Planning for an Emergency Disaster

Hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes and other natural or manmade disasters can strike anyone at any time and anywhere. For pet lovers, having an emergency plan in place to reunite with your pet when the unthinkable happens is essential. Below are the best tips to help you do just that. Stay safe!

  1. Microchip your pet and ensure your pet wears a collar with up-to-date information at all times. In the event of an emergency or just a lost pet situation, this is the simplest and best way to ensure your pet is returned to you. If the thought of microchipping doesn’t sit well, check out the Barkcode collar. This collar has a scannable code that will bring up your pet’s profile and contact information. They also have their own URL and allows rescuers with smartphones to post the pet’s information online to help you and your loved ones be able to reunite with your pet.
  2. Create an emergency kit. This kit should include current medical records of your pet, proof of ownership, a photo of your pet, two weeks worth of pet food, food or water bowls, bottled water, litter boxes with litter, any medications for your pet and the contact information of a local emergency shelter.
  3. Place a sticker near your home’s front door. The sticker should allow you to list the number and types of pets residing in your home. This is the best way to alert emergency responders that their are other family members who are in need of rescue.
  4. Where applicable, plan a safety location ahead of time. In the case of a hurricane, sometimes Red Cross disaster shelters are able to accept pets as well as vet hospitals, boarding facilities, pet-friendly hotels or motels and or your own friends and neighbors can help you reunite with your pets later. When you know a disaster is eminent, taking a few minutes ahead of time can save you weeks of stress and worry later.
  5. When disaster strikes and an evacuation is necessary, never leave your pets behind. As scary as the situation is for you, it’s just as scary for your pet. Your pet will be much calmer if you can remain together.
  6. When you’re not home when disaster strikes, plan ahead with your neighbors. Show your friends, neighbors and pet sitter where your emergency kit and carriers are located.
  7. Always bring along a familiar item. Bringing along a favorite blanket or toy, familiar food and litter for your feline will help them to stay calm whether you are separated or not.

Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA)

The aorta is the main artery that feeds oxygenated blood from the left side of the heart to the body. The pulmonary (lung) artery travels from the right side of the heart to the lungs, carrying deoxygenated blood to be oxygenated. Once the blood has been oxygenated by the lungs, it then returns to the left side of the hearty through the pulmonary veins to be pumped out into the body by the aorta.

In the womb, the fetus’ descending aorta is connected to the pulmonary artery by the ductus arteriosus blood vessel, allowing blood to flow directly from the right side of the heart to the aorta, without stopping for oxygen in the lungs. This is because the fetus gets its oxygen from the mother’s bloodstream and does not yet need to have its own blood oxygenated.

Normally at birth, this connection is no longer patent (open). Once a newborn has begun to breath on its own, the pulmonary artery opens to allow blood to flow from the right side heart into the lungs to be oxygenated, and the ductus arteriosus closes. But in patent ductus arteriosis (PDA) the connection remains patent. Consequently, blood is shunted (diverted) in abnormal patterns in the heart. PDA allows blood to flow from the aorta into the pulmonary artery, and then to the lungs.

If the shunt is moderate to large, it can cause left-sided congestive heart failure from blood volume overload on the left side of the heart. Less frequently, a large-diameter PDA will cause injury to the blood vessels in the lungs, from the excess amount of blood flowing into he lungs. High blood pressure in the lungs, and reversal of the shunt so that the blood goes from right to left (pulmonary artery to the aorta), as well as the typical PDA shunt direction of left to right (aorta to pulmonary artery) can be expected.

This atypical right to left shunting of a PDA can cause the aorta to carry blood that is low in oxygen, sending a signal to the body to produce more red blood cells (since they carry oxygen), making the blood too thick.

PDA can affect both dogs and cats.

Look out for respiratory (breathing) distress, coughing, exercise intolerance and increased breathing rates, hind legs may be weak during exercise, arrhythmias (an irregular heart beat), a blood clot from the right to left, pink or bluish gums, bluish skin around the anus or vulva, left-sided congestive heart failure, a rapid and irregular heart beat and stunted growth.

PDA is a genetic predisposition, a birth defect, and for owners, there is no way to prevent it. Breeders should not be breeding dogs with PDA.

To diagnose PDA, your veterinarian will need to perform a thorough physical examination, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel. Your dog’s level of oxygen in his blood may also be tested (expect blood samples to be taken from different locations for comparison). Your vet may also need to use radiograph or ultrasound imaging to look at your dog’s heart. Oftentimes, an X-ray can show left heart enlargement, but a heart with PDA will appear as normal size on an X-ray.

Your vet may prescribe oxygen therapy, nitrates and cage rest. When he has regained stability, he will need surgery as soon as possible. The operation may be performed on puppies as young as seven to eight weeks of age. Unfortunately, if your dog has right to left shunting, he will not be eligible for surgery. After surgery and two weeks recovery time, your dog should be perfectly fine and you will all soon forget he was ever sick.


Cryptorchidism is the failure of one or both testicles to descend normally from the abdomen into the scrotum of young intact male dogs. The goals of treating this disorder are to prevent subsequent torsion of the retained testicle(s) and to prevent development of testicular cancer. Treatment is also designed to prevent propagation of genetic abnormalities and to eliminate undesirable male behavioral traits associated with testosterone.

Cryptorchidism is often asymptomatic and rarely painful. Many owners are often unaware that their dog has the disorder. However, it is quite important to diagnose and treat this condition, because dogs with retained testicles are at an enormously increased risk of developing testicular cancer. Signs of retained testicles that owners may observe include:

  • Noticeable absence of one or both testicles in the scrotal sac, either visibly or upon palpation (the dog’s scrotum looks empty and loose)
  • Leg-lifting during urination earlier than expected in a supposedly neutered dog
  • Exuberant male breeding behavior (mounting, “humping”) in a supposedly neutered dog
  • Intense interested in intact females, particularly when they are in season, in a supposedly neutered dog
  • Dog-aggression, especially towards intact males, in a supposedly neutered dog
  • Successful mating (cryptorchid dogs may be able to impregnate female dogs, depending upon the location of their retained testicle(s))
  • Testicular infection
  • Testicular tumors
  • Acute onset of extreme abdominal pain (from torsion or twisting of the spermatic cord of the retained testes)
  • Symmetrical hair loss (alopecia) along the trunk and flanks
  • Pendulous preputial sheath
  • Darkened (hyperpigmented) external genitalia
  • Feminization (from estrogen secreted by Sertoli cell tumors in retained testes)

While signs of cryptorchidism are normally mild or nonexistent, the condition does carry some risks. Retained testicles develop disease at a much higher rate than do normal testicles – including infection and testicular cancer. They also are prone to twisting, or becoming “torsed”, which causes acute-onset of extremely severe abdominal pain. Some cryptorchid dogs can impregnate females, which is usually quite surprising to owners who have had their dog “neutered,” but unbeknownst to them only one testicle was removed. Other cryptorchid dogs may try but be unable to reproduce successfully due to impaired sperm development in the retained testicle. Mature dogs with two retained testicles are usually sterile.

Retained testicles can occur in any male dog of any breed. Purebred toy and miniature breeds seem to be at significantly higher risk, especially Yorkshire Terriers, Toy Poodles and Pomeranians. Some family lines of German Shepherds, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Boxers also are predisposed. There is thought to be a strong genetic component to this condition. It is much more common for affected dogs to only have one retained testicle (unilateral cryptorchidism) rather than two (bilateral cryptorchidism). Interestingly, the right testis in dogs is retained almost twice as frequently as the left. The reason for this statistical anomaly is not known.

The treatment for cryptorchid dogs are castration and removal of both testicles, whether they are retained or in the proper anatomical location. Most breeders agree that cryptorchid dogs should not be considered candidates for breeding. Their fathers, male siblings and any male offspring have an increased chance of being genetic carriers of the condition, even if they do not have it themselves.

Undescended testicles can be difficult to locate. Transabdominal ultrasound can be very helpful to veterinarians trying to find retained testes, especially before surgery. Removal of retained testicles usually is more expensive than a normal castration procedure, because it almost always involves abdominal exploration. In rare cases, a retained testicle can be manually massaged down into the scrotum, making it easier and less costly to remove.

After surgical removal of undescended testes, the dog will need some down time to recover. He should be given soft, thick bedding in a quiet area, with free access to fresh water. His activities should be restricted for a week or two, until the surgical incision has healed and the swelling has resolved.

Dogs with retained testicles have a much greater risk of developing testicular cancer than do dogs whose testicles both descend normally. In fact, neoplastic tumors occur in roughly 50 percent of undescended testicles – a ten-fold increase over the risk of cancer in non-retained testes. Surgical correction of cryptorchidism should involve removal of both testicles, regardless of their location in the scrotum, inguinal canal or abdomen. With this treatment and appropriate post-operative supportive care, the prognosis for affected dogs is excellent.

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD)

This bone disease usually affects young, rapidly growing, large breed canines. It also goes by many names — skeletal scurvy, Moller-Barlow’s disease, osteodystrophy II or metaphyseal osteopathy. HOD causes severe lameness and pain and can affect multiple limbs. The cause is currently unknown.

HOD usually strikes puppies between the ages of 3 to 6 months. It tends to strike male dogs more than females. It is common ailment among all large breeds of dogs, and, at the moment, there doesn’t appear to be a genetic or inherited link.

If your dog is suffering with HOD, you may notice a mild to moderate painful swelling of the growth plates in your dog’s leg bones. It most commonly starts at the end of the radius, ulna (the bone between the elbow and the wrist) or the tibia (the bone from the knee to the hock). This can cause his leg to look lame and show a reluctance to move. He may be lethargic and refusing to eat. A fever can also accompany HOD. It usually affects both legs at the same time. The symptoms may wax and wane all on their own and even resolve itself. However if the fever (of up to 106 degrees) is so high for too long or the damage so severe, your dog may suffer permanent structural damage to his legs and could even die.

An official diagnosis will be based on a physical exam and through x-rays. If your dog has a fever, a blood cell count should be high.

Treatments will include anti-inflammatories to help with the pain. As well, a broad spectrum antibiotic is prescribed. Strict rest in a warm bed is strongly recommended. Feeding your dog a highly palatable, nutritious food should encourage him to eat. In severe cases, your dog may be prescribed steroids or a vitamin C supplement to control the pain.

The cause of HOD is unknown. Some vets believe HOD may be a bacterial infection. The bony changes and high fever support this theory. HOD tends to mimic the symptoms of scurvy in humans — which is a vitamin C deficiency. However not all affected dogs who take a vitamin C supplement show improvement. This leads researchers to speculate the low blood level of vitamin C is a result of HOD and not a cause.

Additionally other research suggests a possible cause is nutrition. Several bone diseases in young puppies have been linked to an excess of protein and/or calories in their diet. There haven’t yet been any studies to link HOD to diet. However, many owners of large or giant breed canines are encouraged to feed their dog a diet low in fat and protein to try to encourage moderate and steady growth instead of rapid growth.

At this time, an exact cause of HOD and a prevention plan of this painful and debilitating disease is unknown.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

Von Willebrand’s disease (vWD) is a blood disease caused by a deficiency of von Willebrand Factor, an adhesive glycoprotein in the blood required for normal platelet binding (clotting) at the sites of small blood vessel injuries. Von Willebrand Factor is a carrier protein for coagulation Factor VIII (which is necessary for blood to clot). Similar to hemophilia in humans, von Willebrand’s disease can lead to excessive bleeding following an injury, since the blood isn’t able to clot.

Von Willebrand’s disease is the most common hereditary blood clotting disorder in dogs, occurring more frequently in German Shepherds, Doberman Pinscher, Standard Poodles, Shetland Sheepdogs and Golden Retrievers.

The symptoms to look out for: spontaneous hemorrhages from mucosal surfaces (nosebleeds, blood in the feces, bloody urine, bleeding gums or bleeding from the vagina), skin bruising, prolonged bleeding after surgery or trauma, after prolonged bleeding blood loss anemia.

Your veterinarian will need to perform a blood chemical profile, including a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel. A clinical diagnosis of vWD is based on a specific measurement of plasma von Willebrand’s Factor concentration bound to the antigen.

Your dog may need blood transfusions of blood, plasma or cryoprecipitate to supply von Willebrand’s Factor. Component therapy (adding plasma or cryoprecipitate) is best for surgical prevention or for nonanemic patients to prevent red cell sensitization and blood volume overload. Dogs with severe von Willebrand’s disease may require repeated transfusions to control and/or prevent hemorrhages. If your dog does require surgery, a pre-op transfusion will be given.

If your dog has mild to moderate von Willebrand’s disease, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t experience a good quality of life, though he may minimal to no special treatments. You’ll simply need to monitor when he has an injury. However, a dog experiencing severe von Willebrand’s disease will require much more diligence and potentially a lot more interventions. Most of the time, a dog can be maintained comfortably but his activities will need to be monitored and limited. No matter the severity of his condition, any time your dog experiences prolonged bleeding, get him to his vet immediately for medical treatment.