Hopefully, you never have to go through a natural disaster with your dog, but in case you do, being well-prepared can help to keep your dog safe before, during, and after. Every decade, natural disasters force approximately 27 million people out of their homes. Floods and storms cause more than 80% of these displacements, and evacuating pets can be chaotic. Do you know how you would care for your pet during a disaster?
One of the significant challenges of natural disasters is that they don’t always come with a lot of warnings. A wildfire or tornado may mean that you have to move quickly and may face an unexpected evacuation. With a plan in place, you have a higher chance of getting your dog out safely or of being successfully reunited with him after a disaster. Even if you don’t anticipate ever encountering a natural disaster in your location, take some time to create a pet emergency plan, just in case.
Create an evacuation plan
If you ever have to evacuate during a disaster, you’ll need to be able to do so quickly and efficiently with your entire family, including your dog. To keep your dog safe in a natural disaster, plan out just how you would evacuate him. Will you be driving out? If so, does your dog readily get into your vehicle and do you have a way to keep him safely restrained as you drive?
Familiarize yourself with the common evacuation routes in your area and think about where you would go with your pet. While some hotels do make rooms available to families and their pets during evacuations, these rooms can fill up quickly, leaving you with limited options. Petswelcome’s list of pet-friendly lodging can help you to find a place to stay with your pet, but try to make a reservation early to ensure you can get a room. One of the best solutions may be to establish a plan with a friend or family member who lives out of town and who would be willing to house you and your pets.
Put together a go-bag
In addition to having an evacuation plan, put together an emergency go-bag for your dog. This bag will serve as an item that you can grab on the way out the door so that you know you have everything your dog needs. Stock it with an extra collar and leash, some necessary pet first aid supplies, food and water, a few toys, and any other items you would need if you had to quickly evacuate with your pet.
If your dog is on medication, keep an extra supply in this go-bag. You should also include a copy of your dog’s current veterinary records, including his vaccination history.
Also, if you typically feed your dog a raw food diet, you may need to get some freeze-dried alternatives to make sure they can eat something similar, but sustainable, during evacuation.
Financially prepare your family
Your dog may get injured or become sick during or after a disaster, especially if you aren’t able to stay by his side during the entire time. It’s a good idea to invest in pet insurance for your dog to help you cover the cost of unexpected vet bills. Most pet insurance companies have a waiting period of at least two weeks before the insurance takes effect, so this isn’t something you can choose to do right before a disaster strikes. Instead, pet insurance can offer longer-term protection against significant bills for issues like surgeries, hospitalizations, and even hefty diagnostic costs.
While pet insurance can help to reduce the amount that you’ll need to pay for your pet’s veterinary treatment, it doesn’t eliminate all of the costs you might incur during a disaster. You’ll probably still face copays or deductibles and may also need to pay to have your dog boarded until you’re able to return to your home. Consider establishing a savings account just for these potential emergency pet-related costs. Depositing some money each week or each month can help this account to grow, and if a disaster does occur, paying for your dog’s expenses will be one less issue you’ll have to worry about.
Prepare for the disaster aftermath
While evacuating with your pet is ideal, in some situations, this may not be manageable, or you and your pet may be separated. To increase your chances of your dog finding his way home again, you’ll need to do some work ahead of time.
Start by making sure your dog has a collar and tags with your contact information. Then, be sure to microchip your dog in case the collar or tags get lost. If your dog is found, rescuers can take him to a veterinarian to be scanned for a chip. The veterinarian can then use the chip number to access your name, address, and phone number through the microchip’s database. In addition to making sure that your dog is microchipped, log in to the database to verify that all of your contact information is up to date.
During a disaster, always take along a photo of you and your dog together in your emergency pet kit. Try to bring both a physical photo as well as a photo on your phone, since access to electricity to charge your phone may be limited. If your dog has been brought to a shelter or rescue, they may require proof of ownership before releasing your pup to you. A photo of you and your dog together can provide this proof, allowing you to be reunited more quickly.
While you may never need to implement these strategies, it’s essential to prepare ahead of time just in case. A natural disaster is a high-stress situation, but having your dog by your side can help to reduce some of the stress that you will both go through.
Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience with nose boops and chin scritches. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.