How to Handle a Natural Disaster When You Have Pets

Mother Nature can be beautiful; blue skies, crystal clear waters, vivid sunsets…but she can also be nasty. Here in the United States we have seen the possibly the biggest hurricane to ever hit us and on the other side of the country, four or five states are consumed with fire. In yet another state, there was a large earth quake causing significant damage.

As humans, we are sometimes incapable of preparing for a natural disaster as they happen so quickly. However, in some cases we are given a choice of what to do but choose to try and reckon with nature. I personally don’t think this is the best idea, especially as a dog mom.

When you have pets, how do you keep them safe when the forces of nature collide?

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to prepare and even more things to do once disaster strikes. Today I shall shed some light on some tips to keep your fur-babies safe during events such as this.

Evacuation

Of course, the first thing I will suggest is evacuation. If at all possible, get out of there! Do not over estimate your time or under estimate the force of nature you are facing. All too often you hear stories or see videos of people who thought they could get out just in the nick of time, only to be consumed by a wildfire on their way out of town or to be blown away by powerful water or winds.

With pets, if you are planning an evacuation, make sure you grab their vaccination records and of course enough food to keep them properly nourished. During natural disasters, many stores will either sell out of products or raise their prices to ridiculous rates.

Take along a first aid kit for both yourself and your dog, blankets for warmth and in case of shock, and maybe some toys or treats to help with anxiety. Another important factor is water; if you can stock up on bottles or gallons of water, do so as quickly as possible.

Wherever you decide to evacuate to, call ahead and make sure they know you have pets so that you are not turned away in your time of need.

Bunker Down

Some disasters happen too quickly to evacuate, or in some cases are not severe enough to evacuate. This can be the case for situations such as tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and minor hurricanes.

If you have a home shelter, this is where I would hope you use it!

For those that don’t, choose a room that is quiet and your dog is familiar with. Outdoor dogs may struggle with being indoors during a storm as it will feel like their whole life is being put into turmoil for a few moments, but you must keep them safe.

In your shelter, make sure you have plenty of food and water for yourself and your pets. If you had warning of the event, you hopefully stocked up on supplies beforehand.

Some things you may consider picking up for your dog if you get the chance are anti-anxiety products like a ThunderShirt, CBD cookies, or a weighted blanket just in case of thunder or other loud noises that could frighten your pup.

Be sure to have familiar things in your shelter for your pets as well such as beds, blankets, and any favorite treats or toys.

Make sure that the shelter you are in or decide to keep your pup in is secure; some dogs will bolt with loud noises whether that means through the door or through a window. You do not want to lose your pet in the elements!

Microchip Your Pets

This section is not necessarily strictly for natural disasters; but a recommendation for any pet owner.

Microchipping or tattooing your pet is an extremely wise thing to do for several reasons. In this case, it can help get your dog returned to you in the case of separation during a natural disaster.

Microchips are placed by veterinarians or animal shelter employees when a dog is in house. It is a very tiny chip that is slipped right under the skin in their neck that contains all of your vital information like name, address, and phone number. It also can have their vaccination records and any history of veterinary care. When the chip is inserted, the information is put in but sometimes you must be responsible for registering the chip so that it is activated.

If pets get lost and collected during natural disasters and they do not have a collar, the first thing most people will look for is a chip. If your dog doesn’t have one, it could mean separation for a long time–with a good chance of never seeing him again.

Kennel Train Your Dog

If you have not already, kennel train your dog; especially to be used to a travel crate. During an event, you may need to crate your dog and if he is not used to it, this could cause extra trauma and stress for everyone.

There are many resources for kennel training, and it is best to train them young but not impossible if they are older. Use a lot of positive reinforcement and make it a pleasant place, not a punishment or act like something bad is going to happen if they do not go in their crate.

Having a crate during a natural disaster will help with transport and act as a safe place to keep your dog secure if needed.

Other Things to Consider

When possible, stock up on these things before the disaster so that you aren’t scrambling in the time of need

  • Food/water (enough for two weeks)
  • Cat litter
  • Treats
  • Poop bags
  • Cleaning supplies for vomit, poo, or other messes
  • Over the counter medications that are safe for pets
  • Prescription medications (if applicable)

You also should have your up-to-date shot records, medical records, a copy of your pet’s microchip number if they have one, and recent photos of them. I would also suggest getting new, strong leashes as harnesses as old ones may be worn and break easily and collars can slip off too easily as well.

If you will be taking your pet to a boarding facility or to a relative or friend’s house for care during the event, it would be wise to type up a sheet with their care instructions and any information they may need to know about your dog.

Lastly, keep in mind that during events like this, it is very plausible that animal diseases can get transferred to humans. Things like Lyme disease, leptospirosis, rabies, and giardia are all a reality. Make sure your dog has been vaccinated for these things. For other illnesses, make sure you wash your hands after handling pets and their food and waste; also if they have been in water or other conditions that carry diseases.

 

There are a lot of things to consider when trying to prepare to fight against Mother Nature sometimes; and sometimes there just simply isn’t time. Just do your best and if you go ahead and prepare a kit before there is even a threat of an incident, you should be ahead of the ball game and you and your pet should be fine. For other tips and information, you can visit the CDC’s disaster preparedness site at:

https://www.cdc.gov/features/petsanddisasters/index.html

 

Stay safe!