Emergencies can happen at any time, so it’s crucial for pet owners to be as prepared as possible for a potential evacuation or shelter-in-place situation that could last for hours, days, weeks or even longer.
Knowing which hazards are most likely to impact your community, whether they be wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or extreme heat/cold is a good first step. Then plan accordingly with a response for each scenario.
To help you prepare, ask yourself the following.
- Where would you go?
- What do you need to bring?
- Where would your pet(s) go?
- Does your pet have identification (ID tag, microchip) if you were separated? If so, is the information up to date?
To make a truly effective plan, be sure to include every member of your household by gathering their input and determining everyone’s roles. It is also critical to designate an off-site meeting location for everyone in the event that members of the family are not home during an emergency evacuation event. Once your plan is complete, make copies for everyone to have on hand and update as necessary.
To get started, here are several suggestions on readying yourself and your pets for many types of emergencies:
Practice training routines
For pets that are not crate-trained or are uncomfortable in their carriers, now would be a great time to start working toward helping them feel relaxed and safe in them. Pets can also feel stress and panic as danger nears, and may try to escape or run and hide for survival. Pets often can become lost before they can be safely evacuated, so it is important to get them as comfortable as possible in their crates so that both you and your pet can safely evacuate during any emergency.
If your dogs are not comfortable wearing collars or walking on a leash, you should start to work on getting them comfortable with them because both are critical in emergency situations. If this isn’t something you currently do on a consistent basis, start practicing at least once a day. Information and tips can be found at "Dog Pulling on Leash."
Training relates to humans, as well. Consider taking a pet first-aid and/or a pet CPR course provided by local agencies to ensure you can attend to your pet’s potential medical needs as much as possible as veterinary care may not be readily available during a crisis.
Prepare emergency supplies
Emergencies often require immediate evacuation, but they also can call for you to shelter in place or within your home for a period of time. Either way, an emergency bag or bin of supplies for yourself and your pet is an absolute must.
For suggestions on developing a plan for yourself and family, check out Ready.gov.
Here is a basic emergency supply list for your pet.
- A two-week supply of wet and dry food and water
- Your pet’s favorite toys and treats
- An extra supply of any necessary medication (Remember that a vet might not be available and that a crisis could last for a few days, a few weeks or more.)
- A list of your pet’s medical needs, medicines taken (including dosing frequency), veterinary contact information.
- Copies of current vaccination records
- A collar with a current ID tag or microchip that includes your cell phone number
- A crate labeled with your pet’s name and your contact information (Use masking tape and a permanent marker.)
- A well-worn sweater or sweatshirt to put inside the crate so that your pet, surrounded by your scent, will be more comfortable while traveling
- Extra poop bags
- For cats, a small bag of litter and litter pan
- Can opener and spoons
Should an injury or ailment occur during an emergency situation, it’s especially important to be prepared because a veterinarian might not be as readily available. A good first aid kit should include the following items:
- Pet first-aid book
- Emergency contact list (including numbers for your veterinarian, emergency vet clinic and national poison control hotline.)
- Pet’s prescriptions
- Coban self-adherent wrap
- Kerlex gauze roll
- Sterile gauze pads (various sizes)
- Abdominal (ABD) pads
- Ace bandage wraps
- Antiseptic pads or alcohol wipes
- Antibacterial cream or ointment
- Instant cold packs
- Emergency blanket
- Blunt scissors
- Exam gloves
- Styptic blood clotting powder
- 10 ml. sterile saline syringes
- Cotton balls, cotton swabs
- 3% hydrogen peroxide
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Collapsible water bowl
- Sling for carrying medium or large dogs
Identify potential caregivers or boarding options
Should you be displaced by a disaster and unable to retrieve your pets, make contact with family, friends or neighbors who may be willing to temporarily watch or pick up your pets. Having a few designated pet caregivers is ideal for these situations.
Once those designated caregivers have been determined, create a list of your pets’ daily routines, any special needs and the location of emergency supplies. Print out hard copies and send a digital copy to each designated caregiver.
Pet-friendly lodging, which is becoming more and more popular, can really help when you’re looking for a place to stay during an emergency. It’s best practice to do your research in advance and create a list of several lodging locations within a five to 50-mile radius.
Another option for displaced pets is a boarding facility. Again, do your research in advance, going so far as to visit the facility and interact with the employees to ensure that you are comfortable with the services provided. Information on your approved boarding facilities should also be given to your designated caregivers in case they are unable to house your pets for any reason.
Local sheltering facilities are usually created in real time leading up to or during an emergency. But it’s important to do your research now regarding potential sheltering options in your community and keep a list on your phone so you can access in real time.
Photograph your pet and keep a photo of both you and your pet on your phone in case you are separated. Also, consider printing out a few photos to have in case your phone isn’t available, loses power or you don’t have access to social media platforms. This will help to ensure identification and a successful reunion.
Here is a basic emergency supply list for your pet. Click here for printable checklist.
A good first aid kit should include the following items. Click here for printable checklist.