Family & Pets
9 tips for keeping your pet safe during a natural disaster
1. Be prepared for the worst
Embrace the Boy Scout motto: Always be prepared. You don’t want to find yourself in the middle of an emergency and not have the tools you, your family, and your pets need to survive. Russell Hartstein, acclaimed dog and cat behaviourist, trainer and nutritionist, says that the most common mistake people make during a natural disaster is leaving pets behind. “You can’t leave a dog or cat at home thinking they will be OK with a bunch of food and water. They won’t be OK, and they will likely die,” he warns.
2. Keep extra food on hand
Always have enough food on hand to last your pet for at least two weeks, recommends Hartstein. Keep plenty of treats handy as well, he says. These can help your pet stay calm and happy. The treats will also be useful for getting your pet to behave during this stressful time. Lastly, buy a few collapsible bowls for your pet to eat and drink out of; they’re easier to transport and take up less space.
3. Grab comfort toys or blanket
Hartstein emphasises that it’s essential to have “special toys or comfort items to relieve boredom and reduce stress.” Whether your pet has a favourite toy, blanket, or just loves bones, it would be helpful to have their comfort items on hand to help them relax. Going through a natural disaster and heading to an unknown destination is scary for your pet; these familiar items will put them at ease.
4. Invest in pet first-aid kit
While you no doubt have a first-aid kit for family emergencies, you may not have one for your furry friends. You don’t have to be a veterinarian to help your wounded animal. Hartstein recommends you look for one that can handle paw care, small cuts, wound dressing, hydrogen peroxide, tweezers, scissors, gauze pads and rolls, adhesive tape. Consider adding hand sanitiser, a muzzle, paper towels, sheets, bowls, toys and peanut butter or any food that really motivates your pet to help deal with an actual procedure, he says
5. Keep vaccination and prescription records with passport
Keep all of your pet’s medical records in a folder next to your important papers so that they’ll be easy to grab when you’re heading out the door. If your dog is on prescription medications, take proof of that with you in case you need to visit a pharmacy on the road. You should also have proof that your dog is licensed and up to date on vaccinations. And keep an up-to-date photo: “Bring current photos of your pets and descriptions,” says Hartstein. Write down the detailed markings of your pets, he says, so you can find them if you become separated.
6. Consider protective pet wear
A life vest or anything else that would help keep them afloat in a flash flood is also important. A tight-fitting anxiety vest can be consoling for pets who are prone to anxiety. Hartstein adds, “Consider purchasing dog boots to protect your dog’s paws from the elements.” Rough surfaces and debris can cause injury, as can hot summer roads.
7. Clean water
During a state of emergency, experts recommend you boil your water for at least one minute (three, if you’re above 1,500m elevation) to make it potable before drinking it – and before giving it to your pets. (Don’t forget to let it cool first!) As an alternative, Hartstein says, you can purchase water purifying tablets, filters like the LifeStraw, or a UV device. These methods are simple and can prevent illness in both you and your pet.
8. Get a ramp for bigger dogs
Small dogs, cats and other pets will be easy to carry out of trouble. Large dogs – especially elderly ones – can be more of a challenge, Hartstein says: “If you are not strong enough to lift your dog, or if your dog is too old to lift without injuring them, think about a ramp to walk them into your truck or car.”
9. Practice with your pets
A disaster will be much less stressful if you and your pets are ready to handle severe situations. Try going through your evacuation drill with your pet by collecting the first-aid kit, comfort items, and getting the animal into the carrier or car. Make it fun, Hartstein explains: “Condition your dog and cat to love all of the items and process of evacuation. Most importantly, expose them positively to new stimuli and environments gradually, only with positive reinforcement. Have them looking forward to road trips and different or unfamiliar sounds, smells, surfaces and sights.”