Although the heart of severe weather season has yet to hit, several devastating tornadoes have hit the Midwest. Natural and man-made disasters can strike without warning anytime, anywhere and affect everyone in the family. While emergency shelters are made available to humans, they don't always allow companion animals, which means every family must have a disaster preparedness plan intact for their pets. Forgetting to include pets in these vital plans can have heartbreaking results. With hurricane season about to begin, America's Veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker and Petco(TM) have teamed up to help pet parents develop disaster plans for their pets.
When evacuating, don't leave pets behind. "Think to yourself, could you safely leave a child in this situation," says Dr. Becker. Even if rescue personnel say it will be possible to retrieve them later, taking pets with you is important. "An unstable situation can deteriorate quickly, making it impossible to return and rescue pets. Pets cannot survive on their own, and if they venture out in search of food or refuge, you may lose them," reminds Dr. Becker.
Keep a "traveling pet emergency bag" on hand. In a grave situation, time is of the essence and many people have to evacuate immediately. Keep a waterproof bag with pet emergency supplies ready in case of an evacuation. This bag should include pet food and dishes, bottled water, treats, a can opener, potty pads, medication, paper towels and cleaning supplies, copies of a pet's medical record, toys, leashes, harnesses, collars, current photos and contact numbers, including the pet's veterinarian and emergency veterinarian. "Keeping familiar beds and blankets with you will also help put dogs at ease if you must evacuate from your home," says Dr. Becker. For cats, be sure to include disposable litter pans, litter and a scoop. For small animals, reptiles and fish, be sure you to include extra bedding or substrate.
Stay up-to-date. Ensuring pets are current on their vaccinations and have proper identification securely fastened to them is vital in an emergency. "Quick-Tag(TM) allows you to create your own custom engraved pet I.D. in less than two minutes so there's no excuse for outdated tags. In case of emergency, always list a cell phone number on a pet's tag. "You should also consider microchip ID's for your pets," says Dr. Becker. In addition, it's important to have a current photo of a pet in case that pet becomes lost. This will greatly increase the chance he or she will be returned to you. Make sure to have a back up supply of a pet's up-to-date medications, including flea and tick preventatives like Advantage or Advantix and ask a veterinarian where to take pets if he or she is injured. "Knowing this in advance could save their life and be sure to stow a current first-aid kit and first-aid guidebook in an easy-to-grab location," says Dr. Becker.
Make Advanced Arrangements. Don't wait for disaster to strike - devise an evacuation plan for pets now. Dr. Becker suggests checking with your veterinarian, local animal hospital, kennel or shelter to see if they allow families to board dogs and other pets during a disaster. "You will need to have current medical records to submit to the boarding facility so make sure to have those in a file which is easily accessible during a disaster," says Dr. Becker. In addition, put together a pet network with someone outside the immediate area to care for each other's pets in a time of crisis. It's also important to have a list of pet-friendly hotels and designated locations that accept pets during a disaster. Remember, cats and dogs aren't the only pets that need advanced arrangements. The same goes for birds, reptiles, fish, hamsters, and any other companion animal in the household.
Travel safe. "When evacuating from a dire situation quickly, it's easy to forget to secure your pets safely," says Dr. Becker. During a disaster, a dog may become frightened and pull away causing the collar to slip over their head. Never let dogs off the leash during heavy rain or a snowstorm. If they become frightened and confused, they may run away. It's also a good idea to have an extra leash and harness in the car or emergency kit as a precaution. "When placing pets in the car, be sure to secure them safely with a pet safe seatbelt. Petco sells a variety of Kurgo safety harnesses that meet the needs of all sizes of dogs and cats," suggests Dr. Becker. Kurgo's Seatbelt Harness, secures pets safely in a vehicle. Pets can also be transported in a crate. "If you plan on moving pets in their crate, make sure you get pets used to their crate before the natural disaster," says Dr. Becker. If smaller animals are in a habitat that can be moved, this is the best way to transport them during an emergency. Be sure to secure any crates or travel carriers to avoid them bouncing around or tipping over. Dr. Becker suggests, "put the pet's name along with your name and phone number on the crate or habitat that you will be transporting a pet in. This will ensure someone can get a hold of you if you leave your animal or get separated."
Help pets feel at ease. Disasters can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Help pets remain calm by bringing along their favorite toy or blanket. Dr. Becker also recommends having a Thundershirt to dramatically reduce the fear a dog is experiencing. "The Thundershirt's gentle and constant pressure has a dramatic calming effect for most dogs and is perfect for emergencies," says Dr. Becker.
Don't forget about the little guys! Remember to take all pets with you including birds, reptiles, hamsters, rabbits, etc. Identification, medical records, and proof of ownership are equally as important for other kinds of pets as for dogs and cats. Transportation of these pets may require additional attention and care in order to decrease chances of stress-induced illness and death. Companion animals may need a travel carrier if their habitat is too heavy for easy transport. Dr. Becker also recommends special treatment for birds. "Cover a bird's carrier with a blanket or towel to help reduce stress that could negatively affect their health," he says. It is also important to keep pets from different species as separate as possible and maintain the best possible hygiene in order to decrease disease transmission.
In Case You Must Leave a Pet. If you have no alternative, but to leave pets at home, never leave them chained outside. Instead, leave them loose inside the house with plenty of food and water. Remember, place a notice outside, in a visible area, advising emergency personnel what pets are in the house and where they are located. "Always provide a phone number of where you can be reached, as well as the name and number of your vet," says Dr. Becker.
For more information about preparing a disaster plan for pets visit http://www.petco.com/summer
Petco is a leading pet specialty retailer that provides the products, services and advice that make it easier for our customers to be great pet parents. Everything we do is guided by our vision for Healthier Pets. Happier People. Better World. We operate more than 1,100 stores nationwide, including more than 30 Unleashed by Petco locations, a smaller format neighborhood shop, and http://www.petco.com. The Petco Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization, has raised more than $90 million since it was created in 1999 to help promote and improve the welfare of companion animals. In conjunction with the Foundation, we work with and support approximately 7,500 local animal welfare groups across the country to help find homes for more than 250,000 animals through in-store adoption events every year.
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