Emergencies & Your Dog
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
Picture this—you’re relaxing on your couch with your pooch after dinner, watching TV, and your favorite sitcom is interrupted by an emergency announcement. Your town is suddenly, and without warning, being evacuated. What do you do? Where will you go? What’s the plan? You and your trusty hound exchange wide-eyed looks as a thousand possibilities and fears race through your mind.
If you are properly prepared for an emergency, then that moment, though stressful, would be followed by a series of calm and calculated actions, each one simple and planned, resulting in a much less terrifying and hectic situation, not to mention the assurance of safety for you and your beloved dog. If you aren’t ready when you hear such an emergency announcement, the chances that you, running anxious around the house, will find and pack everything you need and make the right decisions, are slim to none.
So Get Ready
First, sit down and make a list of phone numbers. Write down the numbers of your vet, a local 24 hour emergency vet, poison control, local animal control, local humane society or SPCA, and the numbers of a few vets and a 24 hour emergency vets in surrounding cities in the event that you have to evacuate. Public shelters usually do not accept dogs (except for service dogs) so you need to find out ahead of time where else you could go. Call local hotels and hotels in surrounding cities, enquire about their policies regarding animals and emergency situations, and be sure to mention the number of dogs you’ll have and their breeds. Some hotels will let in small dogs but not large ones, and restrict certain breeds; so “do you allow dogs” is not a sufficient question. Add the numbers of dog-friendly hotels to your list. Write a note on the bottom of the list including your dog’s feeding schedule, any specific health issues, and instructions for when and how to give your dog any medication he may take on a daily basis. Make three copies of this list, and post one copy by your phone, put one in your emergency kit, and fold one up and put it in your wallet.
Whatever the nature of an emergency, whether it’s a snowstorm that keeps you from getting home from work or a hurricane forcing you to evacuate from your town, it is extremely helpful to have a buddy who can attend to your dog if you can’t. A trusted neighbor, friend or family member who lives close-by can look in on your dog if you can’t make it home, and can evacuate your pets if you’re not around. Make sure that the person you choose is familiar with your dog and his habits. If he tends to hide under the bed when he’s scared, or has one toy that will always, always make him come running when you squeak it, your buddy needs to know. Make sure your buddy is willing to take care of and travel with your dog if you can’t. Because of this, your buddy should probably not be someone who already has several animals or small children to deal with. Show your buddy where you keep your emergency supplies and where you have posted your list of emergency numbers, and give them a key to your house. Make arrangements with your buddy concerning where you will meet up in an emergency. Establish one close-by location, and one farther away so you know where you can find your dog if even if you can’t reach your buddy via cell phone. You should also make arrangements with a friend with a dog-friendly home who’s far enough away to not be affected by an evacuation or natural disaster with whom you could stay if you have to evacuate.
Place a sticker on or near your front door and on the window nearest to your dog’s crate that states how many and what kind of dog is in the house. This will alert emergency personnel, and if something happens to you and your buddy they will remove the dog from the house. If you evacuate with your pet, make sure to take these stickers down or write “evacuated with pets” over them so vital time is not wasted on dogs that don’t need saving.
Your Emergency Kit
An emergency kit is absolutely necessary. In certain situations these items can mean life or death for your dog, and if nothing else, they will make everything a lot easier and more comfortable for everyone involved.
3-5 days-worth of dog food in an airtight container
—the trick to not being stuck with stale food: check the expiration date and mark it on your calendar. Before the food expires, remove it from your kit, replace it with new food, and feed your dog the old food before it has a chance to go bad. If you consistently roll over the food in the kit, you will be reminded to check the expiration dates on medications and other items as well so you know your kit will be ready when you need it.
3-5 days-worth of water—
this is the water just for your dog, don’t assume that the water you have set aside for you and your family will be sufficient to share. Don’t forget that bottled water expires too.
Any medicine dog is taking—
remember to keep expiration dates in mind.
Collapsible food and water containers—
they pack better and are lighter than regular bowls.
Your dog’s medical and vaccination records
and copies of registration information
in a sealed plastic bag with extra ID tags
and an ID tag with an out-of-the-area contact in case your dog loses his collar.
An extra sturdy collar and leash
—the collar or leash you use on a daily basis could get lost, broken, or chewed, and you don’t want to be left without a way to restrain your dog.
—you should have a flashlight (with working batteries, don't forget to check) in every bag you pack. So many different emergencies result in power outages. Have you ever tried looking for a flashlight in the dark without a flashlight?
they can be used as bedding, rolled up to make pillows, torn into strips for tourniquets, bandages or rope, and of course, they’re good for wiping down a muddy pup.
Paper towels, trash bags, dog waste bags, and household chlorine bleach
—it is absolutely necessary that you clean up after your pet, especially if you are in a public area.
Your list of vets, hotels and emergency 24 hour numbers.
A picture of you with your dog—
having your picture with your dog is important, it can help you establish ownership if you get separated. On the back of the picture write your pet’s breed, age, sex, color, and distinguishing characteristics.
A few familiar toys and tasty treats—
just like for you, something familiar and pleasant in a scary situation can make a big difference.
A portable crate
—it should be big enough to allow your dog to stand, lie down, and turn around comfortably.
if you have a short-haired dog like a Beagle or Lab, this isn’t completely necessary, but if you have an Afghan hound or Pekingese, it’s a good idea to have a comb to keep mats from developing in the fur.
A first aid kit including:
Antiseptic, Hand Sanitizer, Alcohol Cleansing Pads, Scissors, Latex Gloves, Cotton Swabs, Gauze Roll, Instant Cold Compress, Gauze Dressing Pads, Self-Adhesive Vet Wrap, Tweezers w/Magnifying Glass, Syringe for dosing medications, Pet Waste Bags, Buffered Aspirin, Generic Benadryl, Hydrocortisone Cream, Splints, Eye Wash, Petroleum Jelly, and Triple Antibiotic Ointment.
Now, think back to sitting on the couch. A harried reporter has just explained that at the moment, evacuation is voluntary, but suggested. Just leave, and take your dog with you. Never leave your dog behind! (If you somehow, absolutely must, DO NOT chain or cage the dog, this could be a death sentence). A situation that is dangerous for you is dangerous for your dog too, and it is better to be safe than sorry. If you leave before evacuation is mandatory, you will beat traffic and avoid the panic and fear that tends to result from that sort of situation.
You are prepared, so all you have to do is take a deep breath, put your dog’s crate and your emergency bag in the car and be on your way. From the car you can call your buddy and let him or her know that you have your dog, and make reservations at a hotel or call your further-away buddy and let them know you’re coming. That’s it. Because you were ready, what could have been terrifying and drawn-out took five minutes and you and your precious pooch are already well on your way to safety.
Whether you are at a public shelter, hotel, or friend’s house, keep your dog on a leash. The last thing you need in a stressful situation is to run after Fido as he chases a squirrel down the street.
If you decide to stay home, establish a safe room. This should be an interior room in the house, preferably without any windows (depending on the nature of the emergency). Put your emergency bag and your dog’s crate in the room and bring in a TV and radio to keep up with what’s going on and when it’s safe to come out of your house. Make sure that anything you might need is in the room so you don’t have to leave if the situation gets bad.
When you return home after an emergency, keep your dog leashed. Familiar smells and land marks might be gone, disorienting your dog, and other dangers like fallen trees or injured animals could be anywhere. Remember to be patient with your dog after such an emergency, he does not understand what has happened, and is only reacting to the stress of the situation. Try to get your dog back to his normal routine as soon as possible; this will help him bounce back faster.
You can’t stop emergencies from happening, but being prepared is the very best way to keep you and your dog safe.