By: Elianna Brook, WHVC technician
We’ve all at one point or another had worries about natural disasters. Whether water, wind, fire, or other natural anomaly, the thought of mother nature belting out her best (and worst) can be a scary thought. But have you ever thought to plan for your pet’s well-being if such an event were to occur? It’s easy enough for us to hop in our vehicle and leave town if need be, but when it comes to keeping our furry friends safe, there are other steps that need to be taken.
Being prepared for your pets during a natural disaster means more than having a bag packed for yourself and a space in your car. Have a plan ready ahead of time. Microchips, collars, and ID tags are imperative in the event your pet goes missing. Often people move or change their phone numbers and forget to update their dog’s (or cat’s) tags and microchip information, so be sure to keep those things up to date. Some of these events require an owner to bunker down in a shelter or travel to a family or friend’s residence that may not allow for your pets to join. If warning of a natural disaster is to arise, it would be wise to call around to local shelters (both human and animal), kennels, and hotels to see if your pets are welcome to stay there during the storm.
It’s never recommended to leave your pet at home should an evacuation occur. If an unforeseen event should arise while you are not home, having a friend, relative, or neighbor handy to help your animals is a smart alternative. Be sure to have “rescue alert” stickers at the entry ways of your house. These stickers alert emergency responders as to how many animals are in the home and what species they are. If you or someone else is able to take the animals from your house, don’t forget to write “evacuated” on the stickers so anyone coming after the disaster knows not to look for the listed animals.
Along with having your necessary belongings packed, an owner should also have an evacuation kit prepared for their pet(s). Things to include in this would be their food (in an airtight, waterproof container), water, bowls, medications (and treats or other things necessary to give the meds), litter/litterbox for cats, poop bags, a can opener, toys, bedding, medical records (any current prescriptions, vaccine history, microchip number, etc.), dish soap or other liquid detergent, an extra leash/collar/harness, blanket(s), a flashlight, and pillowcases for cats. The last item listed may sound strange, but anyone with cats knows they may not be easy to get into a carrier on short notice so in the event of an emergency, a pillowcase is a safe alternative (not for long term housing, but if a quick escape is necessary). It’s also a good idea to have pre-made flyers in case your little one goes missing.
After a natural disaster, it’s not uncommon to encounter unfamiliar animals who have lost their way. It’s best to not approach these animals. They may be carrying disease (rabies, distemper, leptospirosis, etc.) or not be behaving normally due to disorientation or fear. Be sure to have your pets up to date with all necessary vaccines and on preventatives like Heartgard for heartworm disease. Pending the weather, there may be more mosquitoes or ticks afterward and those pesky little buggers are the transmitters of heartworm and Lyme disease. It’s also advised that an owner leash walk their pet for at least a few days after a natural disaster as the environment may have changed and can cause confusion. A dog who was once trusted to stay in the yard may wander off not realizing he or she is doing so. Watch for downed power lines and other hazardous conditions.
Natural disasters can be terrifying, overwhelming, and occur without warning. Being prepared in advance is key to the welfare of both you and your pets. Like anything else in life, there’s no guarantee that this information will provide 100% safety and security during an unpredictable event such as a hurricane, flood, or forest fire, but giving your pets the best chance for a happy, healthy life afterward is definitely something worth planning for.
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