The month of June is the official start of hurricane season, and we North Carolinians know firsthand how devastating these storms can be. Still, many folks tend to be left scrambling when a hurricane alert is issued. We’ve all seen how quickly the grocery store shelves become empty right before a storm hits.
To avoid the stress and risk of not having what you need during a natural disaster, it’s best to prepare now. You can find extensive information on how to deal with a wide range of disasters and emergencies on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s preparedness site.
But what about your furry family members?
With all that goes into disaster planning for your family and home, it can be easy to forget all the not-so-obvious needs you should have on hand to make your pets safe and healthy during a major weather event.
Take a look at these nine steps for preparing your pets for natural disasters:
1) Purchase extra food, water, and medication for your pets.
Generally, you’ll want to have at least a week’s worth of extra pet food and water on hand. The typical water guideline for humans is one gallon per person for each day. Stick with this figure for your dogs and cats too. They won’t drink that much water in a 24-hour period, but that extra water might come in handy for rinsing off pets exposed to flood waters or chemicals.
If your pet takes any prescription medications, talk with your veterinarian about getting an extra week’s supply before a storm hits. You can also ask whether any additional over-the-counter medicines, such as Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), would be appropriate to have available for your pets.
2) Create a collection of pet records in a waterproof bag or container.
Include an up-to-date copy of your pet’s veterinary records (including vaccination information) and proof of ownership. You might consider having two copies of this information: one hard copy and one electronic copy saved on a USB or in a file saved within your email account.
Add the contact details for your pet’s veterinarian. It’s a good idea to also include the phone number for the animal poison control center along with the contact information for your area’s emergency vet clinic. (The ASPCA’s pet poison control phone number is 888-426-4435.)
This container should also have a recent picture of your dog or cat in case they get lost. It’s even better if the picture has you in it as well. Make sure it’s a good quality photo.
3) Create a pet first aid kit.
This is something to have on hand at all times, and you’ll want to take it with you when you’re traveling with your pets. It’s also a good idea to include a pet first aid guide in the kit. There are a lot of book options out there, but Jamie likes The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats by Amy Shojai.
You’ll need items like bandages, gauze, gloves, an eye dropper, a muzzle, topical antibiotic ointment, pet-safe adhesive tape, and saline solution. This is not a complete list, so to get more detailed information, check out this first aid supplies list from the American Veterinary Medical Association. The American Red Cross also has a comprehensive list.
Remember, not all items suggested in these guides are appropriate for every pet. Talk with a veterinarian about what’s safe for your dog or cat. If you suspect poisoning, immediately contact your vet or the animal poison control center before administering any treatment yourself.
4) Put together pet evacuation supplies.
Having to evacuate is an anxiety-inducing experience for you and your pets. Pull together what you need well in advance to help reduce the stress. When it comes to your dogs or cats, this means collecting:
*A clean pet bed or pillow
*A travel carrier (if feasible)
*Bathroom baggies for dogs
*A litter pan and litter for cats (to save space and money, you can use an aluminum roasting pan as a substitute for a traditional litter pan)
*Water, food, and corresponding bowls
*A blanket or sheet that smells like home, which can help calm pets in new environments
*A pet toy or two
5) Make a plan for where you’ll go if you have to evacuate.
Do you have friends or family that you can stay with in an emergency? Are they willing to take in your pets too? These are things you need to discuss before the storm hits.
If you don’t have loved ones who can take you and your furry pals in, you’ll need to know about other options in the surrounding areas. Find out about boarding facilities and pet-friendly hotels as well as their policies in emergency situations.
Keep in mind that some disaster shelters may have the means to provide cover for your pets, but many do not. Always have plans in place for your pets; never leave them home if you evacuate.
6) Know in advance who can take care of your pets if you’re not available.
While we’d like to think we would always find a way to be at home if a major storm was approaching, life sometimes has other plans. In the event your pets are home alone, it’s vital that you have someone nearby who can check on them or–even better–take them to his or her home.
It could be a neighbor, friend, or relative. In any case, it should be someone trustworthy that you can rely on in emergencies. They’ll need a key to your home and the ability to provide care for animals that will likely be stressed.
7) Check your pets’ collars and leashes.
You’ll want to make sure leashes are in good condition and can handle some extra strain that might come with evacuating stressed dogs or cats.
The collar should have an ID tag with the pet’s name, your phone number, and any major medical issues your pet has.
8) Get a rescue alert sticker for your home.
These stickers can be placed on the inside of your storm door or front windows. They alert emergency services workers that animals are in the home and may need to be rescued. These stickers usually have space for you to write your phone number and the types of pets you have in the home. You can find these stickers for sale at a variety of stores, including Amazon, PetSmart, and Petco.
If you fill out a form, the ASPCA will send you a free decal along with an ASPCA Animal Poison Control magnet. Keep in mind that it can take several weeks for these items to arrive in the mail, so plan accordingly.
9) Make a travel cleanup kit.
Let’s face it. If you’re on the road with your pets for an extended amount of time, things could get a little messy. Consider having these items with you to make a more sanitary environment:
*Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (for human use only)
This may sound like a lot of work for an event that may not even occur, especially considering this list doesn’t even include the supplies needed for the human members of your household. But if a major storm comes through, you–and your pets–will be glad you have these items at your fingertips.