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How to prepare for a natural disaster with your pet

Dog in crate prepares for natural disaster

It is important to act quickly to keep our families safe when the unthinkable happens, such as a fire or a dangerous storm. How should you prepare for a natural disaster with your pet? You might have already thought about where you would go, what you would need to bring with you, and how to take care of your possessions. What many of us don’t account for is knowing what to do with our pets when danger approaches.  Making a careful plan can help to ensure that our pets are as protected as possible when a disaster strikes. 

Across the nation, storms and other natural disasters seem to be coming more frequently and causing more damage. We hear of ‘ten-year’, ‘hundred-year’, even ‘thousand-year’ events with more regularity, and all corners of the country face an increasing likelihood that they will one day be impacted. We can take many precautions to try to ensure that our loved ones and property will be able to make it through an emergency situation, such as having an evacuation plan, maintaining an inventory of household goods in case an insurance claim needs to be filed, and shoring up our homes against possible weather damage. One element that is often neglected, however, is a carefully thought-out plan for our fur family in case of emergency. It only takes a little extra preparation to make sure they can safely come through a disaster with as little upset to their well-being as possible. 

Table of contents

Early actions

Taking time to think out how you will evacuate with your pets and where you will go is the most important action you can accomplish when there is no threat on the horizon. Listening to early warnings will allow you a little more time to gather the supplies you need, but there might be instances when all you can do is grab your loved ones and go, so it’s important to have at least considered these logistics. 

Be sure you have a pet carrier that can allow your pet to lie down comfortably. Practice ‘evacuating’ your pet from your home. Take a little time to acclimate them to their pet carrier, especially if they are used to being free in the house and car and the carrier is only used for unpleasant excursions to the vet. You can leave the carrier open in a room with a small treat or toy inside so they will see it as a place of comfort and will go more willingly inside. Remember that animals often seek out a hiding place when they feel anxious or scared, so be sure that you know where your pet might go to hide. If you have experience catching your pet and getting a frightened animal into their carrier, you will be better able to do it as danger approaches. 

Since many emergency shelters won’t accept pets, you will have to seek out pet-friendly accommodations or make arrangements with a friend or relative out of the area to house your animals. There are a number of websites that list animal-friendly hotels. Knowing ahead of time what your options are will make it easier when you have to make quick decisions about where to go.  

Microchipping your pet is a quick and easy method of ensuring that you can be reunited with your pet if you get separated. Keep your contact information up to date, and it is a good idea to include the emergency information for a friend or relative who does not live in your nearby area. If your pet is not chipped, be sure they are wearing a collar with your name and contact information. 

Share information about the animals in your household with a nearby neighbor or friend who would be comfortable handling your pets. In case you are out of the area, they will be able to help collect your pets and know where to reconnect with you. 

Have necessary supplies on hand for an emergency ‘go bag’. Being prepared with a two-week supply of dog or cat food (and a can opener, if using canned), clean water, a travel crate with your pet’s name and your contact information written on it, and any necessary medications will help make sure you are not caught without essentials. Include pet waste supplies such as ‘poop bags’ and cat litter. Pictures of your pet can be useful for identification if you get separated, and pictures of you with your pet will help to prove your ownership. A copy of your pet’s immunization record should also be included in your kit as boarding facilities, veterinarians, and some animal shelters will require that you have proof of immunization before taking your pet. 

A small medical kit for your animals can be easy to prepare ahead of time. Some absorbent gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, and antibiotic cream will help you to care for your pet in case they suffer an injury.  

A favorite toy in the ‘go bag’ can also be a big help to lessen anxiety if you need to evacuate your home. 

It is a good idea to share your plans and the location of your supply ‘go bag’ with your family, and have everyone practice transporting your pet so all of the members of your household feel confident that they can help evacuate your pets safely should the need arise. You could keep the supplies together in a clean container in a closet (be sure to check expiration dates on food), or print a list of necessary elements to gather. 

When disaster strikes

A pet should never be left behind to fend for themselves in a disaster. A situation that is dangerous for humans is equally or more dangerous for domesticated pets who might have few resources for self-protection. If you absolutely must leave without your pet, they should never be tethered. A ‘pet inside’ sticker will alert emergency workers to who is left inside. 

Offer your pet a calm and friendly presence. Remember that your fear and anxiety can be felt by your fur friends, so try to soothe each other. Many animals, especially cats, might be so  scared by the events occurring that they cannot be comforted. Allowing them a safe and secure spot to rest in their crate will offer a great deal of comfort, while ensuring that they remain with you. Remember that a scared animal can panic and bolt away from you. It is important to keep your pets in a carrier or on a leash at all times until you are in a safe and secure area.  

Be careful with your pet around other animals who might act unpredictably. Do not allow them to drink or play in contaminated water or in flooded areas. 

In a high stress situation where it might be difficult to calm your dog, ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA product meant for high stress, emergency situations can be a tremendous help. Calm and Comfort is extremely effective in calming your dog and allowing her to better handle stressful situations. For everyday stress, ElleVet’s soft gels are highly effective, so keeping Calm and Comfort and soft gels as part of your emergency kit can help make the adjustment during an emergency easier for your pet and for you.   

After the storm

Hopefully, early preparations will have made the evacuation smoother, and you and your pets can begin to take the steps of recovery together. If, unfortunately, you have become separated from your pet, you should identify lost pet networks in your area. Knowing the names and numbers of animal shelters, veterinary hospitals, and other rescue organizations can help speed your reunion with your lost animal. 

Once it is safe to do so, allow your pets to slowly readjust to your home. Many things might have changed, and your pet might be suffering from anxiety and elevated levels of stress. Keep them on a leash in the neighborhood until you can assess the safety of the area. Be alert for and keep them away from any harmful substances they might pick up. Monitor your pet for stress, which might become evident through a variety of behaviors such as excessive barking or licking, pacing, or soiling in the house, and contact your veterinarian if they persist. 

We don’t like to think of the possibility of a disaster striking, but it only takes a little preparation to make sure that if the worst were to happen, we can rest easy knowing that our pets will be safe alongside us when it is over.