Disaster Preparation for Your Pets

Hurricane Katrina. Wildfires in California. Flash floods in Texas. Emergency trips to the hospital. We never know what kind of a disaster we’ll be facing or when, but if we’re prepared ahead of time no event is too big for us to handle. We’ve gathered the best tips around to help you and your beloved pet get ready for any emergency and have put them into one list. Get together with your family soon and make a plan; not only for yourself and your home, but for the little furry/feathered/scaly creatures within. The Red Cross has an excellent section discussing disaster preparedness for your family (http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family) and we encourage you to start there. Remember, if you are prepared you will be in a better situation to help everyone around you in an emergency.

We at Plymouth Veterinary Hospital are (of course) primarily concerned with keeping our patients safe in the face of disaster. We have prepared a list of items to keep on hand in a bag or satchel that is ready to go at any time (a “Bug-Out Bag”). Whether it’s dangerous weather (flooding, tornado, earthquakes) or dangerous home conditions (fire, pest invasion, emergency boarding), you will need the following gathered:

1. Make sure that your pet is collared AND harnessed (harnesses are more difficult to slip out of when your pet enters a high anxiety situation), or secured in their carrier. They should have tags easily identifying them and providing their microchip ID (if applicable).
2. Use a NON-retractable leash when you are escaping an emergent situation; it is more difficult to control your pet when using a retractable leash, and your likelihood of injuring yourself on the thin string is high.
3. At least one week’s worth of your pet’s regular food. Ziplock baggies can save a lot of space in the bag, and canned diets (in small, 5.8oz containers) stack nicely.
4. A simple first-aid kit. Guidelines for making your own can been found on the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) website: http://www.aaha.org/blog/petsmatter/post/2014/03/05/599021/The-improvised-pet-first-aid-kit.aspx
5. At least one bowl for water and one bowl for food; either stackable or collapsible.
6. At least one bottle of water; 1L tall bottles (Smart Water, Absopure, etc.) fit easily into corners of backpacks or satchels.
7. Waste bags, litter pans, litter, poop scoop…whatever your pet needs to do their business when out of the home.
8. A favorite toy or blanket to give comfort. Plymouth Veterinary Hospital also sells the Adaptil and Feliway pheromone sprays to apply to toys or blankets to provide additional comfort. If you have a cat in a carrier, a blanket is a great idea to keep them calm when you are in a busy area like a shelter or safe zone.
9. In Case of Emergency (ICE) paperwork. This should give you and your pet’s names, contact information, current veterinarian information, current vaccine status, any medications your pet is currently on, and contact information for a friend or family member. You can also have a copy of your pet’s most recent physical exam, proof negative fecal and blood work for extra security.
10. Any and all medications, supplements, and pilling assists (Pill Pockets, Lean Treats, Pet Piller).

Store those items in a bag, backpack, or satchel so that they are easily accessible at all times. Another good tip is to attach a baggage tag to the bag with your immediate information in case it becomes lost.

The next important step to disaster preparation for your pets is locating where you can go with your pet, or at least where you can take your pet if you end up somewhere that doesn’t allow them. Contact local boarding facilities to see what their requirements are to accept your pet as a client. Make sure to keep those requirements in the emergency bag at all times (and update whenever your pet is updated at their vet). Have several different options in mind in case these facilities become full. Also, contact local human shelters to see if they allow pets, if they have any restrictions on pets (size, breed, vaccine status), and if they have a limit on how many pets you can bring with you.

Having a friend or family member local (in case of personal emergency) or more than 30 miles away (in case of wide-spread disaster) that can take your pets in a pinch is also a great way to stay prepared.

Store all these shelter and boarding possibilities on a list with their names, locations, phone numbers, and boarding requirements. Limiting the amount of effort you have to put in to emergency decisions lowers your anxiety in the situation and increases the chance that everyone in your family will be safe and secure.

Finally, in case of an emergency that requires immediate evacuation of your home such as a fire, it’s imperative that you make it known there are pets in the home. You can do this by placing a safety pet alert sticker or decal on the front of your door or front window, marking the number of pets inside. This tells the professionals who is still inside the house. The ASPCA has a free pack of stickers that you can order by going to this link (https://www.aspca.org/form/free-pet-safety-pack).

Disaster preparedness is imperative for all those big and small emergencies that you hope will never happen. However, should the unthinkable happen, you’ll be beyond grateful you took the time to ensure your fur-baby’s safety. If you have any questions or suggestions, we’d love to hear them. Until next time—Happy Tails!

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