hurricane prevention tips for pets
Updated: August 29, 2019
As we've seen with Hurricanes Harvey, Michael and Irma, natural disasters like hurricanes, tropical storms and flooding can be devastating for families and animals alike, but being prepared in advance can help you remain calm in the face of danger.
To help insure your hurricane disaster plan includes your pets, follow these tips from veterinarians Kim Smyth and Ernie Ward to prepare your pet for a hurricane.
Before the hurricane hits
Keep calm when predictions begin. Pets can sense barometric pressure changes, so ease worry by speaking in a reassuring voice and making extra time for play and cuddling.
If an evacuation order is issued, evacuate as soon as possible. Biding your time will only cause congestion on already busy evacuation routes, and if you are seeking room at a local shelter, you may lose your spot.
Find out which evacuation shelters allow pets ahead of time. You can contact local officials to find out where you can take pets before the storm hits. Your vet or a boarding facility may also take pets. Keep in mind, if you plan to use a shelter, many require you to register ahead of time. Open general and special needs shelters within the State of Florida can be found here.
During the storm
If you’re in a safe enough area to wait out the storm, keep curtains closed, and distract pets with games, toys and natural calming remedies. Keep pets inside; a spot on your rug is a small price to pay for keeping pets safe.
When you evacuate, do not assume that you are leaving for a short time. Even if you think the threat of disaster is low, anything could happen. It is common in disaster areas for owners to not be able to return to their homes for days or weeks. Do not evacuate without your pets! Make sure dogs have ID tags, and cats are in crates.
After the hurricane
Proceed with caution! Pets can become injured or ill from breathing toxic generator fumes, drinking dirty water or eating spoiled food. Follow local authorities recommendations before returning to areas impacted by the storm.
Hurricane evacuation kit checklist for pets
If you're a pet parent in a hurricane zone, it always helps to have an evacuation kit on hand should you need to get out fast. Here's what a basic pet evacuation kit should include:
Especially important when transporting small dogs, cats and other small pets. Often required at emergency shelters, serve as a safe space. Clearly label with your pet’s name, breed, sex, date of birth, your current address and contact numbers, and any important medical information.
Medication for two weeks
Put prescriptions, heartworm and flea/tick preventatives in a Ziploc bag and write down your current administration schedule in case you must leave your pet at a kennel or other facility.
Food and water for one week
Many shelters will not have adequate food and water for pets, so bring your own, and bowls. Divide into individual bags, 1 meal per bag, in case others have to feed your pet. Estimate about 24 oz. per day of water for a 20-lb. dog and 8 oz. per day for a 10-lb. cat.
Two slip leashes
Simple slip-type webbing or nylon leashes can hold pets more securely. A slip leash can also be used to restrain a cat in a pinch. Carry an extra leash in your pocket in case someone else needs it or you lose yours.
Printed and electronic copies of medical history
Latest physical exam reports, blood tests and proof of vaccines or licenses. Use a smartphone to take photos of these documents as a backup.
Identification and contact information
Each pet should have a secure collar with your current contact information, including cell phone number. If you don’t have an ID tag, write your information in indelible ink on the collar and carrier.
Take a photo of your pet before you leave your home
A current photograph on a cell phone can be the difference between lost and found in the event you become separated from your pet.
Litter, piddle pads and trash bags
I can’t tell you how often even the most prepared pet owner forgets this one vital necessity. Bring a small baking pan and litter for cats, piddle pads, towels and trash bags for dogs – plenty of them.
Shampoo, brush, towels
If you’re evacuated, things can get messy. Stash a small bottle of shampoo and a brush in your pet’s emergency kit.
Plenty of patience
Remember, everyone is stressed, nervous and worried. Be courteous, understanding and helpful. I’ve had pet owners make unreasonable demands (imagine being asked if we had time to bathe and groom a pet during a Category 4 hurricane!).
No one plans on a natural disaster disrupting his or her lives. What you can prepare for is how you’ll respond when the crisis occurs. Good luck, be safe, and may we all be pet-prepared should disaster strike.