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Dogs and Disasters

How You Should Prepare

In the wake of any natural disaster, the safety of our family is our first priority and that includes the family dog. Sometimes pets can get lost or left behind in the chaos. More and more pet parents are refusing to leave their dogs and cats behind in a disaster if they are told to evacuate to a shelter that will not allow pets. To ensure the safety of your family and pets, it is crucial to have a disaster response plan in place before a disaster like a hurricane or a flash flood strikes.

Preparing for a natural disaster, whether it means staying put or evacuating, can be stressful, so being prepared for yourself and your pet is essential. When preparing a disaster plan, there are several things to keep in mind. These include having an emergency disaster kit and first aid kit for you and your pet, knowing your plan for evacuating or staying put, and knowing what to do if you and your pet become separated. Here are a few tips for preparing for a natural disaster:

Preparations for Your Dog

Dogs can be stressed just like we can when a natural disaster hits. They are highly sensitive beings and may exhibit stress signs even before the disaster reaches you.

1) Stay calm. If you stay calm, you can help keep your dog calm. Remember to breath and remember that you've made a plan and you have all your necessary supplies at the ready.

2) Be sure to keep a collar and ID tag on your dog at all times that has your most up-to-date contact information. It’s also a good idea to have a backup leash, collar and ID tag on hand. An LED light on your dog’s collar can help you see your dog in the dark in case of a power outage.

3) Your dog should be micro-chipped. If you get separated from your dog, the micro-chip along with a fully-charged GPS collar will give you the best chance to be reunited. Having a photo of your dog will also be helpful and should be kept in a waterproof, sealed bag. You may want to have extra copies of the photo available to distribute in case your dog gets lost.

4) Have some natural calming treats on hand if your dog is anxious or stressed. Some people also find an anxiety vest or thunder shirt useful as well. Always check with your veterinarian to be sure calming treats are right for your dog.

5) Don’t forget to have some of your dog’s favorite toys and treats on hand and take them along if you need to evacuate. Bring their doggie bed too, if possible. A favorite doggie blanket and pillow can substitute for a doggie bed if you can’t take one along.

6) A carrier or crate can be invaluable to safely transport your dog and may also provide a safe space for them to chill. If you need to evacuate to a shelter that accepts pets, a carrier or crate may be required.

Doggie Disaster Kit

Preparing a disaster kit for both you and your dog is important in order to be ready when a disaster strikes.

1) Use plastic tubs for all the things you and your dog may need including food, treats, and toys. Tubs are a good way to keep things dry and easy to find. They should be small enough to carry and have lids that secure closed. Separate tubs for you and your dog will make finding and using the contents easier.

2) Be sure to have several days’ worth of food and water enough for both you and your dog along with any medications that may be required. Keep food dry in airtight containers or waterproof storage bags. Don’t forget your dog’s food and water bowls. Light weight, cloth waterproof bowls are available that can make them easier to pack and carry.

3) Have your pet’s vaccination records available in case they are required for shelters that allow pets. You should also keep a list of important phone numbers like your veterinarian, your local emergency animal hospital and your local animal shelter. Put these in waterproof, sealed bags along with a photo of your dog.

4) A good first aid kit for both you and your dog is important to have on hand. For your dog, the kit should contain gauze, non-stick bandage rolls, tape, scissors, antibiotic ointment, isopropyl alcohol swabs, nitrile gloves, saline solution and small wash cloths or towels. I also include Pepcid ac (for tummy aches), Benadryl (in case of allergic reactions) and flea/tick wipes (natural formula wipes like Vet’s Best). For tips on what you should include in a first aid kit, check out “Dog First-Aid Kit Essentials.”

5) Be prepared with clean-up materials like paper towels, cloth towels, anti-bacterial wipes, bleach wipes, gloves and plastic garbage bags. These will help keep things clean and make disposing of used materials easier after a clean-up .

Stay in Place or Evacuate

The biggest decision you may need to make is whether to stay put or evacuate during a disaster. Always listen to your local news and weather stations for announcements, information, and instructions on what to do. Use your best instincts when deciding on a plan, if no local news is available.

1) If you stay in place, be sure you have enough emergency supplies on-hand like flashlights, battery-operated lanterns, portable charges and extra batteries as well food and water for you and your dog. Plastic tarps and portable, battery-operated camping fans may also be helpful. You might even get a supply of wee-wee pads, if the weather prevents your dog from going outside to use the bathroom.

2) Place “Pet Inside” labels on your windows to alert first responders that your pets may be inside if you are not at home or you must leave without them.

3) Be sure you are familiar with your local emergency evacuation shelters—where they are located and what their pet policies are. You may also want to know what hotels in your area accept pets. Check out BringFido to help locate the nearest pet-friendly hotel.

4) Have your disaster preparedness kits for yourself and your dog accessible and ready to go. Placing battery operated lanterns in key locations around your home can help you navigate in the dark and locate your emergency supplies in case of a power outage.

Locating Your Lost Dog

If you get separated from your dog, there are several things you can do.

1) If you have a GPS collar, it will help you determine the location of your dog. Be sure that it is fully charged and ready to go before a disaster strikes.

2) Check local shelters where displaced pets are often taken. Several organizations support local first responders in rescuing lost pets. These include the Humane Society of the United States, the American Humane Red Star, and the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition that may be able to help direct you to the local response organization handling pet displacements in your area.

3) Now is the time when the photo of your dog you have in that waterproof bag can come in handy. The photo can help shelters and rescuers identify your dog. If you have multiple copies of the photo, you can distribute them to local shelters or other rescue organizations working in your area.

Dogs are important members of our family and we need to prepare for their safety and comfort in a disaster. Following these simple tips can make all the difference in successfully managing your response to a natural disaster and keeping your dog safe and comfortable.

For more information on preparing for your dog in a disaster, check out these articles:

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