Pet Emergency Preparedness Guide
Try as we may, we will never be perfect pet parents.
The beautiful, rambunctious reality of cats and dogs is that they never stop being cats and dogs. Fun-loving creatures that love stirring up a little trouble, even when they see it as harmless fun.
Just ask your slippers and house plants.
What we can be, however, are prepared pet parents. Because the bite marks they leave in our cottons and peace lillies are ultimately the least of our worries. When an actual emergency strikes, you’ll want something to rely on.
This guide is that something.
Before you do anything
One breath in. One breath out.
No matter how frightening the situation may feel, your pet depends on you to make swift, sound decisions in the heat of the moment. There’s five numbers you should have on hand all the time, every time, so you don’t waste a moment overthinking it.
We filled out the first two for you. Print the rest out, fill them all out, paste it to the fridge or jot it all down in your phone. Wherever it’s most convenient.
Prevention wins the day when it comes to most matters of pet safety. The best thing you can do to solve a crisis is stay ahead of it.
Five things you can do right now
- Gather a pet first aid kit. If you have an extra human first aid kit lying around, that’s a good place to start. But there’s a few other items we’d recommend adding, namely 3% hydrogen peroxide to help induce vomiting and some flea or tick prevention medicine, as well as an anti-itch and antibiotic cream — plus some over-the-counter diphenhydramine (aka Benadryl). Some probiotics never hurt, either, as diarrhea is one of the most common (and curable) emergencies you’ll run into.
- Get a disaster alert sticker. The ASPCA offers donation-based pet safety packs that include door clings and stickers to help notify firefighters, police officers and first responders of your pets’ presence in the event of an evacuation or emergency.
- Order an extra collar, ID tag and leash. You’ll never want to get caught without identifying material in the instance you get separated from your pet.
- Put a picture of your pet in your wallet. Or save one in your phone. It’s far more likely you’ll be able to track down a missing dog or cat when searchers can put a name to a face.
- Set aside a few days’ worth of water and food. Portion off a few pouches of Nom Nom in your freezer. And take note of where you’re stashing the water in the event of an evacuation.
Five things you can do this week
- Make an evacuation plan. And share it with your partner, children, parents or anyone you share your home with. Make it simple: Who’s responsible for the pets, and where will they take them? Use it as an opportunity to get your entire family’s evacuation plan in order.
- Tidy up. You’d be surprised how many accidents could be avoided with a dustpan and an attentive eye. Where are your choking hazards? How about fire potential? Take an evening to organize and pet-proof the places where they’ve caused you a scare in the past.
- Talk to a friend, relative or neighbor. And see if they’ll agree to be your pets’ designated caregiver. If you feel comfortable with it, lend them a house key so they can care for your pets if you’re unable.
- Get cozy with the carrier. Regardless of whether your pets were ever crate trained, it’s worth getting them familiar with the scents, sounds and feelings connected to their carriers. You’ll want them to feel comfortable enough if you ever need to leave in a haste.
- Gather a few of their favorites. Whether it’s a blanket, a toy or just something soft and familiar, you’ll want a few keepsakes to help your pets cope during the aftermath of a crisis.
Five things you can do this month
- Collect a list of local shelters. If you’re separated from your pets, they’re the first place you’ll want to contact.
- Make a complete disaster checklist. Feel free to use the CDC’s checklist as inspiration, and tailor to you and your pets needs.
- Get your pets chipped. If you haven’t already tagged and chipped your pets, set up an appointment with your vet. It’s a quick, non-invasive process that won’t cost you much and can provide the added peace of mind if you’re ever separated.
- Find emergency lodging. There are a number of pet-friendly hotels out there gladly willing to host you and your four-legged family members in the event that you need to leave home.
- Get up to date on vaccines. Rabies, distemper and parvovirus are some of the most common vaccines you’ll want on the books. But your dog or cat may have special needs that require more boosters or additional treatment. This chart (and a call to your vet) can help get it straight.
Expecting the Unexpected
When we say emergency, most of our minds leap to fires, choking hazards, physical trauma or natural disasters. While it’s important to prepare your pets for all of the above, there are a number of additional, less-discussed emergencies to be aware of.
- Heatwaves can be more dangerous for dogs and cats than you might expect, especially if you live in a particularly humid area. The Humane Society acknowledges that heavy panting, glazed eyes and difficulty breathing could all be potential signs of a heatstroke. Call your vet or emergency clinic right away if you notice any of the symptoms and keep a tray of ice cubes at the ready for them to lick.
- Snow storms can be a danger to pet health when temperatures reach dangerously low. Learn to identify the early signs of frostbite so you can seek out the appropriate care.
- Floods, sadly, often grab headlines for their tragic ability to cleave owners from their pets. Ready.gov provides a number of helpful links for pets in responding to emergencies, including a national radio broadcast of up-to-the-minute, severe weather warnings.
- Home invasions, while rare, can scare pets into retreating or anxious behavior. Even after the event has transpired. It could be worth looking into a home security system to deter any would-be break-ins.