Whether it’s a natural disaster, some unforeseen event that forces you and your best friend out of your home, or the impending zombie apocalypse, every dog owner should be prepared in the event that the proverbial dog poo hits the fan. Although emergency evacuations are (thankfully) rare, they do happen. And, most times, evacuees have mere minutes to gather basic survival supplies.
An emergency preparedness kit, or Bug-Out Bag, is essentially a survival kit that you’ve got pre-packed and ready to grab in the event of an emergency. And, since you wouldn’t dare evacuate without your best furry friend, you’d better have a bug-out bag packed for him, too.
Here’s how to build your own doggie bug-out bag:
Because you’ll be hauling your own basic survival supplies, your dog will very likely need to carry some of the load. Unless you’ve got a small or physically impaired dog that can’t handle the extra weight, a dog backpack or hiking bag is the perfect base for your bug-out bag.
While there are a variety of dog backpacks available, you’ll want one that has plenty of room for storing about 3-days worth of supplies, has separate pockets for keeping organized, and is comfortable and properly fitted to your dog. Some packs double as harnesses while others require an additional collar or harness be worn underneath. If you choose a pack that doubles as a harness, make sure the storage compartments can be removed if your dog needs a break.
It’s a good idea to train your dog to wear the pack well in advance of an emergency. Start with the bag empty and reward your dog handsomely for wearing it. Gradually add a little weight to the pack and let your dog wear it for longer stretches of time until eventually he has no problem carrying the fully packed bag for any length of time.
A well-equipped Bug-Out Bag will contain about 3 days worth of supplies, but still be lightweight enough to not be uncomfortable or dangerous for your dog to carry. When stocking your bag, look for items that are as lightweight and compact as possible, yet still useful.
At a minimum, your Bug-Out Bag should contain the following:
- Water and food: Water is arguably the most important item in your bag. Unfortunately it’s also the heaviest, bulkiest thing you’ll need to carry. Because it’s unreasonable to carry enough water for 3 days, carry several small water bottles and be prepared to filter or purify your own water using a portable water filtration system like those made for camping. Whenever possible, opt for dry food instead of canned as it is much lighter weight and doesn’t require additional supplies like a can opener or dishwashing soap. To really make your food lightweight, consider packing freeze-dried dog food in place of kibble or canned. Almost weightless, freeze-dried food can be served either dry, right out of the package, or can be mixed with water to create a wet food. Note: If you’re pre-packing food and water in your Bug-Out Bag, check these items for freshness and be sure to replace them at least every 3 months.
- Collapsible food and water bowls: Lightweight, collapsible fabric bowls are great for Bug-Out Bags because they’re so compact. Often, these bowls are equipped with carabiner clips, making it possible to clip them to your dog’s leash or outside of the pack, leaving valuable space for other supplies.
- A multi-purpose leash: Because you have no way of knowing in advance of an emergency what type of situation you’ll end up in, and because you may have your hands full with survival supplies, a multi-use leash that can be used normally, attached around the waist, worn courier-style over the shoulder, and can be used as a tie-out will be a lifesaver.
- Dog booties and water-resistant coat: With the uncertainties surrounding an emergency evacuation, you’ll need to be prepared for all types of weather conditions. Be sure your pack includes a set of dog booties to protect your pup’s paws against ice, and snow in the winter or extreme heat in the summer. Booties are also helpful if you find yourself hiking over rocky or rough terrain that could damage delicate paw pads. Also important is a dog coat that offers warmth and protection against rain and snow.
- A muzzle: This is one of those items you may never need, but certainly won’t want to be without in case you do. Find an easy to use, lightweight muzzle and keep it in your pack just in case.
- A pet first aid kit: You may choose to assemble your own first aid kit or find one pre-packed. Either way, your kit should include basic first aid supplies like bandages, scissors, tweezers, and antibiotic ointment for treating injuries while away from home. It’s also a good idea to pack some Benadryl or other antihistamine in the event of allergic reaction to bug bites or bee stings. If your dog is currently taking any medication, be sure it’s included in your kit, too.
- Poop bags: I know what you’re thinking, if this is the apocalypse I don’t think I need to worry about picking up my dog’s doodie… and you’re right. But, your Bug-Out Bag will be useful in a variety of scenarios, most of which don’t involve the end of the world as we know it. Best to just toss a roll of poop bags in your kit. Besides, you’ll find yourself using those handy little bags for a lot of other things, too.
- An extra collar and leash: It’s always a good idea to keep an extra collar and leash available in the event of breakage or loss. Or, if you prefer, a simple slip lead will work as both in a pinch.
- Your dog’s medical records: Keep a book in your pack that includes your dog’s medical and vaccination records, proof of ownership or identification, and recent photographs in the event he is lost.
Remember, you know your dog and his needs better than anyone else. When packing your doggie Bug-Out Bag, think about his daily needs and include any supplies you may need to keep him as calm and stress-free as possible on your uncertain journey. Then, if you’ve still got space left, include some of his favorite toys and treats to make the experience more comfortable for him.
Do you have an emergency preparedness/evacuation kit already packed for you or your dogs? Please share any additional ideas or suggestions in a comment below.