What To Do Before, During, And After an Emergency
Here at PetHub we talk a lot about the importance of pet identification and lost pet prevention and recovery. While it is important to consider these on a daily basis to keep your pet safe, it’s also important when it comes to preparing for emergencies and disasters.
National Preparedness Month is recognized every September to encourage families to plan for natural disasters and emergencies. There are a variety of resources available online with information about making a plan, building your kit, preparing for disasters, and educating youth about preparedness.
But if you’re looking for more information about how to plan and prepare for emergencies with your pets, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve done the research and created our Ultimate Disaster Preparedness Guide for Pet Parents.
What Emergencies Should I Plan For?
It is important to consider a variety of natural disasters and everyday emergencies when planning for your family and pets. Emergencies are more common than you might think and can happen anytime, anywhere (and without warning). Be sure your family is prepared for a variety of emergencies:
- Violent Storms
- And more!
It is important to consider how you will not only protect your family, but also your pets in these situations. Leaving them out of your plan can put your pets, your family, and first responders in danger.
Before an Emergency
Don’t Forget the Basics
Disasters can happen without warning. It’s important to be prepared with some of our standard lost pet prevention and recovery tips:
- Pets should wear collars with external ID tags at all times.
- Microchip your pet and make sure it is registered with current contact information. Michelson Found Animals has a free online microchip directory for any kind of microchip.
- Keep some essential travel gear (like a leash, harness, pet first aid kit, carriers, etc.) in an accessible location, in addition to a spare set in an emergency kit.
- Have a first aid kit on hand!
Pet Disaster Kit - have a first aid kit readily available.
Take your preparation to the next level with a Pet Disaster Kit. Aside from the food and medications, you can pack most of the items in advance and store it in the closet so that it is ready to go when you need it. Check out our infographic showing some essential items to pack in your kit!
Your kit should include:
- Pet carrier for each pet. Be sure to attach an ID card to the crate that identifies your pet’s name, your name and contact information.
- Food and water for each pet for at least 2 weeks.
- Medications for at least 2 weeks.
- Medical records (vaccinations, prescription medication and medical history). Your veterinarian will be able to provide all of this information for you.
- Sturdy leashes and/or harnesses and extra collars
- With a tool like PetHub, you can store a digital copy of all your pet’s information including medical records, rabies and microchip numbers, multiple emergency contacts, behavioral information, and more.
For a more detailed list of items to include in your kit, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Pet Disaster Kit Checklist.
Make a plan and practice with each other!
Planning in advance will help you respond more effectively in the case of an emergency. The CDC recommends doing these three things:
- Know your options for where your pet can go if you need to evacuate your home. There are a lot of resources available for you when it comes to shelters during an emergency but not all of them allow animals. Research the following resources in your region and make a list of the places you can take your pet during an emergency or disaster:
- Animal shelters
- Disaster evacuation centers (like the Red Cross)
- Boarding facilities
- Animal hospitals
- Friends and relatives
There are a number of resources online to find places that allow pets -- our personal favorite is GoPetFriendly. Remember, it doesn’t hurt to look at resources in neighboring communities, so you have expanded options.
- Create a buddy system with a trusted neighbor. If you are not home when the disaster or emergency hits, your neighbor can check on your animals and evacuate them if necessary.
- Add all of this information to your Pet Disaster Kit including any contact information for the resources you have identified. If you have a PetHub account, be sure to add this information there as well so you have a digital copy accessible from your mobile device.
Creating a plan will help you feel better prepared, but if you want to do more to help reduce the chaos that can happen in the middle of evacuating be sure to practice with your pets in an non-emergency situation.
- Your pets will be happier in their carriers if you make it a comfortable place for them. Check out PetMate’s recommendations for choosing the right carrier for your pet.
- Practice transporting your pets by taking them for rides. Put them in their carrier as if you really were evacuating. Keep the rides short if your pet doesn’t enjoy the experience, you don’t want the situation to be traumatic for your pet. Slowly increase the duration of the ride until your pet is comfortable traveling in his carrier.
- Learn where your pet likes to hide when scared or stressed. You don’t want to spend time searching for him when you need to evacuate.
- Practice with the whole family. Make sure everyone knows what to take, where to find the pets, and where to meet.
During an Emergency
Last Minute Resources
Hopefully you’ve done the preparation work we’ve outlined above, but if you don’t have a plan the CDC recommends that you contact these resources for quick information during an emergency:
- Local animal shelters - Local shelters can give you advice on what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate your home. You can search for local shelters and rescue groups on Petfinder.
- Local government - Contact local animal control or service agencies who can provide guidance on how to keep your pets safe during an emergency.
- Relief Organizations - RedRover helps animals who are displaced by natural disasters and other crises.
Sheltering During an Emergency
We think the CDC says it best, “During a disaster, what is good for you is good for your pet.” If you need to evacuate, bring your pet with you or take him to one of the resources listed above. Leaving your pet at home during an emergency increases the likelihood that he will become lost or injured.
If you aren’t evacuating but sheltering in place, here are some tips from the CDC for sheltering at home with your pets:
- Use a safe room with no (or few) windows
- Remove toxic chemicals and plants
- Close off small areas where frightened cats could get stuck (vents, beneath heavy furniture, etc)
Keeping Your Family and Your Pets Healthy
During a natural disaster it is important to take precautions to keep everyone healthy. The CDC explains that exposure to weather, stagnant water, wildlife or unfamiliar animals, and overcrowding can contribute to the transmission of certain diseases.
There are a few common disaster-related diseases that pets can pass to people:
- Rabies is transmitted through bites from rabid animals or through contact with their saliva. To protect your family and pets, the CDC recommends keeping your pet in a carrier or on a leash, avoid interactions with other animals, and report any bite wounds to medical personnel immediately.
- Leptospirosis is transmitted through contact with infected urine or contaminated water, soil, and food. To protect your family and pets, the CDC recommends you wash your hands after coming in contact with urine, avoid stagnant water, and don’t allow your pets to play in or drink contaminated water.
- Disease spread by mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks can be a problem immediately following a disaster. Diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease are harmful to both people and animals. To protect your family and pets, the CDC recommends keeping your pets away from wildlife and stray animals and use regular preventative treatments for your pets.
After an Emergency
There are a number of important things to consider for keeping your pets safe after an emergency or disaster. Oftentimes, scents and landmarks have changed after an emergency which can leave pets confused and lost. Be sure to keep pets on leash or in a carrier and be extra cautious of hazards like flooding and downed power lines.
When you return home, the experts recommend you take the following precautions:
- Check your home for sharp objects, spilled chemicals, and exposed wiring
- Pay attention to your pet’s behavior. After a natural disaster like floods, thunderstorms and hurricanes, a pet’s behavior can dramatically change; a normally quiet and friendly dog can become irritated.
- Contact your veterinarian if you notice any signs of stress, discomfort, or illness in your pets.
- Reintroduce food in small servings if animals have been without food for a prolonged period of time
- Allow uninterrupted rest and sleep to help you pets recover from the trauma and stress
- Re-establish a normal routine as quickly as you can; the disruption of routine activities can be the biggest cause of stress for your pets
- Give lots of pets and snuggles; comforting your pets can reduce anxiety for both people and pets.
- Consider purchasing pet insurance before an emergency happens to help you cover emergency vet visits after a disaster. Check out our helpful pet insurance comparison tool for options that best fit your needs and budget.
Pet First Aid & Handling Injured Pets
If it is possible, always take a pet to a veterinarian. Unfortunately, sometimes in an emergency you need to act fast. Here are some tips from the CDC for handling injured pets:
- Do not assume a normally gentle pet will not bite or scratch if injured; pain and fear can make animals unpredictable or even dangerous.
- Keep your face away from the animal's mouth.
- Perform any contact with your pet slowly and gently.
- If the animal becomes more stressed, stop immediately.
- Try to get to a veterinarian as quickly as possible without risking injury or illness to yourself or family.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has a great first aid checklist and specific advice for:
- External or internal bleeding
Looking for a pet first aid kit that’s all set up for you? Kurgo sells a 50-piece essential pet first aid kit from Kurgo that easily fits in your car's glove compartment.
It’s important to remember that you should seek immediate veterinary care after administering first aid to your pet. First aid care is not a substitute for veterinary care, but it may save your pet’s life until it receives veterinary treatment.
Lost Pet Recovery
We have a lot of great resources available to help you find your missing pet and know what to do if you find a lost pet. Tagging your car, creating an intersection alert, and making lost pet flyers are some proactive strategies to communicate with the community that you are looking for your pet.
There is a lot of great information online to help you prepare for a disaster or emergency. Below we’ve included a list of the resources we used to create this guide. Here at PetHub, we’re all about keeping you and your pets safe. Learn how PetHub ID tags and our free online pet profiles can keep you one step ahead when it comes to lost pet prevention and recovery.
Ready Campaign from the Department of Homeland Security
Pet Safety in Emergencies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Pets and disasters from American Veterinary Medical Association
National Preparedness Month from American Red Cross