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Disaster preparation for your pet
Disaster preparation for your pets Most of us think, “This could never happen to me.” The reality is, it can and does happen. A little advanced preparation for yourself and your pet is invaluable and may even save your lives..

We live in a world where disasters are an unpleasant fact of life. Fires, blizzards, tornados, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, ice storms, nuclear disaster, bio-terrorism—these are just a few that may occur. Whether they are man-made or from Mother Nature, we are often caught off-guard and then left scrambling to “bunker down” or evacuate. Most of us think, “This could never happen to me.” The reality is, it can and does happen. (Remember Katrina, the Greensburg tornado, the California wild fires?). A little advanced preparation for yourself and your pet is invaluable and may even save your lives.

So how do you prepare your pet for a disaster? Let’s break it down into four categories:
  • Medical information and pet ID
  • Transportation/Restraint
  • Sheltering
  • Supplies
Medical information and Pet I.D: Have current photos of your pet alone and of you with your pet. Photos will make it easier to reclaim your pet should you become separated. Have your pet wear a collar with an ID tag and have back-up collars and tags in your emergency kit. Consider having your pet micro-chipped for permanent identification (don’t forget to enroll). Have copies of current vaccines, registration papers, adoption forms, your veterinarian’s name, phone number, and names/doses of medications. Keep these items in a waterproof bag that can be easily located. There are organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States that can create “Pet Passports” for a nominal fee that contains a photo of your pet along with pertinent information.

A crate should be big enough for your pet to be able to stand up and turn around easily.
Transportation/Restraint: This is a vital component for the safety of your pet. Crates and carriers work well for smaller animals. Birds, reptiles, and pocket pets should have smaller cages available for transportation purposes if they usually reside in larger cages. Make sure crates and cages are labeled with name and address. Familiarize a cat or dog with its crate by having several practice sessions or having it eat or sleep in its crate so that it doesn’t run from it in fear. A crate should be big enough for your pet to be able to stand up and turn around easily. It should also be able to hold a small litter box (cats) and two non-spill bowls. Consider lining the bottom of the crate with an absorbent material such as newspaper to soak up any “accidents.” When not in a carrier, all dogs should be on a leash for their own safety and for the safety of others. Cats can also be trained to accept a harness. Dogs and cats should be trained to come when called for easy round-up.

Sheltering: Know what your options are beforehand. Depending on the type of disaster, you may be in-home sheltering or evacuating. If forced to evacuate, know which family members or friends are able to shelter you and your pets. Check with local hotels to find out which ones allow pets. Realize that hotels may be full in the event of a major disaster and family and friends may be in the same situation as you find yourself. Also, look into boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals that offer boarding. In the event of a major disaster, emergency shelters may be your only option. Not all are able to accommodate pets, so proper ID is vital if you and your pet should have to stay in separate shelters.

Supplies: In general, you should have a minimum of three days supply of food and water. You can prepare individual bags of daily portions of your pet’s food or store in waterproof containers. You should use bottled water and have a small supply of necessary medications (with instructions) in a waterproof bag. Rotate these items occasionally to maintain freshness. Other items to consider are slip leash, extra collars, litter, litter pan, scoop, a few favorite toys or blankets, can opener, muzzles, newspaper, trash bags, emergency contact list, treats, and first aid kit. These items should be in waterproof containers that can be easily transported and be stored in an area away from temperature extremes.

A disaster can turn your life upside down; however, a little advance preparation can help mitigate some of the stress for you and your pet. For further tips on disaster preparation for your pet, you can visit the websites of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

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"Disaster preparation for your pet"
   authored by:
Susan Nelson, DVM is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine-Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital of Kansas State University. In 1985, Dr. Nelson received her BA of Biology from Hastings Col...

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