Deployment with Urban Search and Rescue

In September 2013, Laura McLain Madsen, DVM of Holladay Veterinary Hospital in Salt Lake City, UT had an amazing experience deploying with FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) to the flooding in Colorado. She has been working with the search dogs and handlers for about six years, and then officially joined US&R Utah Task Force 1 in 2012 as team veterinarian.

Some of the hundreds of pets who evacuated with their owners on Army helicopters.

Some of the hundreds of pets who evacuated with their owners on Army helicopters.

There are 28 US&R task forces across the country, each comprised of several hundred people and a dozen or so dogs. Unlike smaller search and rescue teams that are focused on finding people lost in the wilderness, urban search and rescue teams are large teams with heavy-duty equipment to focus on rescuing people trapped in urban environments after large-scale disasters. The disasters to which US&R deploys include terrorist attacks (World Trade Center), hurricanes (Katrina), earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. Each task force is capable of deploying within four hours of a disaster, with all the equipment, supplies and personnel necessary to be self-sufficient for 72 hours.

Most of her teammates are firefighters, since they already have training in rigging, extrication and rescue. The team is also comprised of physicians, structural engineers and canine handlers.

Laura McLain McLain, DVM, and “Zeteo,” a search and rescue dog.

Laura McLain McLain, DVM, and “Zeteo,” a search and rescue dog.

The team was called up shortly after midnight on September 13, 2013.  Dragging herself out of bed, Dr. McLain got her uniform and equipment, and drove to the warehouse. She performed pre-deployment exams on the four dogs, and filled out their health certificates. The team spent most of that day convoying to Boulder in a long line of semis, trucks and vans. All roads into Colorado were closed that crossed into the state through a highway patrol roadblock. The team finally got to the Boulder Airport around 6:00pm, where they set up their base of operations, alongside the US&R task force from Nebraska.

As a team veterinarian, Dr. McLain’s primary goal was to keep the search dogs healthy so they can do their job of finding any individuals that were trapped. All of the Utah team dogs remained healthy for the entire deployment, but one of the Nebraska team dogs became ill, with profuse diarrhea and dehydration. The Nebraska task force does not have a veterinarian (less than half the task forces nationally have DVM’s) so Dr. McLain treated him as well and he was back to work the next day.

Dr. McLain was also called on to examine pets of evacuee, where there were long lines of evacuees coming off helicopters. 20 Army Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters flew back and forth between the canyons and the airport, evacuating residents and their pets. Some helicopter loads had more animals than people. Of course there were many dogs and cats, but also a fair number of exotic pets: parrots, turtles, small mammals, geese, fish, and even a monkey. Overall, the pets were amazingly healthy and happy. A few dogs had minor abrasions and lacerations from the flooding that were treated.

The deployment lasted a week. Dr. McLain expressed that despite being sore, soaked, and mentally and physically exhausted, it wasan invaluable experience for her and all of the other team members involved.

 

Hurricane Preparations Plan for your Pet

“When disaster strikes, preparation makes all the difference,” states Dr. John Manolukas, DVM, at Hanover Regional Animal Hospital in Wilmington, NC.  If it is not safe for you, it is not safe for them.  Make a plan and assemble an emergency kit for yourself and your pet.

Start getting ready now!

ID your pet

Ÿ  Microchip – A simple injection can place a rice-sized microchip permanently in your pet. Hanover Regional Animal Hospital will register your pet for you, and provide online access to change any information.  This is the best wiStock_000004089992XSmall_jpgay to ensure your pet can be identified.

Ÿ  Collar – Make sure your cat or dog is wearing a collar with identification.  The information should include your cell number, pet’s name and if possible the name of a friend or relative outside your area who will be able to contact you if you have to evacuate.  For cats, we recommend break away collars.

Put together a disaster kit. (see instructions below)

If you evacuate, take your pet. If it is not safe for you then it is not safe for them. Remember, while you may plan to return in a day or so, sometimes it can take days to weeks before you can get back to your house.

Plan for a place to stay ahead of time. 

Friends and relatives. This is the best choice – as long as they live out of the path of the storm, tornado or hurricane, and your pets get along with theirs.   

Hotels.

Ÿ  Contact multiple hotels within a targeted safe zone and find out their pet policy.  Be sure to ask about their policies in evacuation situations.

Ÿ  Ask about any restrictions on number, size, and species.

Ÿ  Inquire if the “no pet” policies would be waived in an emergency.

Ÿ  Keep a list of animal-friendly places handy, and call ahead for a reservation as soon as you think you might have to leave your home.

Ÿ  Online resources for pet-friendly hotels:

     Doginmysuitcase.com

     Pet-friendly-hotels.net

     Pets-allowed-hotels.com

     Petswelcome.com 

Consider a kennel or veterinarian’s office.

Ÿ  Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinary offices that might be able to shelter animals in disaster emergencies.

Ÿ  Be ready for everyday emergencies – have your first aid kit ready to go. 

If you stay home, do it safely.

Plan and prepare a safe zone.

Ÿ  Gather the pets in the same safe location as the rest of family.  Identify a location where you all can stay together and make the safe area animal friendly.

Ÿ  Close off or eliminate unsafe nooks and crannies where frightened cats may try to hide.

Ÿ  Move dangerous items such as tools or toxic products that have been stored in the area.

Ÿ  Be sure to close your windows and doors, stay inside, and follow the instructions from your local emergency management office.

As soon as you know trouble is on the way.

Ÿ  Bring your pets indoors as soon as local authorities say trouble is on the way.

Ÿ  Keep pets under your direct control; if you have to evacuate, you will not have to spend time trying to find them.

Ÿ  Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, and make sure they are wearing identification.

Ÿ  If you have a room you can designate as a “safe room,” put your emergency supplies in that room in advance.

Ÿ  Listen to the radio periodically, and don’t come out until you know it’s safe. 

Take care even after the disaster.

Keep taking care even after the disaster.  There are many dangers following a disaster, some of which are on the ground and in locations our pets are more likely to visit than us.  Be sure to scout out any area your pet will be investigating.

Ÿ  Your home may be a very different place after the emergency is over, and it may be hard for your pets to adjust.

Ÿ  Don’t allow your pets to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet may be disoriented. Pets can easily get lost in such situations.

Ÿ  While you assess the damage, keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers inside the house. If your house is damaged, your pets could escape.

Ÿ  Be patient with your pets after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible. Be ready for behavioral problems caused by the stress of the situation. If these problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian.

Ÿ  If your community has been flooded, search your home and yard for wild animals who may have sought refuge there. Stressed wildlife can pose a threat to you and your pet. 

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How to put together a disaster kit

Keep the disaster kit in a duffle bag that can be grabbed quickly if you have to evacuate in a hurry.

Food and Water

Food: (per day amounts)

5 days worth of food for each pet, bowls and a can opener if you are using canned food.

       Dry food – 1 cup per 20-25 lbs of pet is a rough estimate.

Water: (per day amounts)

Dog                                          Cats

30 lbs  ¼ gallon    (4 cups),       Small Cats    1 cup

60 lbs  ½ gallon    (8 cups),       Medium Cat  2 cups

90 lbs  ¾ gallon  (12 cups)         Large Cat     3 cups

Medications and medical records. 

Ÿ  Write down your pets’ feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior issues in case you need to board them.

Ÿ  Keep your veterinarian’s name and number with you.  A business card works great.

Ÿ  Make sure to have photos of you and your pets, to help identify them in case of separation and to prove ownership.  Microchips are still the best method of permanent identification.

Ÿ  Place a copy of all medical records in a waterproof container. These should contain any identification information such as a microchip and rabies certificates as well as county licenses.

First-aid kit. Place your pet first aid kit in a waterproof container in the disaster duffel. 

Plan for waste. Litter box, litter and garbage bags for collection of pets’ waste.

Control of pets.

Ÿ  Carriers – for safe transport of pets and to prevent escape.

Ÿ  Pillowcases – you should have a pillowcase for each cat and small dog to aid in capture and control.

Ÿ  Leashes and harnesses – to maintain control of your pets when they are under stress.

Comfort items – blankets bed and toys if convenient, to reduce stress.

 

From Frisky to Risky: Detecting Feline Diabetes

Spotting feline diabetes is not easy. Why? If human beings with diabetes often overlook their own symptoms, imagine how difficult it can be noticing the signs your kitty may be diabetic. When it comes to noticing symptoms of diabetes in cats, recognition is even more difficult as pets lack the ability to effectively communicate how they are feeling. Any delay in diagnosis can allow the disease to advance to the point where it can cause extensive physical damage. Knowing the potential symptoms of feline diabetes is a proactive approach, ensuring your pet gets the help he or she needs before it’s too late.

Excessive Thirst

It is natural for cats to act thirsty in the hot summer months or after rambunctious exercise. However, excessive drinking throughout the day that continues for a number of days may be a sign of feline diabetes. If you notice you are fillingcalicocat_jpg the water dish more often, you should have your pet tested for diabetes. Spotting excessive thirst can not only help with early detection of diabetes, but many other diseases as well.

Excessive Urinating

If your pet is drinking more water, he or she will likely need to use the litter box to urinate more frequently. You may not recognize excessive water intake right away, as it tends to increase gradually. However, you should notice when you are changing the litter box at a greater frequency, or they may be coming in and out of the house as if through a revolving door. These are great indications that a trip to the veterinarian is warranted.

 “Sweet Breath”

Most every pet owner is accustomed to the unappealing odor of warm kitty breath. If you notice that your pet’s breath has sweetened, it may mean that his or her blood sugar levels are off. Although you may appreciate the appealing change in your pet’s breath, it could be a sign that something is amiss.

Shivering

If you notice your cat shivering even though temperatures are relatively warm, it could be a sign of hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar. This could potentially be a medical emergency. Your pet may require an insulin injection to stabilize blood sugar levels. Seek professional help as soon as possible, or your pet may suffer serious, permanent injury.

Lethargy

Cats suffering from feline diabetes may appear very tired and weak most days. If your normally active pet suddenly develops lethargy symptoms over the course of several days, take him or her to your holistic veterinarian to have their blood sugar tested.

Loss of Weight

Too much weight loss can lead to feline diabetes. If your pet is rapidly losing weight, he or she could have diabetes or a more serious illness. Take your cat to the veterinarian without delay.

What is Feline Diabetes?

According to a study performed by Purina, Diabetes is a very common disease in cats affecting up to 2% of the feline population in the United States.  This disease occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, resulting in high blood sugar.  Richard Henderson, DVM of Gavelston Vets in Gavelston, TX warns that if left untreated, many other health problems can occur which can result in blindness, kidney damage, muscle weakness, and urinary tract infections.  Diabetic cats often require daily insulin shots at home, and frequent trips to the veterinarian for blood sugar tests and monitoring.

The increasing number of diabetic cats in today’s society is a result of sedentary indoor life styles and free-choice feeding, ending in an epidemic of obese felines.  There is also research that, for many cats, the carbohydrates in dry cat food cannot be used for energy, and is easily converted into stored fat.  For this reason, feeding canned cat foods that are high in protein anPicture2d low in carbohydrates can be fed to aid in weight loss and prevention of diabetes.

Your veterinarians will take a medical history from the cat owner and perform blood tests and urinalysis to determine if your cat has developed diabetes.  Dr. Henderson notes that diabetic cats can be successfully managed but requires a dedicated owner.  In cases where a cat is overweight but not yet a diabetic, a successful weight loss program will prevent the disease from developing and increase your cat’s longevity and quality of life.  Many feline diseases can be prevented through weight loss and weight management.  Proper diet is key not only caring for the diabetic patient, but also to prevent this debilitating condition from developing.