The world is an unpredictable place, there's no time like right now to prepare yourself for the unexpected. Recent fire and weather events put an exclamation mark after the saying “forewarned is forearmed". A simple beginning to emergency preparedness is to make sure that a well stocked medical kit is available wherever your animals are stabled, it should also go with them whenever they are traveling. If your horse is taking regular medications, have an extra supply at hand for emergency use only. (Don’t forget to rotate the back up meds so they don’t go out of date.) It's not enough just to have the kit, a working knowledge of how to use basic medical supplies is also important. It behooves you to learn how to obtain a body temperature, how and where to take heart & respiratory rates, to listen for gastrointestinal sounds and how to apply bandages to the extremities. In order to recognize signs that your animal’s vital functions are abnormal you need to know the normal health parameters for each animal species that you care for. You can find this information for the horse on our website,
Note; RBE offers a good, reasonably priced first aid starter kit for purchase that also includes a handy poster to remind you of the normal vital parameters for the horse. Check with the office for availability. If you prefer to put your own kit together consider including these items; stethoscope, digital thermometer, irrigation syringe, gloves, scrub brush, bandage material, scissors, flashlight, antibiotic ointment, Banamine paste, horse specific medications etc.
That covers the day to day stuff, now how about preparing for “the big one”? Whether it’s fire, flood an earthquake or volcanic eruption, it pays to have a plan. Important elements of a preparedness plan for animals in a large scale emergency includes these considerations;
Animal control and identification; halter, lead rope at every stall and a backup set that you can quickly locate. In a large scale emergency identifying your horse can be critical. Horse ID is commonly accomplished by microchip, brand, photographs, unique markings, registration papers, brand or health inspection papers or by a combination of these. The legal entity for animals lost in our area is animal control, under the law enforcement division of each county. Read more about animal ID below.
Evacuation; Is your horse trailer in good condition including the tires? Will your horse load into a trailer? If you don’t have one do you have a list of folks that do and might be willing/able to help?
Evacuation Route; Where would you take your animals if they were in imminent danger? Consider what you would do if faced with a fire or flood and you could not move your animals. Each county has emergency protocols in place for it's jurisdiction, see links below to learn about your area.
Supplies; Prioritize a list of tack to take with you when evacuating. Halter with the horses name affixed, ropes, a water bucket and a 3 day supply of feed and water, don't forget the first aid kit.
Paperwork; Each animal should have it’s own packet of important historical and medical information, health certificates, vaccination records, etc. located in a file that can be easily retrieved and transported in an emergency. Don’t forget to include some photos (Yes, real printed ones!)
Contacts; It’s useful to have a written list of people that might help if you are unreachable during an emergency, this may include your veterinarian and farrier. Someone already in place outside the immediate area to relay calls in a regional disaster situation might be a valuable asset. Consider teaming up with a neighbor or friend to pool your resources. Share the details of your plan with others. Printing out a detailed list of instructions will help if you aren’t able to evacuate your horses yourself.
In any emergency, always put safety first. In the first moments of panic you’ll be comforted knowing that you have a plan in place. However, no matter how good your plans, you will not have control over the actual outcome of events so a “worst case scenario” is also worth walking through. One of the most stressful issues in a large scale disaster may be losing the whereabouts of your animals. Painting or marking your horses hooves or body with your cell number or the last 4 digits of your social security number, or using an identifying name strap or halter are all subject to failure and may make reuniting with your animals a lengthy ordeal. Microchipping has proven helpful to expedite recovery following the recent catastrophic flooding events in the east and the fires in the west. It may be worth considering an implanted microchip for your animals (not just the horses).
Yes, it seems a bit “big brother-ish” but microchipping is rapidly becoming the standard for efficient, accurate and expedient animal identification around the world. Great Britain has recently (2016) made it mandatory for dogs living in their country. By 2018 in the US it will be mandatory for participation in some USEF managed horse sporting events and the USDA is currently moving toward mandatory horse ID by brand or microchip. So what is microchipping?
; “Implantable microchips are cylindrical devices that are implanted in the subcutaneous tissues using a hypodermic needle. These devices contain four components: a capacitor, antenna, connecting wire and a covering. The devices are battery-free and sealed in biocompatible glass covered by a sheath to prevent migration. Microchips are activated by a low-power radio frequency signal emitted by scanners; electromagnetic induction generates electricity in the antenna and transmits the information stored in the microchip. When activated by the scanner, the microchip transmits a unique, pre-programmed identification number.”
Microchips are produced by various manufacturers to various technical standards. While the USA has not developed it’s own standards, the ISO (International Standards Organization) sets the device standards in most of the world. Implantation sites for different animal species are also standardized to facilitate scanning. Implantation generally causes a mild, localized inflammatory reaction that resolves within a few days and results in fibrous tissue encapsulating the implant. In horses the implants are placed within the nuchal ligament of the neck. In the US, implanting microchips is considered a veterinary procedure to be performed by a licensed veterinarian or under their direct supervision. The procedure itself is simple and quick, causing only a mild amount of discomfort. After the chip is in place it must be registered, linking the preprogrammed chip number with your contact information. Microchipping provides reliable, permanent and unalterable animal identification.
Dr. Weeks has been implanting microchips in all sorts of animals for years and has seen minimal complications with their use. If this is something you’d like to consider for your own animals please give us a call. We’re offering a 20% discount on the cost of the procedure during the month of October to help get you started implementing your own emergency preparedness plan. Call the office for more information.
There are many resources to help with disaster & emergency planning, here are a few, plus some on the USEF ruling about microchipping;