Disaster Preparedness: Prepare a Pet Disaster Kit

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Pets are family – do you have a plan for your pet in an emergency? Including pets in emergency plans helps your family’s ability to respond to an emergency. Be prepared: make a plan and prepare a disaster kit for your pet.

Leaving pets out of evacuation plans can put pets, pet owners, and first responders in danger. Even if you try to create a safe place for them, pets left behind during a disaster are likely to be injured, lost, or worse. Before a disaster strikes, find out what type of shelters and assistance are available in your area to accommodate pets and include pets in your family disaster plan to keep them safe during an emergency.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Start today by including your pet in your family’s preparedness plans to protect the health of yourself, your family, and your pet.

Make a Plan

To get started, familiarize yourself with the types of disasters that could affect your area and consider your options for providing care for your pet(s).

Disasters can happen without warning, so be prepared:

  • Make sure your pet(s) wear collars and tags with up-to-date contact information and other identification.

  • Microchip your pet(s) – this is one of the best ways to ensure that you and your pet are reunited if you are separated. Always be sure to register the microchip with the manufacturer and keep your contact information up to date with the microchip company.

  • Purchase a pet carrier for each of your pets (write your pet’s name, your name, and contact information on each carrier).

  • Familiarize your pet with its carrier before a crisis.

  • Practice transporting your pet by taking them for rides in a vehicle similar to one you would be evacuating in.

  • Practice catching your pet, if needed.

  • Keep a leash and/or carrier near the exit.

  • Make sure you have proper equipment for pets to ride in the car (carriers, harnesses, pet seatbelts).

  • If you do not have a car, make arrangements with neighbors, family, and friends. You can also contact your local government to learn about transportation options during a disaster.

Sheltering in Place

When sheltering at home with your pet, make sure the room chosen is pet-friendly in the following ways:

  • Select a safe room, preferably an interior room with no (or few) windows.

  • Remove any toxic chemicals or plants.

  • Close off small areas where frightened cats could get stuck (such as vents or beneath heavy furniture).

Sheltering During an Evacuation

Contact your local emergency management office and ask if they offer accommodations for owners and their pets.

If accommodations are needed for your pet(s):

  • Contact local veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, and local animal shelters. Visit the Humane Society website to find a shelter in your area.

  • Contact family or friends outside the evacuation area.

  • Contact a pet-friendly hotel, particularly along evacuation routes.

  • Remember to take your pet’s emergency kit with you.

  • Make plans before disaster strikes for where you and your pets will go. Be aware that pets may not be allowed in local human shelters, unless they are service animals.

  • Check with:

    • Family or friends outside the evacuation area.

    • Pet-friendly hotels

      • bringfido.com or call 877-411-FIDO

      • dogfriendly.com or call 888-281-5170

      • doginmysuitcase.com or call 8880254-0637

      • pet-friendly-hotels.net or call 866-966-3046

      • pets-allowed-hotels.com or call 800-250-1625

      • petswelcome.com

      • tripswithpets.com

Prepare a Pet Disaster Kit

Prepare a disaster kit for your pet(s) so evacuation will go smoothly. Ask your veterinarian for help putting it together. Some examples of what to include are listed below; when making the kit, think about your pet’s basic needs, prescriptions, and paperwork.

Pet Disaster Kit Checklist for Dogs

Pet Disaster Kit Checklist for Dogs

Pet Disaster Kit Checklist for Cats

Pet Disaster Kit Checklist for Cats

Disaster Supplies for Pets

  • Leash, collar with ID, and harness

  • Appropriate-sized pet carriers with bedding and toys

  • Food (in airtight waterproof containers or cans) and water for at least 2 weeks for each pet

  • Food and water bowls and a manual can opener

  • Plastic bags for dog poop and a litter box and litter for cats

  • Cleaning supplies for accidents (paper towels, plastic bags, disinfectant)

  • Medications for at least 2 weeks, instructions and treats used to give the medications, and a pharmacy contact for refills

  • Flea and tick medication and heartworm preventative for 1 month

  • Documents

  • Photocopied veterinary records (rabies certificate, vaccinations, recent FeLV/FIV test results for cats, prescriptions, etc.)

  • Registration information

  • Recent photos of your pet

  • Contact information for you and friends or relatives

  • Boarding instructions, such as feeding schedule, medications, and any known allergies and behavior problems

  • Microchip information

  • A pet first aid book and first aid kit

  • Documents, medications, and food should be stored in waterproof containers

Protect Yourself from Injury and Illness

Emergencies can put stress on both people and animals, and natural disasters can contribute to the spread of some diseases. Exposure to inclement weather conditions, stagnant water, wildlife or unfamiliar animals, and overcrowding can put both you and your pet at risk for getting sick. Some diseases can be spread between animals and people, such as rabies, ringworm, leptospirosis, and diseases spread by mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks like West Nile and Lyme disease.

Knowing some practical skills ahead of time will help you be prepared to prevent illness and injury during a disaster.

How to Keep Yourself and Your Pets Healthy During a Disaster

  • Wash your hands after handling your pet, its food, or its waste.

  • Do not let your pet lick your face or hands.

  • Keep your pet up-to-date on all vaccinations and heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives.

  • Practice safe handling of your pet, because your pet may behave differently during a stressful situation.

  • Keep your pet in a carrier or on a leash.

  • Do not allow your pet to interact with other animals, especially wildlife and stray animals.

  • Report any bite wounds to medical personnel immediately.

  • Properly clean and disinfect cages and litterboxes. Wash your pet’s bedding regularly.

  • Avoid stagnant water, especially after flooding occurring after natural disasters.

  • Don’t allow pets to play in or drink contaminated water.

What To Do if You Are Separated from Your Pet

Make sure that your family is in a safe location before you begin your search.

If you are in a shelter that houses pets, inform one of the pet caretakers. Give the pet caretaker your pre-made missing pet handout.

Once you have been cleared to leave the shelter and return home, contact animal control about your lost pet.

Last, call or log into the microchip company to make sure all the information about you and your pet is updated and current.

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Osteoarthritis Rehab for Dogs

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Pain is often the main hindrance to starting a rehabilitation program. If a dog responds to pain management quickly, rehabilitation can begin as soon as possible and can continue based on the dog’s abilities. A rehabilitative medicine program can dramatically increase strength and mobility, improving the overall quality of life for dogs with osteoarthritis. In many cases, improvement can be seen within days. Regular exercise should continue long term but must be carefully controlled to prevent further injury.

What Is Rehabilitative Medicine?

Traditionally, treatment for osteoarthritis (arthritis) in dogs has focused on using medications to relieve joint pain and inflammation. Many veterinarians also incorporate joint supplements, weight control, and other management tools to give arthritic dogs more help. However, medications cannot improve a dog’s strength or fitness level, which directly affects a dog’s mobility. Rehabilitative medicine, also known by the term rehab, can help meet this therapeutic need. With proper undertaking, a rehabilitative medicine program can dramatically increase strength and mobility, improving overall quality of life for dogs with osteoarthritis. Some consider rehabilitative medicine a tool that is reserved for dogs recovering from orthopedic surgery or injury. However, because the principles of rehabilitative medicine are fairly universal, this therapy can also be very useful for managing dogs with osteoarthritis.

The overall goals of rehab are to improve a dog’s comfort, joint motion, and strength. During the early stages of osteoarthritis, pain relief is a primary goal, and rehabilitative practices can help accomplish that. As osteoarthritis progresses, the body undergoes other changes including reduced joint motion, loss of muscle mass, and decreased muscle strength. A well-structured rehab program can combat these complications as well.

What techniques and equipment used in rehab?

Pain is often the main hindrance to initiating a rehabilitation program. If a dog is in pain, even passive stretching and massage are uncomfortable. In contrast, if a dog responds to pain management quickly, rehab can begin as soon as possible and can continue based on the dog’s abilities. Pain medications, joint supplements, and other products can continue as needed to keep the dog comfortable, control inflammation, and promote a continued willingness to exercise.

The techniques and equipment needed for rehabilitative therapy vary depending on the needs of the patient but can include the following:

  • Stretching. Stretching exercises are an important part of any rehab program. Your veterinarian can show you how to do this properly. Moist heat can be used first to warm the muscles. Once the target muscles are warm, manual stretching can begin. In some cases, a hinged brace can be used to control range of motion for weak joints as they are flexed and extended to improve mobility.

  • Controlled exercise. Depending on a patient’s abilities, ramps, controlled leash walking, and agility courses can all be used as part of a rehab program. The key is to control the exercise and range of joint motion to decrease the likelihood of injury. If building ramps and purchasing agility course equipment is not convenient, pet owners can often achieve favorable results using controlled leash walks. The goal is to provide the dog with low-impact exercise (no leaping or jumping) to build muscle strength and tone without injuring the joints.

  • Underwater treadmill and swimming. Although generally only available in a clinic setting, an underwater treadmill is a very useful piece of equipment for patients undergoing rehab therapy. An underwater treadmill consists of a tank filled to a certain level with water (usually just below the dog’s hip area), with a treadmill at the bottom. Compared with walking on land, the underwater treadmill is easier on the joints and decreases the risk of injury. Compared with swimming, another popular method of rehabilitation, the motion of walking is advantageous because the action of walking is more predictable, and the patient’s speed can be easily controlled. In contrast, it is difficult to control speed for a dog that is swimming. Swimmers are also likely to flex their backs while swimming, making range of joint motion more difficult to control. Also, dogs walk with all four legs but tend to swim primarily with the front legs, so walking is a better exercise for dogs with rear limb problems.

Swimming does have benefits for dogs with osteoarthritis — it strengthens the forelimbs and develops core strength (chest and abdomen); this can be helpful for a dog that has lost overall strength because of chronic joint disease. However, the underwater treadmill is likely a better option for its ability to protect the joints, control range of joint motion, control level of exertion, and provide an overall conditioning and strengthening activity.

What are the therapeutic outcomes with rehab?

Your veterinarian may recommend and structure a rehab program for your pet or may refer you to a rehab specialist to get you started. Once a dog begins a rehabilitative medicine program, results are generally observed quickly. Pain relief can be the most rapid result. If a dog is having an arthritis flare-up, ice can be used with pain medication to provide quick relief. Improved limb use can be observed within days to weeks of initiating a program. However, progress depends on the degree of disuse that was present initially. A more chronically affected dog can be expected to take a longer time to respond. Improvements in overall strength can also be observed during the first few weeks of therapy.

Once initial improvements are made, the goal is to continue the program, modifying and increasing as necessary, to maintain the patient at a level where strength and mobility remain favorable. Ideally, regular exercise should continue long term but must be carefully controlled to prevent injury.

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What does it mean when your pet has an autoimmune disease like immune-mediated thrombocytopenia?

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Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMT) is a condition in which the animal’s immune system attacks and destroys blood platelets. Without platelets, blood cannot clot effectively, leading to internal or external bleeding. This can cause anemia, and is dangerous in times of injury or surgery. IMT can be a primary condition or it can be caused by another illness (including cancer, certain tick-transmitted diseases as well as some viral and bacterial infections). IMT generally responds to treatment, but it can be fatal. Relapses are common.

About Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMT)

IMT is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases result when the body’s immune system has become unrecognizable/does not recognize itself. In these cases, cells that normally attack invading viruses and bacteria begin attacking the body’s own cells, resulting in damage.

In dogs and cats with IMT, the body’s platelets are attacked and destroyed, resulting in reduced numbers of platelets in the blood vessels. Platelets (also called thrombocytes) are cells that are needed to form blood clots and repair damaged blood vessels. Thrombocytopenia occurs when there are too few platelets in the blood.

Adequate numbers of platelets are essential for survival. Platelets help repair obvious injuries, such as open wounds, as well as microscopic injuries that occur in day-to-day life. If platelet numbers are too low, uncontrolled bleeding can occur. If treatment is unsuccessful, the patient can bleed to death.

IMT can be a primary condition or it can be caused by another illness or event. The underlying cause of primary IMT is rarely determined. Female dogs are more likely to be diagnosed with IMT, but there is no corresponding gender predisposition in cats. Secondary IMT can be associated with certain cancers (including lymphoma); exposure to certain drugs (including some antibiotics); tick-transmitted diseases (such as ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis); and some viral and bacterial infections, including canine distemper virus in dogs and feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV, or feline AIDS) in cats.

Symptoms and Identifying IMT

Platelets are responsible for helping form blood clots and repair damaged blood vessels, which is why the most common sign of IMT is spontaneous bleeding or the inability to stop bleeding. If IMT is caused by another illness, additional clinical signs can result from the underlying condition. Clinical signs of IMT can vary in severity and include:

  • Weakness

  • Lethargy (tiredness)

  • Appetite loss

  • Vomiting blood

  • Bloody diarrhea or melena (digested blood that appears in feces)

  • Bruising on the skin

  • Bleeding from the nose

  • Bleeding from the gums

  • Bloody urine or bleeding from the penis or vulva

  • Coughing blood or difficulty breathing

Bleeding can also occur within the brain, causing seizures; within the eyes, causing blindness; or within the abdomen or chest cavity. Severe bleeding can be fatal, especially if it occurs rapidly. If significant blood loss occurs, additional clinical signs (such as pale gums, weakness and even collapse) may be associated with anemia (inadequate numbers of red blood cells).

Owners may also notice other evidence of bleeding, such as minor cuts and scratches that continue to bleed, a heat cycle that seems prolonged or excessive, or skin bruising after playing or grooming.

There is no specific test to diagnose IMT. Your veterinarian will likely recommend blood testing to help confirm a suspected diagnosis of IMT and rule out other conditions that can cause low platelet numbers.

Some veterinarians can perform initial testing at their offices. In other cases, tests are sent to a diagnostic laboratory and results are available in a few days. If your veterinarian suspects an underlying illness (such as FeLV or ehrlichiosis), he or she may recommend more testing.

Who is predisposed for IMT?

Certain dog breeds, such as German Shepherds and Old English Sheepdogs, may be genetically prone to developing primary IMT.

Treatment for IMT

Because IMT is caused by an overactive immune system, initial treatment is aimed at suppressing the immune system and stabilizing the patient. Steroids (given at high doses) are the most common medication prescribed. Additional therapy may include intravenous fluids and supportive care. If the underlying cause of IMT can be treated, such therapy is also generally initiated.

Some pets don’t respond adequately to steroids. In these cases, additional medications can be given to manage the condition.

During treatment, frequent blood testing is required to ensure an adequate response to therapy. Once a pet responds to treatment, medication dosages are gradually adjusted and blood tests are repeated periodically to monitor for relapses.

IMT generally responds to treatment, but it can be fatal. For pets who survive, relapses commonly occur. Your veterinarian may recommend periodic recheck examinations and frequent repeat bloodwork for the life of your pet to help identify and treat relapses early.

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What Vaccinations Does My Adult Dog Need?

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Dog Checkups & Preventive Care | Veterinary science, in conjunction with industry, has done a great job developing vaccines that are very safe and effective preventive measures. Vaccines keep your dog protected from serious infectious diseases. Diseases that, just a few years ago, were epidemics are now less common. It's not just a matter of more vaccines but also better vaccines that are more specific, provide longer protection, and allow your veterinarian to make recommendations appropriate for your pet.

Not all dogs need to be vaccinated for all diseases all the time. There are two general groupings of vaccinations: those that target “core” diseases and those that target “non-core” diseases.

Core vaccinations

Core vaccinations prevent diseases that are extremely widespread in their distribution and are easily transmitted. These diseases are commonly fatal or extremely difficult to treat effectively. One core disease—rabies, can be transmitted to humans with potentially deadly results. In summary, core diseases are the more contagious and severe diseases.

Core vaccines provide long term immunity, making yearly vaccination unnecessary.

Core vaccines include:

  • Canine distemper

  • Canine parvovirus

  • Canine adenovirus 1 infection

  • Rabies

Historically, these vaccines were recommended yearly but this is no longer the case. Duration of immunity from these vaccines have been proven to be at least 3 years. Rabies vaccines are sometimes administered more often based on state and provincial regulations. While not all vaccines carry a label that indicates they are effective for 3 years, current recommendations for core vaccines are that after the completion of an initial series, adult dogs should be revaccinated every 3 years.

Non-core vaccinations

Non-core vaccines protect against diseases that do not meet the core vaccine description. While all dogs are at risk for core diseases and must be vaccinated--risk of exposure, likelihood of infection, and severity of disease should be evaluated when making non-core vaccine recommendations. The indication for these vaccines should be based on a risk assessment that looks at local and regional incidence of the disease. The risk assessment should also take your pet’s lifestyle into consideration.

Non-core vaccinations may include:

  • Leptospirosis

  • Lyme disease

  • Canine cough complex

  • Canine influenza

These vaccines generally provide a shorter length of protective immunity, and dogs that are at risk for infection should be vaccinated every year.

How can you determine your dog’s risk of infection?

  • Having a conversation with your veterinarian is the number one way you can determine your dog's risk factors and which vaccines are recommended.

  • Lyme disease is no longer limited to the Northeastern United States. It is transmitted by deer ticks associated with white tail deer. The populations of deer are expanding and with them the incidence of exposure. While exposure and infection do not always result in disease, dogs considered at risk should be vaccinated and tested annually.

  • Vaccination against leptospirosis should be considered for dogs who are exposed to wildlife environments like ponds, or when urban and rural wildlife share the environment with your dog.

  • Vaccination against canine cough includes bordetella and parainfluenza vaccines. These diseases are respiratory infections and as such are transmitted from dog to dog. Boarding facilities, dog shows, dog classes, and parks where dogs play are all potential risks. Dogs exposed to these environments should be vaccinated yearly.

  • Canine influenza is a relatively recently described disease and a relatively new vaccine. It should be administered yearly for dogs considered by your veterinarian to be at risk.

All dogs should be examined by a veterinarian at least yearly and a complete history and risk assessment should be performed. This will assure that your dog remains healthy and is appropriately vaccinated.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian. They are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

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Tread Lightly: Snake Season & Pet Safety

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With summer in full swing, snake bites are on the rise—but understanding the reptiles’ behavior can help people and pets stay safe.

Cases of snake bites in emergency rooms are on the rise, and it will only become more prevalent as the season progresses. Snakes’ seasonal behavior is down to physiology. Like other reptiles, snakes depend on their environment to regulate their body temperature.

In the spring and fall, snakes are most active during the heat of the day. In the heat of the summer, however, they are going to be active during twilight and overnight hours, but will seek out shade and water to cool off during the daytime. Because of this, there is no time that is off limits to when your pet may encounter a snake. Weather is just one piece of the equation. With more free time and time spent outdoors in the summer, there are more opportunities for interactions.

While not all snakes are venomous, even nonvenomous snakes can bite when provoked.

Err on the side of caution. When we see a snake, we tend to be distracted or find difficulty in identifying the animal. It’s better to be safe than sorry. To minimize the chances of a snake encounter, it is important to understand what attracts snakes in the first place and what motivates them to bite.

Identifying snakes in Florida

There are several resources for identifying the common and uncommon snakes of Florida.

What attracts snakes?

Anywhere that has ample food (small rodents, birds, bugs, other reptiles), shade, and places to hide are likely going to have snakes. They try very hard to stay away from us, and only bite when they feel threatened.

Keeping Pets Safe From Snakes

When it comes to pets, the issue is that dogs and even cats tend to be curious about snakes—from cats swatting at a snake to dogs putting their faces a little too close— all of which can lead to a bite. Consistent precautions can help keep pets out of harm’s way.

Turn on flood lights, make some noise, and supervise your pets when they are let outside in the yard (especially at night). When taking your pets for a walk on a leash, keep them away from shrubbery, landscaping timbers, and vehicles parked on grass.

We do not suggest the aid of snake repellents, but rather make ones’ property less hospitable to snakes by clearing shrubs, brush, leaves, as well as removing hiding spots like wood piles or cars that have been sitting awhile.

When You Are Face to Face with a Snake

Snakes play a larger role in our ecosystem. Realize that they are not looking for a fight with humans. Without snakes, we would have an abundance of small rodents and other pests. Do not kill the snake!

Snake bites occur when people fail to keep their distance. Rather than approaching or attacking a snake, contact animal control for assistance. Animal control officers can safely capture and contain a snake before moving it to a safe habitat away from humans.

So what can YOU do? Simply keep an eye on the snake, so that you are able to help animal control locate the animal.

Did you know even a dead snake could present a threat? Although not common, it is still possible for some snakes to deliver their venom even after they have died. If you believe the snake to be dead, leave it alone for an hour and then use a tool like a shovel or a broom handle for removal.

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Removal Resources

Bradenton Wildlife Control:

(941) 404-8859

Sarasota Wildlife Control and Nuisance Wildlife Removal:

(866) 263-9453

Manatee County Animal Services:

(941) 742-5933

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