The Dog

Preparing for a Dog Emergency

Preparing for a dog emergency: 3 easy steps to set yourself up for success

“GET THE VET ON THE PHONE, NOW!” Will shouted at me as he burst through the bus door. Surprised, I told him to slow down – what was going on? Apparently Hilde had been poking around in the garage and found a box of D-CON rat poison, and now she wouldn’t give it up.

The day began just the same as any other day. Will, Hilde, and I woke up, grabbed breakfast with his parents and grandparents at their place in Montana, and then headed out to the bus to get a few hours of work in before lunch. Around 11am Will’s dad and grandpa came out to work on something in the garage, so we let Hilde out to stretch her legs: she’d been cooped up inside all morning. Fortunately for us, Will stayed outside for a moment, long enough to see her find the small yellow box of D-CON and pick it up. Once he realized what she had, she knew it was something “special” and didn’t want to give it up.

Hilde played keep away with the D-CON for 15 minutes before we were able to get it away from her. During that time the pellets in the open box foamed around her mouth, turning her tongue and muzzle bright baby blue. Once we were able to catch her we made a quick call to our favorite vet, and they told us to try to induce vomiting and get her to the emergency vet ASAP.

We got Hilde to vomit by forcing her to drink a (vet recommended) 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide. Of course, she did not want to drink it, so we had to force feed it to her using a large, needle-less syringe. She vomited on the way to the vet, located in Ennis Montana about an hour away.

The vet was able to look at Hilde’s vomit (so glad that we saved it!) and determine that she had not ingested enough D-CON to warrant additional treatment. We are incredibly lucky – that Will saw Hilde grab the box, that we were able to get it from her before she really ate any of it, that we had all of the materials on hand to make her vomit. This situation easily could have gone another direction, a direction that I don’t even want to think about.

On the way home from the vet I got to thinking about how often we’re in this situation. For some reason, Hilde is an accident prone dog: we take her everywhere with us, feed her the best food, and often put her needs above our own, but sometimes things just happen. 

It’s amazing how quickly a situation can go from bad to worse if you haven’t prepared for it ahead of time. There are a few key things that you can do to make sure you’ll be prepared if disaster strikes. Here’s what we do to keep our accident prone pup safe:

1. VET INFO

You have your vet’s information stored in your phone, right? (No? Go put it in – right now!) How about the phone numbers for emergency vets near the spots you like to vacation? Three times now Will and I have had to find and contact a vet on the fly, in the middle of an emergency, while on some sort of trip. The funny thing about emergencies is that they always tend to happen at the most inopportune times, like when you have just enough service to get a call out but not enough to do a google search.

I’m usually pretty good about adding vet info to my phone but hadn’t for Montana, which meant we spent 5 minutes trying to get service to search for the correct phone number… such a waste of precious time. After today, it’s my top priority for everywhere we go.

2. FIRST AID KIT

Living on the bus means that we have to be prepared for things that others might not, simply because we don’t have the ability to get up and run to the store at a moments’ notice. Hilde’s kit is one of those – it contains a lot of stuff that we’d like to never have to use, but will be happy to have if we’re in a pinch. This isn’t a full list, it’s just the extra stuff we’ve decided to add after getting in some sticky situations. Of course, we also have an extensive human first aid kit which would do the trick for most minor injuries.

  • Big Syringe & Hydrogen Peroxide – The first thing the vet told us to do when we called in about the D-CON was to give her 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. Of course, Hilde wanted none of that, so we had to force it down using one of these big syringes. I can’t stress enough how important the syringe was. Without it, there was no way we were going to get any of that peroxide down. It would also be helpful to talk to your vet to see what the correct amount of peroxide would be for your pup and write it on the side of the bottle, in case you ever have an out-of-service emergency.
  • Athletic tape & self adhering soft wrap – Telling a dog to settle down and apply pressure on a wound is a futile exercise: we learned the hard way last year when Hilde got a nick on her leg (pictured above) and needed 8 stitches. She was bleeding all over the ski slopes but still wanted to run and play with the lifties! Now we carry some sort of tape on every adventure we go (even the very short ones where we don’t take a full first aid kit) on so that we can hold pressure on a wound without having to physically restrain her.
  • Curved Kelly Forceps– I found out about Kelly Forceps from Will’s family who love fly fishing. Originally a surgical tool, fishermen use them to safely remove the hooks from fish mouths before they set them free. I love the Kelly Forcep because they allow you to squeeze with the heel of your hand, like scissors, rather than pinch with your fingers. They also lock down, holding whatever you need to grab good and tight. We use them for tick removal, but I could see SO many more uses: porcupine quills, cactus spines, you name it!
  • Benadryl – Another great one that requires some research before use. Benedryl is safe for dogs but it’s important to ask your vet how much to give your pup based on their weight, and write it on the package so you remember in an emergency. Then if your pup gets stung by a bee while you’re 10 miles into the backcountry, you don’t need to haul out of there as fast.
  • Towels – You can never have too many towels. They’re especially useful for immobilizing a stressed dog’s head when you need to access their mouth and don’t want to get bit.

3. PET INSURANCE

This time we got of lucky and didn’t need any extensive treatment, but that hasn’t always been the case. There are great arguments for and against paying for pet insurance for your dog, and I can see the points of both sides. Some dogs go through life without a scratch, never needing vet care other than their yearly checkup. Other dogs (ahem, Hilde) rack up medical bills like nobody’s business. When Hilde was a puppy we opted for a plan with a $100 deductible, 90% reimbursement rate, and no yearly limit from Healthy Paws, and I am so glad we did. It costs us about $33 a month and has more than paid for itself in her first year and a half.

Hilde has required almost $10,000 in medical treatment since she joined our family – treatment that we wouldn’t have been able to afford without the insurance. I can’t tell you how good it feels to walk into an emergency and focus on your pet’s care, rather than money. I still remember sitting in the emergency vet clinic in Boulder when Hilde was just a few months old. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her, so they gave us two options: let them keep her overnight ($$$$) or take her home and see what happens. We let them keep her (to a tune of almost $1,500!) and they figured out that she had bronchitis and were able to treat it before it got any worse.

Though we haven’t tried any other companies, we have loved Healthy Paws so far. Their claims process is easy, their reimbursements always come in less than two weeks, and their customer service is an absolute delight. If you’re in the market for pet insurance, we highly recommend them! You can also check out Pet Insurance Review for more info on the various providers out there.

LIVE & LEARN

Sometimes the hardest thing about a dog emergency is the “moving on” part. I often feel guilty over the predicaments that Hilde gets herself into, but I know that we are doing the best we can and that all we can do is learn from our mistakes. Have you ever had a dog emergency? Do you have any tips to add to this list?Preparing for a dog emergency: 3 easy steps to set yourself up for success

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  • Hi, came across your blog from the SF Gate Article on your bus. Another thing you should have in case of a dog emergency is a pet first app. I run a vet directory and you can download it, along with other resources, at http://vancouvervetinfo.com/pet-resources/ Enjoying reading your blog. Regards, Phil

  • Jessica Rhae

    Pet insurance is something I struggled with for a long time. I thought – when I had one dog – “I’ll just save a set amount monthly in a pet emergency fund.” That wasn’t happening and, when I got a second dog, I decided I’d better get pet insurance. It’s not cheap but I didn’t want to have to make a split-second decision about my dog’s health based on money alone. Insurance is something you pay for but hope you never need. I was sure I would never need it for Chester. Then he got a blockage in his stomach that cost around $6,000 to get removed. I’ll be getting about 85% of that back because of pet insurance (because of this incident alone, I will almost break even with the insurance fee I’ve been paying for 6 years on both dogs). My friend, who does not have pet insurance, is facing a really hard decision right now. Her dog has a slipped disk and it will cost at least $5,000 to repair. She can’t afford that. She’s currently trying to come up with the money any way she can. If not, she may have to do the dreaded 🙁 I love her dog (I watch him when she is out of town and was his dog walker for 3 years). It makes me so sad. I get that not everyone can afford pet insurance. I have Trupanion and what’s cool is you can adjust your deductible so that the monthly fee IS something you can afford. My deductible is currently $400 and I pay about $50 a month for Chester. If you raised the deductible to around $1,000, the monthly fee would probably be about half that. $1,000 is still painful and hard to come up with but I guarantee you that $6,000 is way more painful and difficult to come up with. I’m not trying to sell you on Trupanion, or necessarily pet insurance in general, but I am a believer and wanted to share my experience for anyone that might be thinking about it.