As winter approaches many of us are beginning to think about making preparations for the coming months. Here in Maine we're filling our basements with wood for our stoves and stocking up on canned goods and bottled water in order to be ready for the inevitable power outages coming our way. Emergency preparedness may not look the same in your area, but there is certainly some type of emergency that your family needs to be ready for. Whether it's a hurricane, flood, tornado or a blizzard your entire family needs to be prepared when an emergency strikes – including your pets.
Did you catch last week's column about heartworm prevention in dogs?
As my family gathered for Thanksgiving this week, many discussions were had about winter and what everyone was doing to prepare their homes and their families. Most of my family lives in New England, so the conversation was almost inevitable. They discussed storing food, water, and gasoline for generators. As I was listening to everyone, I quickly realized that no one was talking about emergency preparedness for their pets.
Don't worry. I filled them in, and I wanted to share some of the same information with all of you as well. No matter what the emergency may be, it's important to have supplies for your pet readily available so you can care for them properly. But how do you go about preparing your dog for an emergency?
Sunday Recap: Preparing Your Dog For An Emergency
I read a lot of information this week about what to pack in a canine emergency kit, the basics of canine first aid, and tips and tricks for preparing your dog for an emergency. Now that I've done the leg work, I've found the best sources of information and I'm passing them on to you.
I would advise all pet owners, no matter what species your pet is, to check out these references and spend a little time making sure your animal companion is prepared in the event of an emergency.
Ready.gov is a site maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. It is dedicated to helping people plan for emergencies. If you're in need of any assistance, this site should be your go-to resource. It's full of information for families caring for seniors, small children, and (of course) pets.
This particular guide is very comprehensive and it gives information for preparing your dog for all types of emergencies. It really covers all of your bases. One bit of information that I found particularly important is the crucial matter of making sure your dog has proper identification. In an emergency the chances of your dog getting lost are greatly increased. Proper ID is a dog's ticket home if he were to become separated from you.
- ID your pet. Make sure your pet’s tags are up-to-date and securely fastened to your pet's collar. If possible, attach the address and/or phone number of your evacuation site. If your pet gets lost, his tag is his ticket home. Also consider microchipping your pets. Make sure you have a current photo of your pet for identification purposes.
Did you know that state health and safety regulations will not allow the Red Cross to let pets into their emergency shelter facilities? If there is an evacuation in your area or you fear you may need to leave your home due to an emergency situation, you need to plan ahead if you have pets. Pick a safe area to evacuate to and look for pet-friendly hotels.
The Red Cross has a great article on their site detailing what you should do when preparing your dog for an emergency. They explain the importance of having a safe place to go if disaster strikes.
- Contact hotels and motels outside your local area to check their policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size and species. Ask if “no pet” policies can be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of “pet friendly” places, including phone numbers, with your disaster supplies.
Red Rover also shares tips with pet parents who need to plan for emergencies. Their site gives you specific details for planning for all types of pets including dogs, cats, horses, birds, reptiles and more. One tip I found on their site that wasn't offered on others was the need for a buddy system.
I hadn't thought about it, but what if something happens to you in the event of an emergency? Giving someone else your pet's information is so important. Not only should they have all your dog's information, but you should also leave information with them about who to contact to care for your pet if you cannot be located.
- Exchange pet information, evacuation plans and house keys with a few trusted neighbors or nearby friends. If you’re caught outside evacuation lines when an evacuation order is issued, your neighbors or friends can evacuate your pets for you.
What if you are outside evacuation lines and you haven't informed anyone that your pets need assistance? PETA offers emergency window stickers that will notify rescuers that you have pets inside your home. These stickers can be purchased at pet stores too, and they are a must-have for any pet owner. You may even find them for free from certain organizations like the ASPCA.
Stickers like these can alert emergency personnel if your home catches on fire or there is any other type of emergency as well. You won't always be home to help your pet, so it's your responsibility to make it well known to any emergency workers that your pets are inside your home and they need someone to help them.
- Place PETA’s emergency window stickers near your front and back doors and on side windows in case a weather emergency or fire strikes when you are not home. These stickers will alert rescuers to animals in your home who need help.
Dogs that live outside all the time need to be brought inside during emergencies. You may think this sounds like common sense, but unfortunately some animals are left to fend for themselves during times of crisis. The South Carolina Emergency Management Division has a great article on their site that explains the importance of bringing dogs inside well before the emergency situation ensues.
- Animals have instincts about severe weather changes and will often isolate themselves if they are afraid. Bringing them inside early can stop them from running away. Never leave a pet outside or tied up during a storm. Separate dogs and cats. Even if your dogs and cats normally get along, the anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act irrationally. Keep small pets away from cats and dogs.
Preparing your dog for an emergency requires the right supplies too. Animal Control in Macomb County Michigan has put together an excellent list of suggested items for an animal emergency preparedness kit. The contents of the kit will differ depending on the species of pet you have and how many animals you have.
Be sure to pack enough food and water for your pet for at least 3 days. You may not be back in your home by that time, but there should be a means to get supplies within three days of an emergency.
- Suggested supplies for an animal emergency kit:
- a secure, portable pet carrier
- collar (with current identification tag) and leash or harness
- pet food (nonperishable) and a can opener if necessary
- bottled water
- pet waste clean-up supplies and a small litter box and litter for cats
- your pets updated medical records
- important phone numbers such as veterinarian, kennel, emergency clinic, hotels which accept pets
- medications your pets may require
- recent photo of you and your pet
You should also have a pet first aid kit with you at all times during an emergency. Whether you are able to stay in your home or you need to evacuate, you never know when your dog is going to get hurt. The American Kennel Club's Canine Health Foundation has written an article on how to prepare a 20-piece first aid kit for dogs. It's got some great suggestions.
- Accidents happen. Having a canine first aid kit will enable you to respond to and treat common canine injuries and ailments. The list below provides basic suggestions and each kit can be personalized based upon your dog and their needs. Remember, if you have more than one dog, it may be necessary to have more supplies available in the event each of your dogs requires first aid.
While on their site, I also stumbled on this article from the AKC Canine Health Foundation. It covers everything you'll need to know about preparing your dog for an emergency if he has special needs. Dogs with disabilities, whether they are mental or physical, need extra care and they can become overwhelmed much easier than other dogs.
We have a dog with special needs. Our boxer Chloe has a heart condition that she needs to take medication for 5 times per day. Without this medication Chloe would not survive. Our emergency preparedness kit has a note inside with a list of the things that we need to add to the kit. This way we don't have to try and think about it during an emergency situation. Chloe's pills are on this list.
But, what if we need her prescriptions refilled and we don't have a copy of her prescription? What if our veterinarian isn't available to write a new prescription during the emergency? This article made me realize the importance of adding a copy of Chloe's prescription to our emergency preparedness kit.
- If your pet has a chronic health problem, keep in mind the supplies and medical equipment that are not replaceable. If your pet requires medication that needs to be refrigerated, invest in a cooler and ice packs specifically for that purpose, and be sure the ice packs are in the freezer, ready to go. Another option is a cooler that can be plugged into a car’s charging station. While these are a bit more expensive, the cooler doubles as a refrigerator and reduces the need for having access to ice or for freezing ice packs. Have copies of your pets’ rabies certificate and tags, as well as medical records. Some veterinarians are willing to write open-ended prescriptions that can be filled at a pharmacy or vet clinic so that pets with chronic illnesses have access to their medications if an emergency should exhaust the normal supply kept on hand.
Getting prepared for an emergency is something that your entire family should do together. That way everyone is on the same page and understands what the protocol is during an emergency. Don't forget about your pet. They are part of your family too and you need to be prepared to take care of them in the event of an emergency.
If you'd like a quick reference guide for pet emergency preparedness in the palm of your hand, you can download this app from the ASPCA.
- This free app shows pet parents exactly what to do in case of a natural disaster. It also allows pet owners to store vital medical records, and provides information on making life-saving decisions during natural disasters.
Plan ahead, keep up to date with weather situations in your area and follow your local news. Emergency situations can be overwhelming and frustrating. It's easy to forget even the most basic things when faced with an emergency situation. The best thing to do is be as prepared as possible so you're ready as soon as an emergency strikes.