Disaster Preparedness for Pets

While it’s not something we ever imagine happening to our beloved pets, it’s important to be prepared for the worst. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye and having things on hand or knowing what to do can prevent things from escalating.

Here are some suggestions on how to be prepared in case disaster strikes.

Have a Pet First Aid Kit Ready

Whether you’re out hiking in the woods or just letting your furry friend in the back yard, first aid kits are crucial. There are plenty of places where you can buy them pre-assembled, such as Chewy, World Market or Amazon.

You can also choose to assemble one for yourself. The ASPCA recommends including the following items in your first aid kit:

  • Absorbent gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Cotton balls or swabs
  • Fresh 3% hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting (always check with veterinarian or animal poison control expert before giving to your pet)
  • Ice pack
  • Disposable gloves
  • Scissors with a blunt end
  • Tweezers
  • OTC antibiotic ointment
  • Oral syringe or turkey baster
  • Liquid dishwashing detergent (for bathing)
  • Towels
  • Small flashlight
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Styptic powder
  • Saline eye solution
  • Artificial tear gel

Be sure to check your first aid kit regularly to make sure nothing has expired or needs to be replaced.

Create an Emergency Kit and Plan for Your Pets

If you live in an area where earthquakes, hurricanes, or other natural disasters are a possibility, it’s important to know what to do before these happen. Make sure you know where you can take your pet, items that they need if they are separated from you, and ensure that all members of your household are aware of this plan.

Although sad and difficult to witness, recently natural disasters have brought into focus the need for better planning and emergency services and facilities that include companion animals. Many hotels and emergency shelters do not allow pets, so be sure to research and plan ahead so you know where you can – or cannot – bring your animals.

If you plan to have a friend or relative care for your pet during an emergency, be sure they are aware of any medical conditions your pet may have, their feeding and potty schedule, and contact information for your vet.

Have supplies and essential ready ahead of time.

Separate from medical items, it’s important to have a bag packed with day-to-day things, such as a leash, harness, food, and comforting items from home such as a favorite toy or water bowl.

It is also a great idea to pack pictures or your pets as well as pix of you with your pets so that can be identified more easily in case you are separated from them. Some organizations even recommend creating a “lost” flyer beforehand so they are ready to go if you need them. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on their vaccinations, and that the information on their microchip is correct. Don’t forget – this applies to cats as well as dogs.

Prep and Train Your Pets

Apart from making sure that your family members know what to do in case of an emergency, it’s essential your four-legged family members know what to do as well. This can include to getting them more comfortable and trusting you with things like scissors and tweezers or creams and gels as well as practicing commands, such as recall, come, crate, and even speak (bark).

Speak/bark is especially useful when you can’t locate your pet and there is a possibility he or she might be stuck somewhere or lost. It is also good to familiarize your pet with the planned safe haven and the people who might be watching over him in case you can’t take him with you.

Stay Calm

Your pets feed off your energy. If you are behaving nervous and erratic, so will your furry friend. As long as you are prepared and have a plan, there is nothing to worry about.

Your pet can be a great source of comfort when a disaster occurs and can help calm down nervous family members. There are a lot of helpful tools and websites you can consult to help you prepare for a disaster. RedRover and the CDC have great checklists you can print and the US Government has a Pet Preparedness website with more resources. Just be aware that during a disaster, internet and phone lines might not be available, which can make communication very difficult.  

Please note: While those “In Case of Emergency” stickers for doors and windows can be helpful, many first responders don’t rely on them since they can be inaccurate or outdated. The general rule of thumb is people first, pets second, and property third.