Disasters and Pets

  • Weather Safety

    No Place Like Home
    No matter what the weather, the best way to ensure comfort and safety of your pet is to keep him or her where you are comfortable and safe - in your house.

    Consider offering your pet unlimited access to you house during weather extremes such as the hot, humid days of summer or the icy, cold days of winter. As pets spend more time indoors, however, more issues may arise. Many pets that aren't used to being indoors may not know the rules and demonstrate normal yet destructive behaviors, such as chewing and clawing. Therefore, make sure you keep houseplants and valuables out of their reach.

    Pets with access to the outdoors during warm weather may also bring in unwanted guests - fleas! A change in seasons usually brings with it a change in coats. Regular brushing can reduce the amount of pet hair on your rugs and furniture.

    Summer heat puts extra stress on your pet's body. Because of this, it's best to keep your pet inside where there is access to shade, water, and cool air whether from open windows or from air conditioning. If your pet is outside all day make sure he has a shady area, preferably on grass since pavement tends to heat up in warm weather. Check at different times throughout the day to make sure the areas stay shaded.You may need to give your pet extra water in the summer. Use larger water containers, or use special devices that attach to an easy to reach faucet to give your pet access to the water they need in unlimited quantities.

    Most veterinarians don't recommend shaving dogs or cats, since the hair helps keep them insulated against heat. Heavy-coated breeds of dogs and cats, however, are especially prone to heat illnesses, especially in hot and humid climates. For heavy-coated dogs, a wading pool to loll in on extra-hot days is appreciated - so keep one on hand. Other animals at increased risk of overheating include senior pets, puppies and kittens, working pets, and flat-faced breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs, Pekingese, and Persians.

    Keep Your Pets Away from Ovens - Cars and Exercise
    If your dog or cat is used to running errands with you in your car, leave your pet at home during hot summer days. Even with the windows cracked, your car can reach 130 degrees inside in less than 30 minutes. Don't risk giving your pet a heat stroke. Jogging or biking with your dog can also be dangerous in hot weather. Just as your body temperature rises during periods of extended exercise, so does your pet's. Unlike you, however, dogs and cats can't sweat. They must pant to rid their bodies of excess heat - an ineffective means of cooling off if the air outside is as warm as or warmer than inside their bodies.

    Treating Overheating
    The best way to treat overheating is prevention. If you notice that your pet has abnormally rapid breathing, tremors, muscle weakness, vomiting, or fainting, your pet may have heat exhaustion. Wet your pet with cool - not cold - water, place your pet in an area with a breeze, and then transport your pet to the veterinarian immediately.

    Winter Safety
    Cold weather also brings special care requirements for your pets. Again, the ideal place for your pets in cold weather is wherever you are comfortable, safe, and warm. That's indoors, where they have shelter from cold temperatures, drifting snow, and ice.Outdoor pets require shelter with insulation, fresh food, and water that doesn't freeze. Consider buying and using an electric bowl heater to keep water from freezing.

    Winter Walking
    If you take your pet outside in snowy or icy weather, be sure to check its paws for cuts or ice balls. Winter also means sidewalks treated with chemical snow removers or salt, so you should also wipe your pet's paws clean with a damp, warm cloth after your walks.

    Treating Frostbite
    Cover chilled pets with blankets and allow them to regain normal body temperature gradually. Warm water baths - not hot baths - are another good way to gradually warm a chilled pet. Do not, however, use electric blankets or heating pads as they can burn your pet's skin. If your pet is severely chilled or unresponsive, then seek veterinary help immediately.

    Other Winter Concerns
    Antifreeze, which contains ethylene glycol, poses a special danger to pets in the winter. Both dogs and cats are attracted by the sweet taste, and mere teaspoonfuls can cause kidney damage or death. If you keep your cars and your pets in your garage, be sure your radiator does not leak. If you believe your pet has ingested antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately as getting treatment for antifreeze poisoning within two to four hours can save some pets.

    Another potential hazard is carbon monoxide poisoning for pets kept in the garage during winter months. Never start your car and let it warm up in the garage unless you remove your pet to a safe area during that time.




  • Disaster Preparation

    What Qualifies As a Disaster?
    A disaster is a situation that causes human suffering or creates human needs that the victims cannot alleviate without assistance. Types of disasters that can affect where you live include fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornados, or explosions.

    Disasters come in many shapes, whether it happens just in your region, your neighborhood, or just to one family. If you're a pet owner, you should be especially prepared.

    Take Your Pets with You When Disaster Strikes
    Would you leave behind your children? Think of pets as your children and know that the best thing to do during a disaster is to take them with you. Be prepared and create a disaster plan for your family and your pets: Do not wait until a disaster strikes to do your research. Remember, your pet will be happiest in a familiar environment, such as a friend's house, your veterinarian's office, or some similar place.

    If there is ample warning about a disaster leave your home early. Don't wait for a mandatory evacuation order before getting out. An unnecessary trip is much better than waiting too long to leave safely with your pets. Don't wait to be evacuated by emergency officials. Activate your plans early. In the event that an emergency shelter needs to be in operation, veterinarians in your areas, along with technicians and professional animal handlers, may be available to care for pets. Although emergency pet shelters may be established, there is no guarantee your pet can actually be accommodated.

    What Do I Do When Disaster Happens?
    If you get word that a storm is approaching, call ahead to confirm emergency shelter arrangements for you and your pets. Microchipping your pet is highly recommended so that if you get separated from your pet you can be easily reunited. Don't leave your pets unattended make sure you bring all pets inside so that you won't have to search for them if you need to evacuate in a hurry.

    Cats and Dogs
    Make sure all cats and dogs are wearing securely fastened collars with up-to-date identification. Cats and dogs should be transported in an appropriate carrier or crate.

    Use a secure travel cage or carrier to transport birds. In cold weather, wrap a blanket over the carrier and warm up the car before placing a bird inside. During warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist the birds' feathers periodically. Do not put water inside the carrier during transport. Provide a few slices of fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content. Have photo identification and leg bands. If the carrier does not have a perch, line it with paper towels and change them frequently. Try to the keep the carrier in a quiet area. Do not let the birds out of the cage or carrier.

    Snakes can be transported in a pillowcase but they must be transferred to more secure housing when they reach the evacuation site. If your snake requires frequent feedings, carry food with you. Take a water bowl large enough for soaking and a heating pad. When transporting house lizards, follow the same directions as for birds.

    Pocket pets (small mammals)
    Pocket pets should be transported in secure carriers suitable for maintaining the animals while in a shelter. Take bedding materials, food bowls, and water bottles.

    Need a Disaster Checklist?
    The following are tips recommended by many animal welfare and rescue organizations as to how to prepare you and your pet for a disaster:

      • Your pets' names, address, and phone number
      • Your name, address, and phone number
      • Emergency contacts (friend or family)
      • Your veterinarian's name and contact information
      • Medical records
      • Medications
      • Specific care instructions
      • Behavioral problems
      • First aid kit
      • Current photos
      • Sturdy leash
      • Collar or harness
      • Muzzles, if necessary
      • Newspapers and plastic trash bags for handling waste
      • Paper towels to clean up
      • Food (seven day's supply)
      • Manual can opener
      • Bottled water
      • Water purification tablets
      • Bowls
      • Toys and other comfort items
      • Treats
      • Brushes, combs

    Also have the following ready to go:

      • Secure carriers large enough for your pets to stand comfortably, turn around, and lie down
      • Towels or blankets for bedding and warmth
      • Cat litter and a litter box

    The Contacts You Have
    Check with your friends, relatives, or others outside your immediate area and ask if they would be able to shelter you and your animals - or just your animals, if necessary. Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinary offices that might be able to shelter animals in emergencies; include 24-hour telephone numbers. Remember to ask your local animal shelter if it provides foster care or shelter for pets in an emergency before an emergency happens.

    Contact hotel and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets. Ask about any restrictions on number, size, and species. Ask if no pet policies would be waived in an emergency. Make a list of pet friendly places and keep the list handy. Call ahead for a reservation as soon as you think you might have to leave your home.

    What If I'm Not Home When a Disaster Happens?
    Make arrangements well in advance for a trusted neighbor to take your pets and to meet you at a specified location. Be sure the person is comfortable with your pets, has a key to your home, and knows where your disaster supplies are located.

    Are You And Your Pets Prepared?
    You don't need to be overwhelmed every time you think of developing a disaster plan for your animals. There are only two basic questions you need to answer.

    1)How am I going to safely and securely transport my animals during a disaster?
    2)Where am I going to keep my animals while I am evacuated?

    Once you've answered them, you are well on your way to safeguarding your animals.