Emergency Medicine, Urgent Care
Disaster Preparation and Your Pet: Would You be Ready?
When we think of disaster preparation, we often think about preparing our homes for natural disasters. We share with our families what to do in case of a fire. We know where to head for a tornado. You may even know evacuation routes to safely leave the area in case of floods or hurricanes. Along with these plans, you may have some flashlights tucked away for a power outage from a storm. But have you accounted for your furry friends in your disaster preparedness plans? A little advance planning can help keep your pet(s) safe during a disaster.
Planning an Evacuation
Think in advance about where you would go if you needed to leave your home quickly. Do you have family or friends that would allow you to stay with your pet(s)? Are there nearby cities with pet-friendly accommodations that would allow you get out of harm’s way?
Keep in mind many emergency shelters do not allow pets so thinking through alternative options in advance can be helpful. If you have specific cities in mind, you can proactively make a list of pet-friendly hotels, area veterinarians and emergency facilities, and animal control agencies.
Importance of Pet Identification
In an emergency, pets can get separated from their owners. Thinking ahead during your disaster preparation can make it easier to be reunited with your pet.
- Ensure you pet has an up-to-date identification tag on their collar. Make sure the tag includes your pet’s name, your name, and a current phone number. If your pet has a chronic condition and needs medication, you may want to include that information as well.
- Consider microchipping your pet. If your pet is already microchipped, be sure you have updated your contact information in the database. And you may also want to have your pet’s microchip number and the company name and phone number.
- Have a recent photo of your pet. Photos can be used to help find a lost pet, and if the picture includes your family members, that can help someone match your pet to you. Having printed photos available can help you canvas a neighborhood if your pet is lost.
- Use a sign on your residence that alerts first responders that there may be pets inside. This helps emergency personnel know to look for your pets.
Take Important Documents and Numbers
It is helpful to have copies of your pet’s medical records, including their vaccination history. You can also keep electronic records and photos stored in the cloud so they’re accessible from anywhere. This is especially important if your pet is receiving treatment for a chronic condition. Additionally, you may be required to show up-to-date vaccinations for emergency boarding at a kennel or to be allowed to keep your pet with you at a shelter.
Having a list of emergency phone numbers at the ready is also advisable. This list should include the number for your family veterinarian, your nearest MedVet or 24-hour veterinary emergency clinic, a pet poison control hotline, and a couple of nearby boarding kennels. Other important phone numbers to include are the public health department, local animal control, local animal shelters and humane organizations, and the local Red Cross chapter.
Pet Emergency Kit
An evacuation is scary for you, and your pet. They also must leave the security of their familiar surroundings. Having the items listed below ready to go in an emergency kit will help ensure that you can safely transport your pet and care for their basic needs for at least a few days until you can get to a safe location and obtain additional supplies. Including a few comforts from home can help them feel more at ease during this time, too.
- Collar and harness
- Crate or pet carrier
- Favorite toy, treat, bedding and/or blankets for comfort
- Food and water for three or more days
- Pet litter and box and waste disposal bags if needed
Pet First-Aid Supplies
We recommend creating a pet first aid kit to help with disaster preparation. Although these items don’t take the place of emergency care for your pet, having these items on hand can help you care for your pet and stabilize them for safe transport until you can get to your family veterinarian or an emergency hospital.
Basic supplies to include:
- Corn syrup (for diabetic pets)
- Cotton balls and swabs
- Digital thermometer (ideally with a flexible, soft tip)
- Disposable rubber gloves
- Ear-cleaning solution
- Instant cold pack
- Nail clippers
- Plastic eyedropper or syringe for administering liquid medications
- Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) to clean the thermometer
- Styptic powder or pencil for bleeding nails
- Adhesive tape
- Bandage scissors
- Gauze dressing pads, bandage roll, and absorbent gauze pads
- Self-cling bandage (commonly called VetWrap, this is a bandage that stretches and sticks to itself)
- Tongue depressors (can be used as a splint)
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) for allergic reactions. Your veterinarian must tell you the correct dosage for your pet’s size.
- Hydrocortisone cream can be used if your pet is itching.
- Hydrogen peroxide can be used to clean a wound and to induce vomiting under your veterinarian’s instruction.
- Triple antibiotic ointment can be used on small cuts to help fight infection.
- Blanket that be used to cover a pet, dry a pet, or use it as a stretcher if needed.
- Leather gloves for handling an injured pet and to help protect you from a dog bite.
- Muzzle (for dogs) to help protect you from being bitten. You can purchase one from a store or make your own muzzle from rope, soft cloth, a towel, or a leash.
- Penlight or flashlight so you can better see an area that needs treatment.
- Pillowcase can help safely confine small pets.
- Towels or washcloths to help clean a pet or to help stop bleeding.
Advance Disaster Preparation Makes a Difference
Your pet is part of your family. Including their needs in your disaster planning will make it easier to respond should inclement weather or another disaster occur. In addition to the tips we’ve included here, you can learn more about disaster preparation at ready.gov.