humans, so ensuring that they can breathe is paramount. They can last about three to five minutes without oxygen before brain and organ damage occurs. So, is your dog breathing is the first task in first aid.
- C is circulation. There are plenty of locations to identify a dog’s heartbeat and take their pulse. The bigger the dog, the slower the heart rate, but it should be between 60 and 120, remember that with any stress the dog’s heart rate might be slightly elevated. If there is bleeding attempt to stop it by applying a bandage just like you would a human. TIP: Take your canine’s pulse tonight, this way you are familiar with what it feels like. Too weak, or too strong a pulse could be indicative of something far more serious.
Common sense right? We all know about the superpower of common sense, but I have faith that you all have it, so let’s consider some common injuries your partner might get during the scenario we described at the top of the show.
A. Cuts and lacerations. Whether it be from a falling object or shattered glass on the floor, your partner may need some bandaging. In the case of stepping on glass, you’ll want to make sure any shards are removed. Rule of thumb, deeper than a half-inch, bandage it in place, make sure the animal is immobilized and that the dog can’t get to the puncture site, get to a veterinarian hospital. Depending on the amount of damage, this might also include punctures by nails or screws in boards that have come loose and now lie on the floor. Much the same as human first aid, if possible splint it all together, however, chances are good the dog will immediately attempt to free itself. In which case, direct pressure on the puncture site, get to a vet hospital.
B. Broken bones. In most cases, these can be treated the same way you would for a human. Splinting the dog into a natural position as possible is the key to success. Be extremely careful here, as broken bones can be excruciatingly painful, so the dog might become very aggressive, so both of you don’t need injuries, keep your eyes fixed on the animal’s disposition as much as possible. Snarling is an instant stop sign, that might indicate that there is a mouthful of pain about to be unleashed. Keep your small children away from the animal during field treatment.
C. Burns. This becomes a little more complicated when the animal is covered in fur. Sometimes dogs can be burned severely without a visible injury due to their fur. The best thing is to start cooling down the area. A sopping wet towel covering the area, with water slightly lower than room temperature is ideal to start the process. A modified “cone of shame” will reduce the possibility of infection by preventing the dog from licking the site.
D. Poisoned. This should be a major concern, as canines have no idea what carbon monoxide is. Some may also become confused with fluid in the house after the shakeup, thinking it’s safe to drink. This is one of the reasons I ensure that part of our earthquake exercise is to secure the animals on a leash, to ensure they don’t eat or drink something they’re not supposed to. However, you are going to have to rescue them from carbon monoxide or other poisonous gas, they don’t know.
E. Smoke or dust inhalation. This is similar to poisonous gas, as the dog may see their mission as trying to save you, they don’t recognize the smoke or dust as problematic. They are going to rely on you to make sure they are safe from this hazard. Many animals are killed each year because of smoke inhalation, and it’s because they don’t know what to do.
F. Weather related. Many of us don’t think about something with a fur coat having a possibility of getting hypothermia, but you can bet your favorite boots they can, and do. In addition, while they do have an undercoat, when all of that is wet and cold, they very easily can get frostbite, or hypothermia, from being exposed to the elements. In much the same way we would treat humans, we need to gently warm the affected areas, get them warmed up (slowly), and dried off thoroughly. Just a tip, watch the animal as if they have gotten frostbite on their toes or pads, they may try to chew off the afflicted part, so keep an eye on the animal’s behavior.
In most of these cases, dogs may go into shock, and while it may look very different, it can still be just as fatal as it is in humans. The key ingredient that I have found is comforting the animal. “Good dog” goes a long way here, soothing, and comforting voices, if the dog allows it, a gentle rub, or scratch behind the ears should have a calming effect. You will also want to make sure it keeps its head up. Again, try to make any movement of the animal (into the truck to go to the vet hospital) as easy and as comfortable for the dog. If you have to keep everyone together, try to maintain the space around the dog from other humans.
I definitely recommend getting the book identified before and keep it in your first aid kit, so you’ll have everything together should you ever need it. The book lists dozens of injuries of canines and some basic first aid for them. If you have made the commitment to this animal, you owe it to them to help them in their darker times. Having the book at least, allows you to have some idea should you ever find yourself in a survival situation with a canine.
When an animal is stressed, regardless of the cause, we can witness some possible behavior changes that may be detrimental to the understanding of the human partner. Many fail to remember that dogs are descendants of natural predators, the wolf. Under extreme stress, animals may resort to their natural instincts, which may be more primal in nature, leaving their human partners confused and disenfranchised by the behavior. While we may misunderstand it, this is completely natural and normal, and being prepared for it is what will separate successful partnerships from unsuccessful ones.
Recently I had a chance to catch up with a good friend and awesome dog trainer/handler, Josh Cropper of HPR Working Dogs in Wasilla, Alaska, or as I have come to know him as THE REAL “dog whisperer”. We shared a phone call where I asked home some basic questions, and I got his take on taking care of canines. A formerly active duty Marine, Josh has decades of experience training canines at all levels of performance, and quite honestly he has become my role model (even tho he’s much younger than I am).
Possible Action Steps
Talk to your vet
Do your research
More information about the book.
https://www.svanimal.com/randy-acker-dvm/ is the website for Dr. Randy Acker DVM
More information about Josh Cropper and HPR Working Dogs
hprworkingdogs.com is Josh’s website, and 907.351.1771 is his phone number for any questions about canine training
Ketopetsanctuary.com is the site Josh mentioned for constructing the diet for your furry partner.
Gundogsupply.com is the site Josh mentioned for the flat collar that can include your contact information.