Disaster Preparedness for Your Dog
By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna
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September is Disaster Preparedness month, as declared by the American Red Cross. As a veterinarian, I have seen and participated in disaster relief, including the Witch Creek (San Diego) Wildfires of 2007. At that time, my home and family (including my 2 Labradors) were evacuated to safety. But with my knowledge and training, I was able to volunteer my services to assist injured and displaced animals. Additionally, I was very proud to help develop a Disaster Preparedness Plan with my fellow board members for the San Diego County Veterinary Medical Board.
But how do you prepare for the worst? If your home were threatened, what would you need for your pets? As we learned from Hurricane Katrina, the risk of separation from your pet may be high, so how do you protect her if you can’t be with her?
Here are a few starting points to help you get prepared, and help you prepare your dog:
Microchip. In my opinion, this is one of the most important steps of emergency preparedness. During Katrina, THOUSANDS of animals were separated from their homes and owners. Those with microchips could be relocated then returned to their home when it was safe. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for many other pets, which were transported and adopted to other homes.
Paperwork. Keep a copy of all your pet’s records in a safe location outside of your home. Or better yet, keep a copy in a cloud-based repository, such as your Voyce Pet Portal. This way, even if your records are destroyed and you need to travel quickly, you have access to everything you need.
Basic supplies. Most of us take simple things for granted, such as easy access to drinking water. During tornados and hurricanes, that access may be disrupted. I recommend keeping 2 gallons of drinking water and a 1-week supply of your dog’s food in a location outside of your home, such as in your car. For freshness, you should cycle the food and water every 2-4 weeks, and consider keeping it in an airtight bin, along with food and water bowls. During blizzard conditions, the water will freeze nightly, so consider rotating 2 gallons of water from your home every day, especially if you will be traveling long distances. A spare collar and leash should be included in your emergency supply box.
Medications. During the Witch Creek fire, medications were in short supply, as many veterinary hospitals (including my own) were quickly evacuated. Pet parents often grabbed their pet, but forgot important medications. If your pet is on an important life-long medication, such as eye drops, anti-seizure medication, or thyroid medicine, discuss your emergency plan with your veterinarian. She may recommend keeping a 1-week supply in your emergency supply box (see #3).
- Supplies for other animals. In my car, I always have a slip-leash and a collapsible water bowl. If I come across a stray or stranded animal, these 2 things can allow me to catch the animal and provide water. Often stray and stranded animals are dehydrated. Always approach with caution, and do not approach any dog that is growling or barking. Instead, call Animal Control and stay in the vicinity to notate where the animal is.
This list is brief, and is not all-inclusive, but it can give you a starting place to make sure you are prepared for yourself, as well as your pets. More information can be located at the American Red Cross website or at the Humane Society of the United States website. Your veterinarian may be able to provide additional tips, based on your location and your specific risk factors for various emergencies. Preparation is the key, and today is a great day to start.