As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure.” This is especially true when dealing with an impending hurricane.
A 2018 survey conducted by Banfield revealed that 91% of pet owners are not prepared for the next natural disaster. Following some simple hurricane safety tips can help assure that you and your pets have everything you need in the event of a hurricane.
Tips for Keeping Your Pets Safe During a Hurricane
Here are 14 tips pet safety tips for hurricanes.
1. Make a Hurricane Safety Plan
Simply put, be prepared. Decide on a course of action and make sure you can initiate it at a moment's notice.
Have hurricane safety supplies set aside in a safe, easily accessible place. You may never need them, but if a hurricane comes, you won’t be scrambling to find what you need.
2. Stick to Your Emergency Plan
Whatever your decision is, stick to it. Otherwise, you may put your pet in real danger.
If you decide to leave town at the first sign of warning, then do so as planned.
Changing your mind or changing the plan often leads to unnecessary accidents, as you’re no longer prepared.
3. Have a Pet Emergency Kit Ready
Your pet emergency kit should include:
At least enough water for a week for you and your pets
Nonperishable food (include a can opener if needed)
Food dishes and water bowls
Your pet’s medical records/proof of vaccination
Photos of your pets
Prescription medications (two-week supply)
ID tags on your pets’ collars or harnesses
Solid pet carrier
Cat litter and litter box
Plastic bags or poop bags
Comfort items: pet bed, toys, treats
Pet first aid kit
4. Microchip Your Pets
Pet ID tags are definitely a smart idea for providing quick identification without having to scan for a microchip. But the ASPCA also recommends microchipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification, should collars or tags become lost.
Make sure the ID tags remain on your pet’s collar and keep your contact info up to date—both on the collar and in the microchip database online.
5. Fill Out a Pet Emergency Sticker for Your Front Door
It’s a good idea to place a pet emergency sticker outside the doors in your home and to keep a card in your wallet—both filled out with your contact information and your pets’ info.
Include the number and type of pets along with their coat color and names. In the event that you need to be rescued, this will help to alert local rescue personnel to which animals may also be trapped in the home.
6. Choose a Designated Caregiver
If something happens and you are unable to care for your pets, you need to have a plan in place to make sure they are cared for. Talk with your friends and family members—whether they live near or far from you—to establish a hurricane emergency action plan for pet care.
7. Download the Free FEMA App
One app to download is the FEMA app, which provides emergency safety tips, a shelter locator and alerts from the National Weather Service.
8. Order and Give Your Pet Their Heartworm Prevention
Always keep up with your pet’s prescription heartworm medication. It is especially important in the aftermath of a hurricane because there is usually quite a bit of flooding, which is ideal for mosquito colonies.
“In the event of heavy rains and flooding, mosquitos multiply, increasing the likelihood of the spread of heartworm disease to your pet,” says Dr. Jacquelyn Schrock, DVM at Banfield Pet Hospital in Houston.
If your pet is due for their pill soon, check your supplies to see if you need to order more.
9. Make Sure Your Pet Is Current on Vaccinations
Since more wild animals will be out and in places they normally wouldn’t be due to the storm, get your pet up to date on all vaccinations. Your pet can also encounter bacteria in puddles and flood waters.
Rabies, distemper and leptospirosis are some of the most concerning viruses in these situations.
10. Don’t Ignore Evacuation Warnings
Stay tuned to the news. If you’re told to evacuate, you must do so at first warning.
Dr. Dick Green, senior director of ASPCA Disaster Response, explains, “If you live in a mandatory evacuation zone, it’s imperative that you follow instructions and evacuate from your home. And you should always bring your pets with you if you do so.”
He adds that you should never leave your pets behind or tether them to poles or trees, which prevents them from escaping high waters and getting to safe areas. “If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your pet,” says Dr. Green.
11. Know Where Pet-Friendly Shelters Are Located
Make sure you know ahead of time exactly where the pet-friendly emergency shelters are and how to get to them.
Sherry Silk, CEO of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, stresses the importance of making sure that the place where you are seeking shelter is pet-friendly, and if not, to make other arrangements.
It helps to have everything ready to go—a bag with all the essentials your pet will need during a storm.
12. Keep Your Pets Safe When Evacuating
"When evacuating with your pet, the most important thing you can do is ensure they are safely secured in a pet carrier and that you have handling equipment, including a collar and leash. This will help prevent your pet from escaping and getting lost,” says Dr. Green.
If you are evacuating with your pets, bring your disaster kit with you. Make sure to bring copies of your pet’s medical and vaccination records with you, as many evacuation shelters will not accept your pet without proof that they are properly vaccinated, notes Meg Burke, emergency response technician with Best Friends Animal Society. This US-based rescue and animal advocacy organization has been at the forefront of helping to locate stranded pets during past hurricanes and natural disasters.
She adds that when traveling, it’s important to ensure that your pet is safely contained—"Remember, your pet may not act like him- or herself during a disaster.”
Because disaster situations are stressful, animals may become skittish, which increases the likelihood they will escape and get lost. “To prepare your pet for a potential evacuation, get them comfortable with a travel carrier in advance,” says Dr. Green.
13. Prepare for Possible Injuries
If your pet becomes injured during a hurricane or evacuation, remain calm. You should first make sure that you and your pet are out of harm’s way. “Assess your pet’s situation—is it something you can take care of with your first aid kit? Or is it a serious injury?” says Burke.
She recommends storing at least three different veterinarians’ numbers in your phone in case your regular vet is out of reach or cannot accommodate your animal due to the disaster.
If you are sheltering in place, the vet may be willing to assist you over the phone in caring for your pet.
If you are evacuating, store vet info of clinics outside the evacuation zone.
14. Stay Calm
Whether you leave early, choose to stay or are required to evacuate due to the storm's severity, remember to stay calm. Your pet can sense your emotions, so maintaining a calm demeanor can lead to a less-panicked pet.
“A disaster is a chaotic time for humans; just imagine how your pet may feel! Your dog or cat or any companion animal is bound to be stressed and/or scared,” says Burke.
“During a disaster, your pet may act differently. They may hide even if they are normally friendly and outgoing; they may try to escape, so make sure doors and windows are secure. An animal may become defensive trying to protect itself during a high-stress situation. So be alert when trying to handle your pet during times of high stress,” she suggests.
Using a pet calming aid like supplements or anxiety vests can help to reduce anxiety for your furry family during an emergency situation.
By Nicole Pajer
Featured Image: iStock.com/Phanuwat Yoksiri