When many people imagine creating an emergency plan with pets, they think only about the event of a house fire. However, it's important to remember that other emergencies can arise as well. Consider where you live and which types of severe weather the area is prone to. Knowing what to prepare for can help to save your pet's life and keep you as stress-free as possible during tumultuous times. Once you know what to prepare for, you'll need to learn how to prepare. These steps will help.
You need medical supplies for every member of your family, including every dog, cat, or other pet. If your dog takes daily medication, be sure to pack at least two weeks' worth of it in the first aid kit as well. Outside of that, consider the basics. You'll need self-adhesive bandages, as well as gauze and adhesive tape, in case of injuries during evacuation. Cotton balls, hydrogen peroxide, and pet-friendly antibiotic ointment will help to keep the potential for infection at bay. Tweezers and a magnifying glass can even help you to identify the injury if needed. Don't forget a thermometer, syringes (if needed for medication), and a clean towel.
It's always important to keep your pet's veterinarian records up to date, but it's especially necessary if you have reason to believe you may need to evacuate on short notice. Take your dog to the vet to ensure his vaccinations, especially for more dangerous diseases like distemper and rabies, are up to date. It is also important to microchip your pet, register the chip right away, and update it anytime your information changes. This makes it easier for your pet to reunite with you should you become separated during an emergency. You might even consider asking your veterinarian to recommend a collar that has GPS tracking technology in it. Remember to take your dog to the vet at least once a year to keep his shots updated and ensure he's still in good health.
The first aid kit is just part of a larger package. You need an entire go bag for your pets, keeping in mind that the more dogs you have, the larger that bag will be. Keep enough food and water for at least two weeks in the bag, along with portable bowls that make feeding on the go easier. If possible, keep a collapsible for fold-up crate in your car's trunk to save on loading time, and always have an extra leash, collar, and set of identification and rabies tags in the car for each dog.
Remember to think outside of the basics as well. A bright-colored vest or raincoat keeps your dog dry and visible when the weather is dark, and goggles will protect his eyes from rain, wind, smoke, and debris. Consider dog socks or booties to protect your pet's feet, and include a collapsible cone and cooling bandana in case of injury or high temperature.
Before you zip up the go bag and place it in the car, remember to consider special circumstances. Every dog should have a soft muzzle , even if he's usually friendly, because fear causes animals to act unpredictably. If your pet is blind, deaf, or has another type of disability, purchase a vest or other identifying marker to alert others. Finally, if your pet is not friendly or if he is a service dog, be sure to add "Do Not Pet" vests or leash markers to the go bag as well.
Packing the right items isn't enough. An emergency often breeds chaos, especially if you've never decided beforehand what you'll do in the situation. For this reason, practicing your evacuation plan with your pets is necessary. Start by training your dogs to in their carriers or in the car (with proper seatbelts) regularly. Teaching them that being "on the move" is nothing to be scared of will keep some of the stress at bay during a real emergency. Next, think about all the places your dog tends to hide when he is stressed or nervous, such as under a bed, in a closet, or even in the backyard if he has his own access. Practice how you'll catch your pet if you find him in one of these places when time is of the essence. Finally, have your entire family practice your evacuation plan. Doing so ensures every member knows which pet(s) he or she is responsible, where he or she may find them, and how to get them into the car and to safety as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, no matter how well you're prepared, sometimes emergency evacuations don't play out the way you practiced them. If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot find your pet, or if you were away from home when evacuation occurred and can't get back to him, you'll need to rely on emergency workers to find him. Make the task easier by posting stickers in your windows that tell responders there are animals inside. These stickers let you specify whether you have dogs, cats, or other animals and how many of each, as well as allow you to provide a contact number for when your pet is rescued.
By preparing your family and your dog in advance, packing essentials before you ever even need them, and having a solid plan in place, you make it much more likely that you and all of your furry loved ones make their way to safety. Don't forget, everybody's family is a bit different. If the basics don't work for you, tweak your plan until it does.