When disaster strikes unexpectedly, it is important to have a plan. Fires, floods, storms, and disease can come out of nowhere and disrupt everyday life. While no one knows what kind of disasters the future holds, having an emergency plan and supplies ready to go can save you a lot of stress – and save lives! Here are some actions you can take to prepare for emergency situations:
Assemble an emergency kit for your pets.
The kit should be packed and ready to go at all times and kept in a place that is easily accessible in an emergency. The kit should include:
A leash (not a retractable)
Your pet’s medical records - including a microchip number if your pet has one.
A current photo of your pet
Food (and can opener for canned food)
Cat litter/litter box
1-month’s supply of Heartworm and flea/tick prevention
A first aid kit
Your veterinarian’s contact information, as well as local emergency clinic’s information
Cleaning supplies (paper towels, trash bags, disinfectant, hand sanitizer)
For small dogs, cats, and other small animals, it is also important to keep a pet carrier assembled to transport or contain your pet as needed. It is recommended that owners of large dogs have a fitted harness and strong leash (no retractable leashes) ready to use. Retractable leashes are not recommended as they are not as strong and can allow your pet to get too far away from you during an emergency.
Medical documents, proof of vaccinations, and pet photographs should all be stored in a water-proof container. It is also recommended to keep a typed summary of your pet’s feeding or medication instructions, as well as any other special advisories regarding your pet, such as temperament, medical conditions, or other distinguishing characteristics.
If your pet requires medication that must stay cold, such as insulin, you may wish to invest in a portable thermoelectric cooler to store medications at safe temperatures.
Keep a fully-stocked first aid kit handy.
A pet first aid kit should include the following:
Absorbent gauze pads
3% hydrogen peroxide
Syringes (for oral medications)
Styptic powder or silver nitrate sticks
Saline eyewash solution
The first aid kit should be stored in an easily accessible place and restocked whenever items are used or expire. Remember to bring the first aid kit with you whenever you are traveling with your pet. If you frequently travel with your pet, it may be worth having a second first aid kit to keep in the car.
For more information on assembling a pet first aid kit, check out the ASPCA’s first aid kit guidelines: https://www.aspcapro.org/resource/saving-lives-shelter-health-poison-control/how-make-pet-first-aid-kit
Microchip and tag your pets.
In the event that your pet is separated from you, microchipping is a fantastic way to reunite pets with their owners. The microchip, once registered, can be scanned by shelters and veterinary clinics all over the country, which allows your pet to be linked back to you. It is crucial that you update your pet’s microchip information if you change phone numbers or address, or if your pet’s ownership is transferred to someone else.
Additionally, we urge all owners to keep a collar and tag on their pets. The tag should include important information, such as your pet’s name, your phone number, and any special alerts regarding your pet’s health (for example: diabetic, deaf, blind, etc.) Be sure to get a new tag if any of the information changes, or if the tag becomes scratched and worn.
Familiarize yourself with local emergency clinics and pet-friendly hotels.
We recommend keeping your veterinarian’s contact information in your pet’s first aid or emergency kit, as well as the contact information for local emergency clinics in the event you have an after-hours emergency. When traveling with your pet, it is important to identify nearby emergency clinics in case you have an emergency while out of town.
In the event that an emergency requires you to evacuate your home, it is important to know what hotels are pet-friendly so you aren’t scrambling to find a place to stay with your pets. We recommend identifying which hotels are going to be able to accommodate your entire family and keeping their information handy so you know exactly who to call when you need somewhere to stay. If it is not safe for you to stay in your home, it is not safe for your pets to stay, either!
Plan for the worst.
Even the most prepared person can be caught off-guard during a disaster. Natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes, or floods can affect your access to shelter, transportation, and medical care. Public health crises can lead to panic within a community, leading to resource scarcity as people stock up on food and drug items. This is where planning ahead comes in handy.
We recommend having at least a two-week supply of food and medications at home in the event of an emergency. Additionally, we recommend identifying several places you and your animals could stay in the event you need to evacuate your home. Do you have friends or family nearby? Are the shelters in your area pet-friendly? What hotels can house you and your pets? Some circumstances may require you to board your pets at a veterinarian’s office or boarding facility, so be sure to have their medical records ready in the event that they need to board.
Did you know that Prosper Trail Animal Hospital uses a mobile app that allows our clients to view their pet’s vaccine status and medical history from their phones? Call our office today to learn more.
Practice, practice, practice!
We recommend running through emergency drills with the whole family, including your pets. What is the best way to evacuate in the event of a house fire? Does everyone know where the emergency kit is located? How to put on a leash or load a pet up in a carrier? Becoming fluent in these practices allows you to navigate through emergency situations more smoothly.
We strongly suggest crate training as a way of getting your pet comfortable with being in a crate or carrier. If your pet recognizes their crate as a safe place, getting them into the carrier during an emergency will go more smoothly. The last thing you want to be doing in a crisis is fighting a nervous cat who is refusing to be contained.
If you live in an area frequently affected by tornados and have a storm shelter in your home, it would be greatly beneficial to get your pet acquainted with the space. Use treats and positive reinforcement to teach your pet that the storm shelter is a safe, comfortable space so they are less likely to panic if the shelter really needs to be utilized.
Keep your pets calm and contained.
Some pets suffer from storm anxiety or become nervous when they hear loud noises, such as sirens, wind, hail, or thunder, and these fears should be taken into account when making your emergency plan. If your pet suffers from severe anxiety, speak to your vet about medications that can be used to alleviate anxiety and calm your pet. There are several safe and affordable options for treating anxiety in pets that can make it easier to manage your pet in a crisis.
When frightened, our pet’s natural instinct is to flee. Strong winds can damage fences and open gates (even locked gates), so we recommend bringing all pets indoors if inclement weather is in the forecast. Once inside, make sure your pet is wearing their collar with identification tags, and keep them close to the family. If the family needs to seek shelter in a closet or storm shelter, bring your pets, too. Your pets should be leashed or in a carrier. During an emergency, your pet is safest when they are with you. Do not release your pets and allow them to run free and seek their own shelter.
For more information on disaster preparedness, check out American Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/pet-disaster-preparedness.html