Animal Care, How To:

How to Assemble a Canine First Aid Kit

Canine First Aid Kit

Earlier this week, some friends and I went camping in the Crazy Mountains. There was a 3:5 ratio of canines to humans (unusually low for our group of friend) – still, we managed to talk about our pets for around 75% of the time. One of the topics covered? Our need for canine first aid kit. I decided to reference the list that Dr. Gustafson and I had compiled a year ago when we considered creating our own for the clinic.

The list below should provide you with a starting point for putting together your own first aid kit.

I’d also recommend visiting with your veterinarian about how to use each of the items below at your next wellness visit.

1. A Thermometer
A healthy dog’s body temperature is between 100°F and 102.5°F ( 38°C to 39.2°C). Don’t forget, temperature is taken rectally!

2. Tweezers

3. Blunt-end Scissors
For trimming hair away from wounds, and cutting wraps.

4. Triple Antibiotic Ointment
The same stuff you use on yourself!

5. Sterile Saline Solution
For irrigating eyes and wounds. NOT contact solution or other eye drops.

6. Electrolyte Tablets (Canine Specific)

7. A 10cc Syringe
For irrigating wounds

8. Alcohol Wipes
For cleaning wounds. Steal ’em from your own first aid kit.

9. Hydrogen Peroxide
Make sure to store in a light-proof container. Hydrogen peroxide can  be used to induce vomiting, but this should only be performed with the direction of your veterinarian. Can also be used to clean wounds.

10. Sterile Gauze Pads

11. 4″ Cotton Roll

12. 2″ & 4″ Vetwrap
Any self-adhesive works. Be sure not to wrap too tight, and to remove immediately if swelling occurs on either side of the wrap.

13. First Aid for the Active Dog, by Sid Gustafson, DVM

14. The numbers of your veterinarian, the nearest emergency vet, as well as a list of any medications that your dog takes.

In addition to the items above, talk with your veterinarian about including:

13. 81mg Enteric-coated Aspirin
Or another fever-reducer/NSAID more appropriate for your dog.

For a great article about assessing the seriousness of your dogs condition, check out Examining Your Dog: Determining the Seriousness of Injury and Illness, an article by Dr. Gustafson.

Any additions or experiences compiling your own canine first aid kit? Share in the comments!

Pet Projects

Weekly Pet Project: Paws up!

Cao conveniently and compactly stacks her paws for examination.

Cao conveniently and compactly stacks her paws for examination.

If I lived in a major city, I would probably be one of those people who wiped their pet’s paws at the door. You see, I have this thing about bringing feces into the house. It’s pretty specific to human and canine feces, although I’m impartial to raccoon as well. Herbivore manure? No problem. When I worked as a wrangler, I relished watching the faces of children register that everything they were walking on was probably poo.

Pardon me for the tangent – the reason I brought up paw wiping is because one of the best things about paw wiping would be that I would routinely get a good look at my pet’s paws. Most pet owners that I know (other than my dear friend Jessica, who routinely smells her pet’s feet) rarely get a good look.

This week, I’d like you to pick up the foot and get down. Take each of your animal’s feet/hooves and examine them. Look for cracking, uneven wear, signs of compulsive licking/stomping. For dogs and cats, look between the pads. Examine each claw. Horse owners should explore all around the frog and coronet band with their hands (no tools!). The hoof wall should be smooth and regular. Feel the different textures of the hoof/paw, and take note of any areas to watch. Don’t attempt to clip/trim anything – just look.

Flat works well when examining dogs.

Flat works well when examining dogs.

Acclimating your pet to extensive foot examination  sets them up for successful trips to the vet, as well as increases your ease of handling were there an issue that needed to be treated. Routine foot handling means that when it becomes necessary to trim claws/hooves, you’re only asking them to let you perform one unfamiliar task. This time of year in Montana, we see abscesses when awns or cactus needles become wedged between the pads. Examining your pet’s paws after a stroll through the grass/field of prickly pear could prevent one!

If you’re able, start handling your animals’ feet in a variety of settings from the time their young. This is one area where equestrians have proven themselves ahead of the curve, probably because the stakes are a little higher when picking up the leg of a 1000 pound animal. If they can do it, you can too!

Got a great paw/hoof photo? Share below!

Animal Care

Hot Hot Heat!

Summer has reached it’s peak here in Montana, with temperatures in the 90s, even up here at 5500 feet! We took a trip to Missoula this past weekend, and despite the high temperatures and the action campaigns by every animal care/advocacy group I know of, I STILL saw dogs left in cars in the broad sunlight.

One of the great things about living in a place where people are so connected with their animals is that people tend to want to take their animals with them everywhere. Lucky dogs get taken on hikes, vacations, to float the river, or maybe they just come to town for a quick trip to the groomer, or a wellness visit at the vet. Unfortunately, that also means that our canine companions might suffer if we feel we the need to multi-task, running into the grocery store to grab some last minute grub to grill.

There’s just no reason to take the risk of leaving your dog in the car. To help us understand why, Dr. Ernie Ward recently posted this video about what it’s like to be locked in a vehicle for 30 minutes with the windows cracked.

If you’re skeptical, I suggest you subject yourself to the same conditions you expect your dog to endure, much like Dr. Ward did. If you need to find a fur coat, check your local thrift shop.

Alternatives to leaving your dog in the car while you run in:

– Train your dog to tie, then tie them outside in the shade (bonus points for providing water)!

– Ask if leashed pets are welcome inside! (Not likely for food/eating establishments, but worth a try everywhere else.

– Get a friend to walk them outside!

– Skip the errand, take your pet home, and come back later.

Other ways to help prevent heatstroke in pets:

– If you’re a shop owner, consider posting a sign that says “leashed pets welcome!” Increased business, free pets, and it feels good to know that you’re keeping pets cool.

– If you see a pet locked in a car, call the non-emergency number for your local police. I recently checked with my local police department to see if this was correct protocol, and they confirmed. This goes for children as well. Do not feel guilty about making the call – animals die of heatstroke in cars daily.

– Not willing to make a call? Print out the file below, cut it in half, and carry it with you to place under the windshield wipers of cars with dogs inside. If you choose this option, I suggest monitoring the vehicle until the owner returns to make sure that the situation doesn’t become serious.


If you decide to remove the dog from the vehicle because it is visibly distressed, make sure that you have witnesses that can confirm that you weren’t trying to steal their leftover wrappers, and for your safety.

Still not convinced that leaving dogs in the car is a bad idea? Maybe you’ve heard about children dying of hyperthermia when left in vehicles. If you haven’t, this article is enough to turn your stomach, and has some significant information about just how quickly cars act as greenhouses.

I promise the next blog post will be more fun.

Animal Care, Willing Partnership

The Willing Partner’s Hierarchy of Needs

Anyone who signs up for six more years of school at the age of 26 must love being a student, but my junior year of undergrad, I grew weary of academia and decided to take a semester off from pursuing my German degree to ski bum. I worked as a snowboard instructor at a fairly large resort, and part of the training offered to us was a Children’s Accreditation. As a part of this course, we learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which Abraham Maslow conceived of as a part of his Theory of Human Motivation.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs describes the basic human needs that must be met before self-actualization, or the realization of one’s full potential, can occur.

In the past few years, while talking with people about their animals and their veterinary and behavioral concerns, I often found myself referencing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Before we can achieve willing partnership with our animals, we need to make sure that their basic needs are met.

In order to help us achieve willing partnership, I’ve developed an adaptation of Maslow’s Hierarchy for companion animals. It’s new and still forming. Too anthropomorphic for you? Take what you will, and leave the rest. I welcome you to start thinking about where you draw the line between humans and other animals.

The Willing Partner's Hierarchy of Needs

In future posts, I will discuss each of the levels in detail, but for now, I submit this as food for thought, and welcome your feedback.

How To:

How to introduce BONES!

AKA: Paleo for your canine companion.

As promised, here’s a guide to introducing raw pipe bones to your dog’s diet as a way to contribute to your dog’s dental, mental and physical health (a phrase coined by Sid Gustafson, DVM).


Cao has noticed that I have bones, procured from my local butcher for $7!

Why bones?

Dogs that chew real bones (specifically bones, not dental chews) have less tartar. If you watch your dog chew their bone, you’ll see and hear why. Their carnassial teeth and incisors are used to shear meat and fascia from the outside of the bone. That griding successfully removes tartar from the surface of the tooth and stimulates the gums. Dental disease is a serious problem for many dogs, one that may lead to tooth extraction, abscesses, GI problems, and oral cancers, among other issues.

Puppies (and dogs!) that are orally enriched with appropriate chewing materials are less likely to look to inappropriate objects (qiviuq yarn, sunglasses, shoes) to satisfy their need to chew. The frozen bones are also very soothing for teething pups.

Chewing bones is an intensely physical activity. On days when your pet is holed up due to bad weather, healing, or just because you don’t have the time to get outside, bones offer a way to get out a portion of their physical energy.

Bones are also mentally stimulating. Getting to the marrow inside requires problem-solving and manipulation of the bone.

The list goes on and on.

Please read:

You will find people who disagree with the idea of feeding raw bones and bones in general. Do your own research. Feel free not to feed bones. I personally feel that the benefits of raw bone feeding outweigh the potential hazards for most dogs. I have seen raw bones perform the equivalent of a several-hundred-dollar dentistry on a 10 year-old dog that would have otherwise had to have been sedated. Dory, who chews deer femurs, is 11 years-old, has never had a cleaning and has almost no tartar. My dog eats bones until they are gone, and has yet to have severe GI upset. She has retched up pieces, but rarely. That said, the intestinal tracts of all dogs are not created equal.

What kind of bone?

I’m glad you asked. I recommend medium sized raw beef or bison pipe bones for most dogs. Bones should absolutely not be cooked – it changes the way they break into pieces, increasing the likelihood that they will shard. The nutrients in raw bones are also more readily absorbable by your dog’s digestive system.

The bones I recommend for beginners are cut from the center of a leg bone of a cow or bison. They have no protruding pieces that could be easily broken off, contain marrow, and have a small amount of meat that remains attached to the outside of the bone.


The ideal raw beef pipe bone, ready for chewing.



I hope that a lot of my suggestions will sound like common sense. First, a few caveats:

– Know your dog.

Does your dog’s stomach rumble if he eats a dropped piece of food in the kitchen? Just had a $3000 visit to the vet for bloody stool? It may then be a good idea to skip the bones, or to be extra cautious. A gobbler? Maybe 5 minutes is a good length for your first attempt at bone time. An overzealous chewer? Monitor for cracked teeth. Your dog (like mine) regularly brings home deer legs and voles and consumes them, with no issues? Probably safe to skip forward a few steps. If you have questions or concerns, I’d be happy to talk with you about them, but a great asset could be your veterinarian, who has a relationship with you and your pet.

– You are in charge of the bones.

When first introducing bones, many dogs are fanatical about this wonderful, new, delicious experience. This excitement can be used for good, or evil. Require good behavior (all four paws on the ground, quiet, etc.) before giving the bone. Any undesirable behavior while chewing results in the immediate loss of bone privileges, to try again another day.

Let us begin!

Dory and Cao demonstrate what deserving, humble dogs they are.

Dory and Cao demonstrate what deserving, humble dogs they are.

Day 1: Bone Time

Start with a frozen bone, as seen above. Introduce “bone time” after your dog has had some exercise, preferably when the house is calm. If there are multiple dogs, each should have their own bone, in their own room/area to reduce potential conflicts. For day one, I recommend 15 minutes of bone chewing. All bone time should be supervised. If you hear or see pieces of bone being broken off, remove the bone shards immediately, and the bone itself if sharp points remain. This is unlikely in such a short amount of time, but if it does occur, consider scaling back bone time. Once the time has elapsed, retrieve the bone, praising your dog for giving it up willingly, and use a plastic baggie to store it in the freezer ’til tomorrow! Check the bone for broken pieces and fractures before freezing, and discard if you find any.

Day 2:

Repeat, but with one addition: today you get to monitor your pet’s stool. A little loose is fine, but any blood or explosiveness means you need to slow things down a little, or consider alternative oral enrichment. If all is well, proceed!

Day 3:

Examine bone, and if it is intact, with marrow inside, try 30 minutes, again under supervision, removing the bone if it starts to break into shards.

Day 4:

Rest, and continue to monitor stool.

Day 5:

Depending on your dog, it may be time for a new bone, especially if the marrow is gone, or your dog has lost interest. Today, go for 30 minutes supervised bone time. Continue to monitor stool. It’s a good habit to get into, and so fun!

Day 6:

45 minutes, or break it up into 15 minutes AM, 30 minutes PM. Report findings in the comments.

Day 7:

As Day 6, only you don’t have to comment this time.

Day 8:

New bone, and try it for an hour – that is probably long enough for your dog to have extracted the majority of the meat, fascia and marrow. If not, use it again!

Bone half-empty.

Bone half-empty. Or half-full.

Antlers are a great alternative for dogs that are overzealous, or for guardians that aren’t too sure about having raw bone/canine saliva drippings on their carpet (weirdos). The bones pictured above are suitable for dogs from around 10-100 lbs. Larger dogs may need to be more closely monitored, or have longer bones that they are unable to swallow. Often times, the bones that are cut from closer to the head of the femur are larger.

At this point, if there has been no sign of gastric upset, you should be safe to have supervised bone time as you see fit! 1-2 fresh bones per week should keep your dog healthy and happy. Take a look at your dog’s teeth before you start feeding bones, then reexamine after 2 weeks of bone chewing. I’d be surprised if you didn’t find improvement, and would love to see photos. You can email them to


Bone chewing can become a social activity, but it’s better to try that once the novelty has worn off a little.

Pet Projects

Weekend Pet Project

Montanan dogs are lucky. Of all the places I’ve lived, the Bozeman area has got to have some of the most involved, thoughtful dog-owners. Ease of access to the outdoors is one of the many reasons that this area has received such an influx in the last 15 years, and everyone seems to want a dog to share it with. Trailheads in the area are full of well-mannered canines navigating the woods off-leash. People not only walk their dogs, they GET OUT with them.

Watching Cao’s rapt enjoyment of the outdoors magnifies the beauty and keeps me walking long after I would have otherwise turned for home. The dog that is usually warming one end of the couch is steeplechasing deadfall, frenetically digging for voles, and buzzing my legs as she rushes from one new smell to the next.

It’s not always convenient to make time in your schedule for a dedicated outing, but that’s the assignment for this week: Take your dog somewhere new and let your dog dictate the length of the walk. Walk as fast or as slow as you want to, but turn off your phone (better yet, leave it at home), bring warm gear, and look around. Watch your dog. Is he panting after only a few minutes? How’s her recall? Is he checking in? When has she had enough? How can you tell?

What can this walk tell you about your dog’s level of enrichment? We all make the effort to give our dogs what they need, but how often do we (willingly) let them dictate the duration of an activity?

When you’ve completed your project, post a picture of where it took you and let us know about your observations.