As we make our preparations for hurricane season, let’s remember that our pets will need special planning too.
Coastal Breeze News spoke with the professionals at Animalife Veterinary Centers in Naples for some advice on keeping pets safe during hurricane season. Veterinarian, Sarah McLean, DVM answered some of our most pressing questions.
What are some things that pet owners can do in advance to be prepared for hurricane season?
Owners should make an evacuation plan. They should keep a list of pet-friendly emergency shelters and pet friendly hotels in the area and along the planned evacuation route. They can also call the local emergency management office, animal shelter, or animal control office for advice or information. Keep in mind that pet-friendly shelters and hotels often reach capacity quickly, so owners should also make arrangements with friends/relatives nearby or along the evacuation route that will put them and their pets up during the storm.
Owners should be prepared with supplies for their pets. They should have pet carriers for all their pets and portable litter boxes for cats. They should create a “Pet Hurricane Kit” that contains leashes, unbreakable food and water bowls, sealable bags for food, blankets, bedding, toys, puppy pads, cat litter, etc. Owners should have at least a three-day supply of both food and water for each pet. They should also have color pictures of their pets in case they become separated from their pets.
Many pets require daily medications and owners should contact their veterinarian to ensure that they have extra medication on hand, including medications for anxiety or sedatives for travel if necessary.
Owners should obtain up to date vaccine records from their veterinarian and keep these with the other supplies. Other important documents include microchip registration and medical records if their pet has a chronic illness.
Microchipping is recommended for all cats and dogs, as this can allow pets to be reunited with their owners in the event of separation during a storm. Owners can contact their veterinarian to have their pets microchipped. Owners should also ensure to update their contact information with the microchip company. Owners should also have identification tags on their pets.
What should an owner do if they must evacuate?
Owners should make a plan and stick to their plan. Evacuating too late can be dangerous for both them and their pets. Being prepared prior to evacuation is vital. Owners will need to bring all their own supplies for their pets, as well as all necessary records.
If the owner is flying with their pet, they need to contact the airline and determine what paperwork is required. Many airlines require vaccine records as well as a health certificate signed by a veterinarian. If a health certificate is required, they should contact their veterinarian as soon as possible.
Owners that are evacuating by car should have a list of pet friendly hotels along the evacuation route. They should also locate a boarding facility and/or veterinary hospital in the area that they have evacuated in case their pet needs care.
Owners that plan to use an emergency shelter or hotel should ensure they are pet-friendly and check how many pets are allowed per household.
Are there places to take your pet if your shelter does not accept them?
There are pet-friendly hotels and owners should keep an updated list. Owners should also try to make arrangements with friends or relatives. Many boarding facilities or veterinary hospitals close during the hurricane, as they cannot provide care for the pets during the actual storm.
If you are staying at home, what can you do to keep your pet safe and comfortable?
Owners should keep their pets indoors. Never leave a pet tied up outside during a storm. Often it is best to leave the pet in a carrier or on a leash during the storm. They should have all the necessary supplies for their pet in one easily accessible location. They should keep newspapers on hand or use puppy pads for sanitary purposes.
Owners should provide a comfortable spot for their pet to hide. Bird and small mammal cages can be covered.
Dogs and cats should be separated during the storm. A pet’s normal behaviors can significantly change during a storm.
Owners should stay calm and speak to their pets in a calm, soothing voice. Our pets are very good at sensing our emotions and their behavior reflects this.
Post-hurricane, are there dangers present for pets?
Dangers after a hurricane include downed, live power lines and poisonous or dangerous animals that have been displaced during the storm. Venomous snakes and Cane toads may be more commonly encountered due to the standing water and downed trees/vegetation.
Standing water can also pose a hazard for pets. Drinking standing water can predispose pets to leptospirosis, bacterial infections, gastrointestinal upset, and parasites like giardia.
Pets are also at risk for heat stroke and dehydration if air conditioning and fresh water is not available.