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How to Be Prepared for a Dog Emergency - Rafferty -

How to Be Prepared for a Dog Emergency

Dog emergencies. No one wants to think about their beloved pet in a life-threatening situation, but your being prepared for an emergency could mean the difference between life and death for your pup.

In bringing a dog into our homes, we’ve taken on the responsibility to care for and protect them in every situation, so let’s resolve to be as prepared as possible and give our pets the greatest chance of survival in a dog emergency.

Dog Emergency Information File

Create a file for your dog’s important info if you don’t already have one. This could be a traditional file in a filing cabinet, or just a 3-ring binder. Keep this information somewhere safe and easily accessible in the event of an emergency, and make sure everyone in your home and your emergency contact(s) knows where this file is kept.

Include in the file:
Dog Emergency Information Sheet – download this free printable emergency info sheet, and fill one out for each dog in your home
• Copy of your dog’s license
• Copy of your dog’s rabies license
• Copy of your dog’s medical records
• Copy of any pet insurance information
• Photos of your dog, including photos of you with your pup (to help with identification if your dog is ever lost)
• Printout of our Animal Poison Control phone numbers


Free Dog Emergency Printable Download - How to Be Prepared for a Dog Emergency - Rafferty -


Add These Animal Poison Control Number to Your Contacts

If your dog eats something they shouldn’t, every second matters. Having access to immediate help can mean the difference between life and death. Save the phone number for your vet as a contact in your phone and add it to your favorites, so that it’s fast to access in an emergency. Also save the number of the nearest emergency veterinary facility.

There are several animal Poison Control hotline phone numbers you should have listed as favorites in your phone. These hotlines are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. There may be a fee to use some of these services, but if you need one, a fee shouldn’t stop you from saving your dog. Click each of the numbers below to add them to your contacts.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline: 1-888-426-4435

Pet Poison Helpline: 1-855-764-7661

Animal Poison Hotline: 1-888-232-8870

National Animal Poison Control Center: 1-800-548-2423 or 1-900-680-0000

Angell Poison Control Hotline: 1-877-226-4355

Download our free printable Dog Emergency Numbers sheet right now, and keep it in your dog’s file.



ICE Card in Wallet & Phone

Years ago at a vet’s office, I picked up a wallet card that said “If I become incapacitated, I have pets at home that will need attention.” The back had an area to list your pets and pertinent information. I’ve carried that card in my wallet ever since.


This 3-pack of similar cards comes with key tags to help alert authorities to look for the emergency card in your wallet. The card itself is credit card-sized, but unfolds to give space to write in your name and address, your pet’s name, and your emergency contact information. Keep it with you at all times in the same slot as your ID to increase the chances of it being found so that your emergency contact will care for your pets.

You should also add this same information to the notes section of your ICE or In Case of Emergency contact in your phone.


Dog First Aid Kit

You probably have a first aid kit for humans in your home, but do you have one for your dog?


There are many pre-made options for dog first aid kits available on Amazon. Here’s a great one.

At minimum, your dog first aid kit should contain:
Disposable gloves
Alcohol swabs
Vet wrap
Antibiotic ointment
Instant ice pack
First Aid scissors
3% hydrogen peroxide


Update Your Dog’s Emergency Information

Add an event in your phone’s calendar to remind you to update your dog’s emergency information, and set the event to recur every 6 months.

Check that the information on their ID tags is current and correct, and call your vet to confirm that the address and phone number associated with your account or your dog’s microchip number are up-to-date.

Pull out your dog’s emergency information sheet, and make sure all the information is current.

This is also a good time to go through your dog first aid kit and replenish any used or expired supplies.


Fireman Pet Sticker


These stickers are probably better in theory than they are in practice, since firemen are not trained to pay any attention to them. But it certainly can’t hurt to use one.


Natural Disaster Preparation

If you live in an area where you need to be prepared for natural disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes, don’t forget to also prepare for your dog.

Make a kit for your dog and store it in a waterproof container in an easily accessible area. Your kit should include, at minimum, a copy of your dog’s emergency file, food and water, a leash or harness, a carrier, a first aid kit, and photos of you and your dog.

Have an evacuation plan for your dog and research dog-friendly hotels as well as boarding kennels along your evacuation route.

This website contains comprehensive information on preparing your dog for a natural disaster.


CPR & Pet First Aid Classes

Do you know what to do if your pet is choking or if you find them unconscious? Despite working professionally with animals and specifically dogs for much of my life, I had never learned about dog CPR, so I’m signing up for a pet first aid course. There are lots of online courses available, but I found two that seemed better than the rest.

The first is through an organization called Recover Initiative and is recommended by Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Recover Initiative offers several levels of pet first aid courses, including one for pet owners here.

The other course option I landed on is through the Centre of Excellence, and is extremely comprehensive. This course allows you to learn at your own pace and offers a certificate and continuing education credits upon completion. If you sign up for their emails, you may be able to receive a significant discount, bringing the price down to under $50.

Prepare your Dog for a House Fire

In the event of a fire, you know you need to get everyone out immediately. Having to search your home for your frightened dog could waste precious minutes and put you and them in danger.

Training your dog to go to a specific place, such as a specific door or even a specific spot outside if you have a doggy door, when they hear the smoke alarm can increase your chances of getting your pup to safety if there were a fire. Use the test function on a smoke detector to teach your dog where to go when they hear that sound. (Be sure to use something like a blanket or pillow to dampen the sound of the alarm so you don’t hurt your dog’s ears!)

Once your dog has learned this new behavior, refresh their memory at least once a month by setting off the smoke detector in various rooms when your dog is not expecting it. (Set a recurring reminder in your phone so you don’t forget.) If your pup doesn’t remember what to do, continue to work with them.

It’s impossible to know how your dog will react in a real, terrifying emergency situation. They may forget everything they learned and hide instead, but you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Training your pup to go to a specific place when the smoke alarm goes off gives you a better chance of finding them and getting them and you out quickly.


Emergency Sling


If you were out hiking or even just on a walk, and your dog got injured, would you be able to carry them to safety? If there’s any doubt in your mind, you should have an emergency sling with you. These slings are designed to allow one or even two people to carry an injured dog safely, and come in multiple sizes to fit most dogs.

I know I can’t pick up Rafferty, so I will be adding one of these emergency slings to my hiking bag!


Take Photos of Your Dog

If your dog is ever lost, you will need good photos of them for a flyer and to distribute to authorities, shelters, online lost and found pet groups, etc. Take several photos of your dog from front, back, top, and both sides, clearly showing distinguishing markings. Take some selfies of your dog with you as one method of proving ownership when your dog is found.

Print these photos, and keep them in your dog emergency information file.


Teach Kids About Toxic Foods

A vet once told me a story about a dog that came into his clinic very sick, and even after many tests, they could not figure out what had caused this dog’s illness. The vet began to ask the owners if the dog had eaten any toxic foods such as chocolate, grapes, or raisins. The owners insisted that the dog had not gotten into anything. Until their young daughter spoke up, saying that she had shared her snack of raisins with the dog.

That story has stuck in my mind, and now I am actively teaching the kids in my life which foods dogs cannot have.

If you have a young child who spills their food, make sure to exclude your dog from the area while the child is eating so that you can clean up any crumbs before your pup eats something they shouldn’t. As soon as the child is old enough to understand, begin teaching them which foods are toxic to dogs. I would go so far as to teach them not to share any table scraps at all with the dog. For instance, young kids may not make the connection between toxic grapes and the jelly on their sandwich, and go on to share their pb&j crusts with your pup, so it’s best to make sure kids don’t share anything without permission until they are much older.


Is it an Emergency?

If you notice different behavior that could indicate illness in your dog, at the very least, you should make a call to your vet to get advice. Don’t wait to call. Better safe than sorry.


Sometimes, your dog might do something that just seems a little “off” to you. A phone call to the vet can ease your mind on whether this is serious or not. If you can’t get a hold of your vet, Chewy offers live chats and video calls with veterinarians for a small fee, or for free if you are an Auto-ship customer. These Chewy vet consults are not meant to replace regular vet care, but are perfect for those times when you just want a professional to answer the question, “does my dog need immediate medical care?”


Dog Emergency Preparedness

You know I’m all about giving our dogs the best life possible, but we’d be remiss to think that giving our dogs a great life only refers to adventures and enrichment. Part of making sure they live long, happy, healthy lives is being prepared for a dog emergency.

How many of these emergency prep practices did you already have in place? Which ones are you going to implement right away? Do you have any additional tips to prepare for an emergency with your dog? Let me know in the comments below.

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