I got a great question the other week: Shout out to Katy for the being the inspiration behind this blog post!
Question: “What additional medication should I try and get from my vet before we hit the road that you’re not able to offer in your pack?”
So, as I am sure most of you know, I cannot provide prescription medications in the Wanderdog first aid kit, unfortunately. As much as I would love to provide a few different antibiotics and pain meds for you all, it is against the law to dispense prescription meds in this fashion.
A quick disclaimer before I upset any of my veterinarian colleagues: Sometimes writing posts like this can make you feel like you’re walking on egg shells. So, it is very important to note that every single veterinarian’s comfort level will be different when it comes to dispensing medications for “just in case” type scenarios. The reasons are many but to list a few: Inappropriate antibiotic usage is a huge responsibility and concern for us veterinarians. And there is never a “one size fits all” approach to administering medications for your pup… especially antibiotics. Each individual antibiotic we prescribe has a specific usage- and if given improperly can do more harm than good- not only to your dog but also on a global scale… I am not going to go in-depth here but if you would like more info simply Google “antibiotic resistance.” Also, every dog is different- So dispensing meds and your vet’s comfort level with doing so will be highly variable depending on each individual dog and their previous medical history.
Your veterinarian might be perfectly comfortable prescribing these meds for you! That most likely means you have a great relationship and you trust one another. Just remember I say this with caution because I don’t want you to go to your vet and expect him or her to dispense these meds just because you asked for them- especially if they aren’t comfortable with doing so.
On the other hand, if you explain you will be in back country situations and far from veterinary care, they might be more willing to prescribe you the meds with specific instructions.
I know most of you understand this already, I just have to discuss it here for the sake of being thorough.
Okay I am off my high horse now let’s get down to it. This is a list of what I would bring for my own dog, Walter. So, this list is not the holy grail of meds you MUST bring. This is tailored to my own individual experiences and preferences. Also, if your dog has a medical history of skin infections, ear infections, sensitive stomach, etc.- your list might need to look different than mine. Your vet will know whats best for your dog.
I group the medications into the three following categories: pain medications for injuries, GI (gastrointestinal medications), and reaction medications (think inflammatory- ie allergies, anaphylaxis, etc.)
So under most circumstances these meds should have all the major systems covered without carrying an entire pharmacy. We basically want to reduce pain, reduce chances of dehydration, and treat massive inflammatory responses (reactions) which could be potentially life threatening until you can get to veterinary care.
Here is a peak into Walter’s doggy go bag and what medications I bring for him:
Rimadyl- (or a similar NSAID). An non-steroidal anti-inflammatory for pain. Useful in situations where we overdo it and he may have some muscle soreness, a mild limp, sprain, or cut/abrasion. Note: it is not ideal to give this medication in a dog that has some GI upset.
Gabapentin- Another pain medication without the anti inflammatory component. Better to use in situations where I know he is painful, and he has GI upset. Can be used in conjunction with Rimadyl if pain is severe. Can also cause a sedative effect which might be useful in anxiety producing situations.
Gastrointestinal (GI) medications:
Pro-pectalin- anti diarrheal (can be purchased online)—kinda self-explanatory. I will just caution you that if GI symptoms get worse despite bland diet and pro pectalin you should start considering seeking veterinary care- these guys can dehydrate quickly!
Cerenia- anti nausea medication. Is useful for car sickness or episodes of GI upset and vomiting. Cerenia can also be effective to reduce abdominal pain.
Famotidine- An acid reducer. Sometimes useful for situations where your dog might feel inappetent (like he doesn’t want to eat) or perhaps he had an episode or two of vomiting. Dogs, like us, can experience some acid reflux when they go for periods without eating. I find Walter can sometimes benefit from an acid reducer in the mornings when he will occasionally not feel like eating.
Metronidazole (Flagyl)- A good gut antibiotic for vomiting and diarrhea. Also, can clear up Giardia- which can potentially come from contaminated water sources and causes diarrhea.
Prednisone- Steroids are really good at reducing inflammation. So, they are useful in situations where we have inflammatory responses. Think allergic reactions, hives, bee stings, skin infections, itchy skin, hot spots. If you know your dog got bitten or stung by something and is having a mild reaction a steroid with specific instructions for usage can be very helpful for your dog. If you suspect your dog got bitten or stung it might look like an area of swelling, hives, or itching. A more severe reaction might be vomiting, diarrhea, excessive swelling, lethargy, or difficulty breathing.
Depending on the length and the type of the trip I might even bring an injectable steroid for Walter. This will depend on your veterinarian’s comfort level and your comfort level administering an injectable steroid to your dog with specific instructions. Once again, medications used for the wrong reasons- especially steroids- can do more harm than good. So, this will be largely variable depending on your dog’s medical history.
In severe anaphylaxis or reactions an injectable steroid would be indicated instead of an oral steroid because they tend to act quicker and giving an oral medication to a dog in this state might not be physically possible.
Steroids must never be used in conjunction with a Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. This can increase the risk of gastric ulcers and bleeding.
Obviously, this list of medications will be in addition to any meds your dog is already on, including flea and heart worm prevention and long-term supplements.
Once again, this list is not all inclusive. We could get into eye meds, respiratory meds, topical medications, and different oral antibiotics for different purposes. But the goal with this blog post is not so you can avoid seeking veterinary care all together. The goal with this post is - how you can make your dog feel better until you can get him or her to veterinary care. Or in situations where there might be extended delay from the time the ailment occurs until the time you can get to help.
Don’t forget we have an entire list of over the counter medications you can reference! Click here to access it. The list also includes how much of the medication to give, how often to give it, and what you can use it for.
It is great to have all these meds on hand for peace of mind. But do not feel limited or discouraged if your vet doesn’t feel comfortable prescribing them. Remember the key is PREVENTION! And being aware and proactive to hopefully avoid these situations from happening in the first place.
I encourage you to have this conversation with your veterinarian long before you actually might need the meds on hand. This builds trust and it increases your understanding on each individual medication and their uses. This education will be needed if you plan on administering these meds in a remote or traveling scenario.
Never forget that the most powerful tool you have is in between your ears. Be aware, be proactive, know what is normal for your dog and what is not, and educate yourself on what can go wrong so that you can work backwards from there.
And per usual, if you have any questions or concerns never hesitate to reach out to me.
In the meantime, get out and explore more with your canine companion!
Libbie Fort, DVM