In today’s article we want to dedicate ourselves to our four-legged comrades.
Often enough, the dog is the only companion in the wilderness or an important ally in the performance of our service duties. In this context, situations may arise in which our helper is dependent on help. The need to carry an IFAK to bridge even the most critical time until professional helpers arrive is now widely recognised. Since the dogs accompany us closely and selflessly in potentially dangerous situations, it is our duty to ensure their safety as well. Everyone will be able to imagine that the risk of injury to dogs in police or military service and disaster relief is enormous. In these professional areas, one naturally tries to protect the animals as best as possible from harm by using specially designed protective equipment. In addition to maintaining the operational capability, the cost factor (a well-trained animal can easily reach a value of several thousand euros) naturally also plays a role here.
But what about the private sector?
What dangers threaten our four-legged friend who simply lives as a pet and companion, and how can we counter them? Today we want to take a rough overview of how we fulfil our responsibility towards the animal.
Let’s take a look at the world from a dog’s point of view. A dog is (depending on breed and constitution) a strong and agile animal that still possesses, to varying degrees, pronounced predatory characteristics. In everyday life, unpredictable situations can therefore arise quickly. A scuffle with another dog can cause life-threatening injuries if the dog is not socialised, the dog that runs away can get in front of a car or be legally hit or shot while poaching (depending on the circumstances). Some wild animals, such as wild boar and wolves, are defensible enemies, others can transmit serious diseases. Shards, sharp objects and toxic waste are constantly lying around on our paths. Now in the summer, people are barbecuing again. The smell of the sausage paired with the hot grill is a dangerous combination. Even things like chocolate can be life threatening depending on the amount consumed and the weight of the dog.
As you can see, even the supposedly sheltered dog has the possibility of being involved in a medical emergency every day. So how can we make provisions?
1. obedience of the dog
As was made clear in the examples above, many dangerous situations can be avoided if the dog has good obedience. A dog that can be reliably retrieved and stopped and has a healthy social behaviour towards other dogs will often not get into difficult situations in the first place. It is the task of every dog owner to train his animal in such a way that it does not run away uncontrollably, start biting fights or eat everything it finds on the ground. Where obedience is not (yet) sufficient, you must keep the dog on a leash to protect it. Overestimating oneself here can largely undo the success of previous training. A dog that has once poached successfully will find it difficult to give up this behaviour. Unfortunately, explaining the training of the dog is beyond the scope of this article. Here you should network with problems and questions within the community with the dog handlers and work together towards the goal of an obedient dog. Always keep in mind that a dog that listens reliably can be given much more freedom than an untrained animal. Therefore, do not see training as a constraint.
2. discipline of the dog owner
Through your own discipline and awareness of being responsible for your dog’s welfare, you can prevent another large part of the dangers. An injury avoided is better than any treatment. What does that mean in everyday life? Walk your dog consciously and attentively. If you don’t look at your phone, you will notice the deer on the horizon or the quarrelsome dog on the street corner in time. Steer clear of glass lying on the ground, leash the dog on New Year’s Eve. When camping with your dog, don’t leave sharp objects lying around and set up the cooker so that curious dog noses don’t burn themselves. The fact that poisons, medicines and also food must not be left lying around must also be emphasised again and again. Unfortunately, I have already seen a dog that gobbled down shish kebabs together with the skewers and had to undergo emergency surgery. The stolen liver sausage sandwich is also only a funny anecdote if the tinfoil eaten along doesn’t cause an intestinal blockage. The dog owner who takes care of himself and eliminates dangers is the most important friend of his dog.
3. IFAK K9
Despite all precautions, it can happen that a dog is injured in everyday life and we have to help. As with humans, the range extends from minor bruises to life-threatening injuries. Fortunately, dogs are quite robust animals that we can often help effectively. Here is a list of useful tools and explanations for the furry companion:
Unfortunately, injuries, pain and fear can cause even the most obedient dog to bite.
Not only the owner himself, but also helpful third parties can quickly become further victims of an accident if we do not take care to put a muzzle on our dog for treatment. Apart from foreign bodies in the mouth and airways and severe injuries to the face, the first step should therefore always be to put on a muzzle. In principle, this can be improvised with gauze bandages or strings, but simple nylon muzzles are so cheap and light that you should carry them in your ifak. Here, too, obedience on the part of the animal and training beforehand pays off. If the dog already knows how to wear a muzzle for a short time, he will be less reluctant to be treated. Please note, however, that the muzzle makes it difficult for the dog to breathe and cool down by panting. The muzzle should therefore not be used for longer than necessary.
As in humans, severe limb haemorrhages in dogs are acutely life-threatening. One, but better two, tourniquets are the most effective means to stop them until effective help can be given. When purchasing, please note whether the tourniquet is also or specifically suitable for dogs. The anatomy of the dog differs considerably from that of humans. Practice applying the tourniquet with the dog before an injury happens to get routine on both sides. As the application of the tourniquet is very painful, self-protection with a muzzle is essential here.
Two elastic bandages (e.g. Olaes or Israeli Bandage) are effective aids to apply a pressure bandage to the trunk or head. The Olaes bandage is preferable here because of the integrated eye cup. Eye injuries in dogs are not uncommon. An unfortunate thrown stick, rummaging through thorny bushes but also (here often hunting dogs) the fight with wild animals quickly lead to corresponding injuries.
4. haemostatic gauze
Many injuries in dogs occur in tissues with a high blood supply, such as the ears or the mouth area. Bandages are often difficult to apply and cannot be applied with enough pressure to stop the bleeding. This is where gauze with coagulant ingredients does a great job. The compatibility of the respective remedy for the dog should be researched in advance in each individual case.
5. Sharp scissors
Scissors are indispensable in first aid. Especially in dogs, the fur often hides the true extent of the injury. Even supposedly small bite wounds often have severe concomitant symptoms on closer inspection. The dog’s skin is relatively loosely connected to the underlying tissue. If the dog is bitten or gets stuck on an obstacle, the skin often detaches from the muscle underneath over a large area. Of course, first aid never replaces treatment by the vet, but by removing the fur around an injury, it is easier to assess how severe the injury actually is.
6. tweezers and tick forceps
The uses of these tools are self-explanatory.
7. emergency blanket
Our dogs have a limited ability to cool down effectively in high temperatures.
If a dog is left in the car, life-threatening situations can arise within minutes, even in mild temperatures. In this case, a rescue blanket can help to prevent the dog from heating up further. In the opposite case, the dog, just like humans, loses the ability to regulate its body temperature in case of high blood loss or shock. Here, too, the rescue blanket is the tool of choice. If possible, a low rustle variant should be chosen so as not to further frighten the animal.
8. ladies’ tights
This somewhat curious-looking tool is used to secure bandages on the paws or ears. Often dogs shake their injured ears and tear their wounds again. A pair of tights without a foot section is a good way to fix the animal’s ears to the head by pulling them over the dog’s head like a tube scarf.
9. cling film
If a body cavity of the dog is opened in an accident, there is an acute danger to life. To temporarily close perforating injuries of the thoracic or abdominal cavity, you can close the wound with wraps of cling film running around the body. The Chest Seals successfully used on humans often do not hold reliably because of the fur.
10. water bottle
It doesn’t matter whether you want to clean a wound for assessment or need help with burns and chemical burns. There is no substitute for water here. A small bottle should therefore always be carried.
These 10 tools have proven themselves countless times in practice and have saved the lives of many animals. Stowed in a weatherproof bag, any healthy dog (dwarf breeds excluded) should be able to carry these items themselves. Appropriate backpacks or harnesses compatible with the Molle system are now available in all price ranges.
Of course, it is also possible to carry the Ifak as a dog handler. I have written this article from my experiences in animal rescue and hope that none of you will need to use it. But especially in the worst scenarios, the rule is that being prepared saves lives. Take care of yourselves, comrades.