How to Prepare Your Dog for Survival

by Millie in K

In the rush of prepping for your family, don’t forget the canine members (and other pets) of your family! I will be writing about dogs, much of this same information will apply to cats and other pets. I have owned and cared for dogs all my life, owned a boarding kennel, taught obedience classes and trained service dogs, I was a retail sales clerk in a pet department and was a groomer. I will try to cover things in a practical manner for you.

The first thing to consider is food. There are a couple of ways to approach this. You can buy and save commercial dog food for your dog. Or they can eat what you eat, in which case you want to make sure you buy for “another person”.

Dog food is processed and packaged to last 18-24 months. There is a date, somewhere on the bag that will indicate when the food expires. The little secret the dog food companies don’t tell you is that it will be good for at least a year afterward if the packaging is intact and you have not gotten bugs in it or mice.

So buy the food with the furthest expiration date you can and rotate, rotate, rotate! When SHTF you should not worry that Fido has the super-premium, all organic, all meat formula. Buy what you can NOW to meet his needs. If the super-premium food costs $60 a bag or the average food costs $40 a bag, save yourself some money and get extra food from the $20 you will save.

Most of the mid-priced foods are very nutritious, especially if you can find a brand that is not so nationally advertised. For example, you can buy Blue Buffalo which is a good food in so many ways but costs $50-60 for a 28 lb. bag.

Or you can buy Premium Edge (manufactured by Diamond) for about $40 a 35 lb bag. There isn’t really a whole lot of difference, nutritionally, the difference in the price is the heavy advertising that Blue Buffalo does.

If you buy your food, check the expiration date. If it is getting within about 6 months of expiring, find someone and ask for a big discount for you to take that food off their hands. You know it will last longer and you can use that food now, setting back food with a longer date for later use. They don’t want this food around because if it expires, they will have to throw it out.

This gets more complicated if your pet has a medical problem or allergies. In that case, you may want to think about feeding them what the family eats. Family dogs have eaten scraps for years, so long as you don’t overdo it on the fat, they will be fine. You can experiment now with two sources of nutrition.

One will be a protein source, one will be a carbohydrate source. Most of the allergens that dogs react to are the grains, second is the meat source. If they are on a trout and sweet potato based food, you can start with that. Find a fish that the dog can tolerate. You can stock a pond, if you have it, for fresh fish for everyone.

You can buy cans of fish for them for storage until you can figure out something else to do. You can fish for the dog every few days. Sweet potatoes can be grown in the garden and stored easily. Try and find other things your dog can eat in this case. Experiment by adding a singular kind of food to the regular diet for two weeks.

If no reaction, you probably have found something else they can have. This needs to be done NOW so you can be ready for the future and know what they can have.

How much to buy? My dogs on average, eat about a cup of food a day. Sometimes the bag will indicate how many cups are in the bag. Sometimes you have to weigh a cup of food, divide the pounds in the bag by that weight to get the number of cups.

Or you can take the kilocalories in the entire bag (don’t ask me why they put this on the bag) and divide that by the kilocalories found in a cup which will also be on the side of the bag. This will give you the number of cups in a bag.

One thing to keep in mind is that most dogs are somewhat overweight. Dog food takes up room. So figure out how much food every day that Fido can have and then buy appropriately. Go ahead and get him slimmed down to what he needs to be. Then you won’t be wasting prep room for an overweight dog that is certainly going to be developing some kinds of health problems over time.

I have bought enough food for my pack for a year. I figure by that time, I may be sharing the food we have with them, or we will have figured out what will work for us. I worked out how much oatmeal I would need for each dog and it was an enormous amount.

Oatmeal is a great thing to feed because it is one of the most nutrient dense grains there is. Corn, wheat or soy which often causes food sensitivities in dogs over time are not good choices, but rice is a good choice for most dogs, as is bread or macaroni. You can also explore other grains such as amaranth or milo.

When storing the food, it doesn’t matter so much if it gets cold. But it should not get hot. Most dog food is “extruded” meaning it is cooked, then made into a gooey mass and then extruded into nice little kibbles, which are then heated to “bake” them and sprayed with flavored oils to make them more appetizing for your pet. That oil can go rancid if the food is in a place where it is warm. Your dog will not eat it and nothing will make your pet eat that food if it smells bad to him.

Canned food should be kept from freezing, as any canned goods should, as well as not getting hot. If you have it in a pile with your supplies, be sure you have some sort of rodent protection around it. Mousetraps or poison (make sure Fido does not go in that area!) or mothballs work.

dog survival prepping

Dogs will eat mothballs and they are poisonous. They taste sweet to them. A better alternative is cedar oil or peppermint oil or dried leaves. Put the oil on cotton balls and refresh them every month, tuck them around the bags.

Plant a package of mint somewhere on your land. It can be very invasive so keep it away from your gardens or it will take over. It will reseed itself every year in that same patch; while you are about it, throw down a package of catnip for Kitty. She will appreciate the fun she can have with a fresh branch every day and you can dry it for winter fun or even tea for yourself if you desire.

When you run out of commercial food, Fido will have to rely on scraps, crows and other birds I can shoot, road kill and/or predator meat. If I shoot a coyote, I will put it to use. I probably won’t want to eat it but the dogs could. Any varmints, such as possums, groundhogs, foxes, feral cats, all could be useful for this. I am also working on a better chicken house so that my chickens are not being picked off by hawks, a cup of oatmeal and a fresh egg or two would make a fine meal for most dogs.

When hunting after SHTF don’t forget to save the bones for the dogs. Raw, uncooked bones will keep their teeth cleaner and provide some nutrition as there will be meat on the bones. If you still have electricity and can freeze them, they can be kept that way for a while, they can also be smoked.

Be aware that all bones can splinter and cause awful problems, especially the cooked ones, so look for the sturdier leg bones for them. Take them away after most of the meat has been removed, throw them on the roof to dry out better, pulverize them in the spring to put calcium in your garden. Bones of smaller animals should not be given.

However, if you decide to cook a whole rabbit or a chicken (or birds that have been shot for this purpose) in a pot of water, cook it covered on low (a la crockpot style of cooking) for 24 hours.

Take a potato masher and mash it all up. The bones will be fragile and disintegrate. I cook chicken this way all the time for my dogs in the crockpot. Remove the skin on the chicken and the rabbit. Dogs can also have tongues, brains, liver, heart, etc. of whatever you hunt. You can also teach your dog to help hunt. Right now my barns are filled with mice and I’m going to be taking one down every day and letting them learn the joy of catching and eating a mouse.

Make sure you have a water bowl and a food bowl in your BOB, with food, a sturdy leash, and collar for your pet. The water bowl can double as a food bowl if necessary and to save on weight. Kitties should always have a small crate; they get frightened and take off if you let them out. Some kind of litter box would be helpful and you can use just plain dirt for litter if necessary.

Water: A dog will need about 8 oz. of water (one cup) for every 5 lbs. of body weight. They will need a little more in hot weather. Dogs can and do drink some really scummy water and don’t seem to mind but some can be more particular. Mine really like the algae water that is in their swimming pool on a hot day, warm, green, very yummy apparently.

They do have a shorter digestion system, so many of the things that would affect us can pass through their guts quickly and without problems. But you cannot count on that; giardia comes to mind and coccidia. Those will cause digestive upsets and especially diarrhea. Make sure your water filter can make enough water for your pets, too.

Medicine, wormers and flea control: Please verify what I am telling you. I am not a vet nor do I play one on TV. Double check the dosages of anything you might need to give to your dog. Also be aware that many things that work well in humans and dogs will kill a cat, such as aspirin. Never give a dog Ibuprophen. Do some research on what you put in the kit for use in animals.

Also, NOW is a good time to be sure your pets are up to date on vaccinations and wormings. Get this on your to-do list now and keep an eye on the timing for this. There won’t be vaccinations for animals when SHTF. Rabies is particularly important, no one wants to see a redux of Old Yeller with their beloved family pet.

Make sure there are things in your medical kit that will help Fido, should he need it. Benadryl for insect bites, particularly bees and wasps, is helpful. 1 mg. per pound is the dosage. A couple of different antibiotics for fish is a good idea, tetracycline is not as effective for most things but amoxicillin and cephalexin are a good choice and easily obtained as fish medicine. Make sure you look up the right dosage for your pet’s weight.

You can buy tapeworm medicine made for fish, too, check the dosage and make sure it is written down. They will get tapeworms from fleas, they nibble the fleas and the fleas are ingested and then you have tapeworms. People can get tapeworms so it’s a good idea to keep on top of this.

You can keep flea preventative on hand, I’ve not seen expiration dates on the spot on type. You can also make a tea out of mint and spray that on your dog, it will repel the fleas at least. Diatomaceous earth can be rubbed into the coat and put in the dog’s bedding, it supposedly cuts the flea larva up and dries out the adult fleas. Pennyroyal is also good for repelling fleas but should not be used on pregnant dogs.

If you are in an area with heartworms (carried by mosquitoes) you will want to be sure you have preventative on hand. You can buy cattle Ivermectin, the 1% injectable kind. The recommended dosage of cattle Ivermectin for dogs to prevent heartworm is .0015 milligrams to .003 milligrams per pound of body weight once a month. Figure the dosage very carefully and measure out with an insulin syringe, be sure you know what you are doing.

This will be given ORALLY, not injected, once per month. Put it in something tasty to get it down your dog. You use the insulin syringe to get a more exact reading. Cattle Ivermectin is good for longer than the expiration date on the bottle. Never give Ivermectin to dogs that are of “collie” origin, collies, border collies, Australian shepherds, or mixes thereof. The measurements on an insulin syringe are in units.

There are 100 units to 1 cc or 1 milligram. The 40 unit syringes are easiest to work with and you can reuse them for this purpose only. Do not think you can make a mistake on this; Ivermectin poisoning can kill your dog. Do some research to be sure you know what you are doing.

Training: You may need to train your dog for various duties when SHTF. One may be that you want the dog to raise Cain and bark its head off any time it sees a stranger or something unusual. Barking vigorously gives the impression that the dog means business, even if it is a small dog.

Most people cannot read a dog’s body language and assume the dog means to bite if the dog can get to them and will give a wide clearance. Conversely, you may wish the dog to be silent. It may be best not to draw attention to what appears to be an abandoned house where you may be.

Training to bark is easier than training not to bark. You may need to have some help bringing in cattle or sheep. Be sure your dog has some instinct in this area, you aren’t going to be able to bring in cattle with a Maltese, but you can train a poodle to retrieve ducks, it’s what they were bred for.

Toys: At some time, there will be worn out toys and we all like our dogs to have some fun. Old socks, knotted together make a fine tug toy as does an old rope. The lid from a 5-gallon bucket makes a pretty fair Frisbee. Bones are always amusing. And it’s probably not a bad idea to lay in a small supply of tennis balls for the dogs who love those to play with, we never know when we may run across another tennis ball!

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  1. I’ve read that dog food wasn’t even invented or didn’t come into widespread use until after WWII. Our latest dog (we get lifetime dogs so have only had 3) routinely stole chicken bones and was never the worse for it. That dog ate plenty of Purina but also daily scraps.

    Our vet recently adopted that big hound was because he wouldn’t have done well at the homestead we are moving to. He was blind and epileptic and old, and hated the property. The only way to get him outside was with leash and collar. But man, was he ever a ferocious, terrifying barker! He will gently live out his days as the mascot clinic dog, a place he has loved for years.

    Very useful article advocating the feeding of human food. I’ve maintained for a long time that dog feeding advice is from big dog food companies, looking out for their bottom line. Similar to Big Pharma giving health and medicine advice. Flu shot anyone?

  2. My observation from six years in the Philippines: Fido and all his feline friends will become lunch during a protracted emergency. Store bought dog food,,, you have got to be kidding. I have looked at the thin selection of “pet food” at a large supermarket. Trust me, westerners, especially from the US will shake their heads in disbelief at the price of these imported products. These items really are only for the Shih Tzu and other small breeds. Even then, most folks do NOT purchase high price imported pet food. Same with cats, store-bought only for a few high-class breeds. I get a lot of strange looks from visitors to my home when they see me mix up a batch of cat food for my two furry friends. Leftover brown rice and cans of 555 brand sardines in natural oil mixed up well. A tomato paste size (5.5 ounces) can is P16 or about .29 1/2 cents USD. Many folks can not believe I feed real “human food” to “street cats.” Homemade is far and away less expensive than commercial food. I do not believe in reincarnation but if it were true, I would NEVER want to come back as a dog or cat in this region.

  3. I get my dog food the same place I get my cow food the local feed store,i compared my dog food to blue buffalo aned mine had corn meal every thing else was the same I pay $24 for a 50 pound bag feed stores sell cat food also

  4. I make my own dog & cat food. Of course that’s easier with small dogs. I put ground turkey or lean ground beef in the crock pot with some carrots or small chunks of sweet potatoes & cook on l ow. When I cook rice or oatmeal for family I make extra & refrigerate to add to dog’s food. I also make bone broth for all of us. I don’t feed bones because my dogs are small. I add scrambled or boiled eggs a few times a week. I make treats from ground oatmeal, peanut butter & banana that are baked then stored. My kids claim I never fed them so carefully but they all survived into adulthood & I tell them I like the dogs better. Lol

  5. Ivermectrin Can be given to Collies and the breeds listed as ones to avoid that drug. The original tests for usage in dogs gave the equivalent of a full horse or cow dose.., as in, an 1000 to 2000 lb. animal dose to adult dogs weighing 50 to 100 lbs.,. This info was from my veterinarian many many years ago. I used Ivermectrin since 1980’s for my Collies and any other breeds we acquired without problems.

    All dogs need to be trained to at least walk on a leash without dragging the handler, learn to potty in different surroundings, eat and drink from different containers and in different surroundings.

    Years ago I had a professional handler tell stories of pampered pooches who refused to eat, drink or potty on show circuits because they had always eaten in the same spot in the kitchen, had water from the same bowl and always taken care of business in two spots in the yard or patio. Yes, dogs are pretty adaptable and will make the necessary changes in routine. But why not address these issues now and get them busy accepting different things now?

  6. I currently have 11 dogs and 4 cats, which are all rescues or throw-away animals. Yes, I do live on a farm. City people bring their animals out in the country on a back road and dump them; some of the animals find their way to my farm. Once I get them I have them fixed and given a rabies shot. I have learned how to treat everything else here on the farm. I get my animals food and meds at the local feed store or online and have had good success in treating dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, ducks, and pigs.

    I currently purchase dry dog food for most of my animals but I keep oats and corn stored in 55-gallon barrels for emergencies as every animal on the farm will eat them in some form. For my oldest dogs which have very sensitive stomachs I make a special diet of fish oil, vitamins and herbs mixed with ground chicken and rice simmered in bone broth. This can be refrigerated for 1 week or frozen.

    The only way we would pack up and leave would be for a wild fire, which rarely happens in our neck of the woods.

  7. We are down to 2 dogs now.

    R.i.p. Brutus my dear friend. We feed them Blue diamond and throw in a big bag of Beniful when we are watching the wild fires. We would rather have too much than not enough. That way we have food for other dogs too.