Pet preparedness: How to keep your four-footed family members safe during an emergency

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Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher
OFF THE LEASH

I was recently watching some footage from the hurricanes last year, hearing statistics about the number of pets lost and thinking about disasters and pets. I thought this was a good time to do a brief article about how to prepare for a disaster with your pet. Thankfully our natural disasters are more limited here in Vermont, but as we know, they do happen, and it is always better to be prepared.

Rescue stickers

You can purchase these online, though many veterinarians also provide them. What I like about the stickers we provide is that the veterinarian is a clear contact. You should have two contacts plus your veterinarian listed. Sometimes it is better to list someone who is close to you outside the area as well. This should be someone who will know your location and know all of your emergency contacts.

Often in the case of rescuers, they are prioritizing the humans, and then themselves. We don’t expect them to run into a burning building to find our cat who is hiding and risk their lives. However, it is nice to have your pets listed so that if three pets are outside and you own four, they may be able to keep their eyes out for the last one. Ideally, if everyone is out, go ahead and write “evacuated” on the sticker so rescue personnel knows not to even think about it.

Emergency shelter

If you need to leave your home for fire or water damage, your pet needs to leave with you. I am lucky in that I know I can always bring myself and my pets to my mom’s house. Do you have somewhere your pets can go? You can always board them, but it makes sense to have boarding clinics that you feel comfortable with. Also, check with friends and relatives who live outside the immediate area as possible places to take you in.

Identification

I have a lot of worries in my life about my pets, but one of them is my house catching fire when I am not there. My dogs don’t wear collars when I am home, but when I am gone they have their tags on. My cat will not tolerate a collar but is microchipped. Microchips allow vets, shelters and animal control to scan your pet and call you if they are found. I am a huge proponent of microchips because there are so many unknowns in life. They are a small piece of plastic (the size of a small grain of rice) that are inserted under your pet’s skin. You MUST register your information, and always make sure that if your phone number changes the changes get made to your microchip data. If your pet was evacuated in Hurricane Harvey and transported 10 states away, they WILL be able to get back to you when microchipped.

The more identification you can have on your pet, the better the chance that they are reunited with you in case of an emergency. When pets are out of their comfort zone you cannot always count on their regular personality. Dogs that love people and always come when called can be extremely skittish if they are away from their home base and scared.

First aid kit

Most injuries are best evaluated by a veterinarian so that they are properly taken care of. However, it is a good idea to have a first aid kit for emergencies when you can’t get to your vet. These should include food, water, harnesses, medical records photocopied, blankets and photos. Basic first aid tools like bandages, antibacterial ointment, and saline solution are a good start. Remember that with cuts, wounds, or hurt legs you should seek out a veterinarian as soon as you are able.

I don’t want you to stay up nights or lose too much sleep thinking about dangers, but it is always a good idea to have some basics prepared in advance. If you can have a couple of touch points covered when you are thinking clearly, it will help in those situations where you are not able to. If your pet is not microchipped, head over to your vet to get that done. If they are microchipped, take a minute and make sure their information is up to date.

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher is a veterinarian at All Points Animal Care in Rutland. Have a question on this or any animal health topic? E-MAIL: petdocanna@gmail.com

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