Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Disaster Preparedness & Pets

By Dr. Pam Pussich, Meadow Vista Veterinary Clinic

Nobody likes to think about disasters, but a little bit of thought ahead of time can save your pet's life.  Being prepared for a disaster can give you a direction to go during a time of chaos and ultimately may save precious moments, which can save yours and your pet's life.  The following will give you some guidelines for what to do before, during and after a disaster.
 Making a plan and practicing a plan is always the first step in being prepared.  The whole family should be involved so everybody knows what should happen.  If you have a trusted neighbor getting them involved is also a good idea in case you are not home at the time of a disaster. 
 Identification is critical during disasters.  Whether your pets stay confined at home or are transported to a local pet emergency shelter, you need to make sure you can identify your pets to verify ownership.  Dogs and cats should have collars or harnesses with name tags that have current information and rabies tags if applicable.  Horses can have name tags or name plates placed on their halters.  Dogs, cats, horses and some reptiles can and should be microchipped.  Microchips are permanent, traceable forms of i.d. that can never be lost and are fairly inexpensive.  Keep a current photo of all your pets in your disaster preparedness kit.
 Organizing transportation is also very important and if your animals aren't loaded/transported on a regular basis, practice! 
 A disaster preparedness kit is critical for keeping your pets safe during and after a disaster.  For all pets it should include:
 • Your veterinarian's information
 • Food and water for 2 weeks (for large animals a minimum of 3 days)
 • Medications and dosing instructions
 • Food and water bowls or buckets
 • Vaccination and medical records with a current picture
 • First aid items (i.e. bandage material, antibiotic ointment, leg wraps for horses, eye ointment, and banamine for large animals)
 • Cat litter and litter box
 • Extra towels, blankets, ropes and grooming equipment
 • Wire cutters
 • Portable radio with extra batteries
 • Toys
 • Plastic bags for garbage
 During an emergency evacuate your animals early if possible and take your emergency disaster kit.  If you can not bring your animals with you, leave them inside in a room with no windows.  Leave out dry food only and plenty of fresh water in a non-spill container.  You can also fill bath tubs and sinks with water if you don't have a non-spill container.  Do not rely on automatic waterers for large animals as the power may go out.  Window stickers are now available to place in the front window of your house.  They are a very simple way to notify emergency personnel if you have animals in your house, where they are located, what kind and how many pets you have. 
 Doing all of these things will save you precious time and allow you to feel a little bit more in control when things are chaotic.  Microchipping is the most permanent way to identify your pets and is good not only in emergencies but also if your pet ever gets lost.  Disaster preparedness is hard to get motivated to do, but it can really make a difference.  Get prepared!

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