Disaster Preparedness: Don’t Forget the Pets!

Posted by Dr. Kate Mezan on

Dr. Kate Mezan
Experienced companion animal veterinarian; Stanford University B.A. & M.A., Massey University Veterinary School BVSc, Veterinary Medicine

The wildfires raging across the West coast are a frightening reminder that life can change in an instant. In the unfortunate event that you need to evacuate your home with little notice, it’s important to have a thought-out plan and an emergency kit pre-packed and ready to go. For pet owners, this means adding a few extra items to make sure your four-legged family members are well-cared for during a crisis.

Have a Plan for Your Animals

If you need to evacuate your home, it is important to think in advance about the logistics of bringing your pet to a safe place, too.

  • Always keep your pets’ vaccines up-to-date to make sure they are ready for an unexpected kennel or shelter stay.
  • Consider housing options outside of your immediate area that will welcome your furry family members -- including friends, relatives, boarding facilities and pet-friendly motels.
  • If emergency shelters are already set-up in your area, inquire in advance about their pet policies. Be aware that American Red Cross shelters generally do not accept pets.
  • Think about the logistics of how you will transport your pet(s) -- do you have enough crates or carriers? Will they fit in the car along with your other evacuation gear? Are your pets comfortable and acclimated to spending time in a crate?
  • Make sure there is a trusted friend or neighbor with a key to your home that is comfortable handling your pet. If evacuation orders come while you are away, it is critical that someone else can easily access your home.

Build a Pet-Friendly Emergency Kit

In addition to supplies for the humans in your family, there are a few essentials that all pet owners should include to make sure their pets’ needs will be met for the days or even weeks that you may be unable to access your home.

The Basic Necessities:

  • Pet Food -- Ideally a 2 week supply packed in water-proof containers. Kibble is easier to pack, but if your pet only eats canned food, don’t forget the can opener.
  • Water -- Again, include a 2 week supply for each animal.
  • Food dishes -- If space is tight, collapsible travel-style dishes can fold flat.
  • Medications -- Include a 1 month supply of flea/tick and heartworm preventative, along with a 2 week supply of any other prescriptions your pet is taking.
  • Litterbox and litter (for cats) -- For a lightweight, disposable version, foil baking pans or flattened cardboard boxes are an excellent substitute.
  • Leash and collar with attached ID -- Make sure the contact information on the ID is current!

Important Documents:

  • Medical records -- Be sure to make a copy of your pet’s vaccination records in case they are required by emergency shelters or you need to find a last-minute kennel.
  • Recent photos -- Just in case you are separated, bring recent pictures to help you reunite with your lost friend as quickly as possible.
  • Microchip information -- If your pet doesn’t have one yet, getting a chip implanted right away is one of the best things you can do to ensure a crisis doesn’t permanently separate you from your pet.

Additional Useful Supplies:

  • Basic hygiene items -- “poop bags”, towels (can also double as bedding), paper towels and disinfectant in case of accidents 
  • Toys -- Especially if your dog is a “chewer” or prone to anxiety, bring a few small chew toys or other favorite distractions to help keep your pet happy and comfortable.
  • Basic Pet First Aid Kit -- saline solution, antibiotic ointment, cotton bandages, bandage tape and scissors, tweezers and latex gloves.

Remember, do not leave your pet behind, even if you think you may only be gone a few hours. Disasters change rapidly and you may not be allowed to go back to your home!


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