Pet Emergency Preparedness: Will Your Pet Survive a Disaster?

   Most of us have a plan for emergencies. Flashlights, bottled water, blankets, cell phone, etc. But what about our pets? For most pet owners, our pets are part of the family. But far too often they get forgotten in the emergency exit strategy plans. And although emergency services will try to help an animal in distress, they are not usually trained for that purpose, and don't always have the time or the resources to  help your pet when there are more pressing matters at hand.

So what can you do to prepare yourself and your pet for an emergency?

   Put together an emergency kit for your pet. If you have to leave your house in a hurry due to fire or other disaster, you should have an easy to grab kit near the door that will take care of your pet's needs for several days. If you are traveling, keep a kit in your car. If you have a flat tire in the middle of a Nevada desert with no cell service, both you and your pet may be on your own for a few days!

Things to include in your pet kit:

Three days supply of food, bottled water, bowls, treats, and can opener
Blankets and towels (extra in case of soiling)
Leash, harness, muzzle
Pet carrier
Litter pan, scoop, litter, poo baggies
Medical records, particularly proof of vaccinations, since most boarding facilities require proof of current vaccinations to accept pets.
Veterinarian information
Pet first aid kit and any medications they require
List of pet boarding facilities, or contact information of pet sitter

Check your kit several times a year to make sure supplies are fresh and information up to date.

Other things to consider:

Bring your pet indoors at the first sign of trouble. Don't wait till it's too late.

If you have to evacuate, bring your pet with you if it is safe. Their chances of surviving are much higher with you.

   Put a Rescue Alert Sticker on your front door so emergency services know there may be a pet in need of rescuing if you weren't able to bring her with you. You can get these stickers at humane societies or animal shelters.

   Train your pet to enter her crate/carrier on demand. This will reduce stress during the emergency and could potentially save your pet's life. Practice this skill with them frequently.

   Make sure they are wearing a collar and ID tag at all times. If they get separated from you, your chances of being reunited are much higher. Electronic chip tags are available.

   Many shelters do not accept pets, so research alternative housing options for your pets during an emergency. Talk with a nearby friend or neighbour, or find a shelter that allows pets. If you choose a friend or neighbour, make sure they and your pet get to know each other so your pet is familiar with them.

   You may not always be able to get your pet out when you leave. It's a good idea to have a good supply of food and water available for them in the house in case they get left behind and have to survive on their own for a few days.

   Include your pet in emergency drills. Introducing your pet to emergency procedures now will help reduce stress if the event ever occurs. In fact, it could save your pet's life. If your pet gets scared and evades your grasp when leaving your home during a fire and you can't find her, what are you going to do? Either risk your own life, or leave her to escape the fire on her own. Neither option is desirable. But if your pet has experienced an emergency drill, she will be much more calm when the time comes. The drills should be practised regularly, 2-3 times per year.

   After an emergency, be mindful of your pet and her changed surroundings. Depending on the disaster that you were avoiding, there could be hazards outside such as downed electrical wires, hazardous material spills or contaminated water and food. Evaluate your home and surrounding area for safety before allowing your pet free rein again.

   Monitor your pet for signs for signs of emotional disturbance or physical harm. These events can be traumatic for a pet. Watch for excessive tiredness, loss of appetite, or being easily spooked. If you left in a hurry, your pet could have been injured in the rush, so be observant for any signs of injuries. If you suspect physical or emotional trauma, take your pet to a veterinarian for a checkup. Your pet may need extra care to recover from the experience.