Pet Disaster Preparedness

Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires and even man-made disasters have brought home to us all in recent years that a crisis can happen at any time, in any community. See:

pet disaster preparedness

Just as you can’t leave preparing for your human family members to chance, you need a plan to ensure the safety of your pets. Here are some steps to get you started:

Make a plan. Prepare for all possibilities, including that you may be away from home when disaster strikes. Get to know your neighbors, and be prepared to help each other out. Find out from local emergency operation agencies, shelters, veterinary organizations and your own veterinarian what the local emergency response plans are and what help they can provide for you and your pet.

Keep ID on your pets. Most animals survive a disaster, but too many never see their families again. That’s because many pets aren’t equipped with a way to determine which pet belongs to which family. Pets should always wear a collar and identification tags. Better still is a permanent identification that can’t slip off, such as an imbedded microchip. Make sure one of the numbers on your pet’s ID and chip records is your cell phone, as well as a friend or relative living out of the area. That way, if you can’t get to your home phone, you can still be reached and reunited with your pet.

Put your pet’s records in one easy-to-grab spot. Make a simple file with updated records of your pet’s vaccinations and other health records, as well as his license and microchip information, and details on his pet-health insurance provider. Include some good pictures of your pet with simple, uncluttered backgrounds, so if you need to make “lost pet” posters, you can. Put this material with the rest of your important papers in a place safe from fire or flood.

Have carriers and restraints at hand. You’re not going to get advance warning of some disasters, such as earthquakes. But if you know a storm is on the way or a wildfire may turn your way, make sure you get your pet inside. Sturdy crates and carriers belong on the list of “must-haves,” along with restraints, including comfortable box muzzles for dogs and soft face-shield muzzles and restraint bags for cats. While you may trust your pet to remain calm, it’s better to be prepared: An injured or scared pet may lash out in self-defense.

Include your pet’s needs in your emergency kit. Always keep ample supplies on hand of your pet’s food, medications, litter and enough water to cover your pet as well as your human family members. (And rotate all supplies regularly.) A first-aid kit should cover your pet’s needs as well as your own — and should include a compact first-aid guide geared to pets. If your pet eats canned food, don’t forget to throw in a spare can opener and a spoon. Disposable dishes and litter boxes can be useful as well.

One of the best investments you can make when it comes to preparation is to know basic first aid for pets and people alike. For a directory of instructors in your area, check or ask your veterinarian for information. – by Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori

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