Do this now to protect your pets in an emergency

The time to prepare for an emergency is now

Here in South Florida we’ve been lucky the past several years because, thankfully, every single hurricane coming at us somehow took a detour away from us or had a last-minute lessening of intensity from hurricane to “tropical storm” status. Now as we near the end of yet another calm hurricane season, I notice something happening to the psyche of many Floridians: we’re starting to get the feeling that “it will never happen here” and that there is no need to worry.

The last storm warning a few months ago didn’t even seem to generate any anxiety or empty the supermarket shelves like it had in previous seasons. On one level this is great–the optimistic feeling that everything is fine and that we are always safe; however, on another level, becoming complacent could cause or contribute to last-minute panic or worse. Not being at all prepared when disaster strikes can cause unnecessary suffering, and our pets will many times suffer the most. When it comes to having to make life or death choices for our family members, our pets can wind up on the lowest part of the pecking order. Although nobody would argue with the concept of “saving the humans first,” no one wants to choose between family members, be they animal or human.

Of course, each part of the country has its own type of risks or dangers. Whether it’s from winds blowing, trees falling, water collecting, earth shaking, or some other type of hazard, these things all require some preparation in order to have the best possible outcome. We’re not talking about the kind of preparation that requires huge sacrifices, changes in lifestyle, or that costs too much money. Most of these preparations can be completed in a single afternoon, and could at least give our pets a fighting chance.

Let’s start with one of the most important and most underutilized technological advancements for our pets, the microchip. The one thing that is almost universal during any type of disaster is confusion. Running around grabbing children, clothes, medication, and other essentials, it’s easy to forget about the cat hidden in the back of the closet scared from all the commotion. While you might not think an indoor-only cat needs a microchip, what happens in the event of an unexpected emergency? Similarly, even a dog with identification tags can become separated from his collar during the confusion. A microchip in these situations will give your pet the best chance of being reunited with you. A quick visit to the veterinarian, and you will never have to think about it again (except to keep your contact information updated). Take care of this now!

Consider a pre-made Pet First Aid Kit

Other supplies that can be kept in a cabinet or in a basket under the sink include: scissors, gauze,  unsweetened electrolyte solution (e.g. Pedialyte), saline solution for wound washing, topical antibiotic ointment or spray, a bottle of  Betadine or iodine solution for wounds, an extra supply of pet food, and a spare leash and collar. There are also various First Aid Kits designed just for pets. As a pharmacist I can’t leave out the importance of making sure you have an adequate supply of prescription medication on hand. These stressful situations are difficult enough on a pet’s immune system and mental health without adding the fact that the pet is not getting the medication that their body has been used to, possibly for years.

A pet crate that’s already assembled and ready for use is critical during times when it’s important to keep the pet in one place and keep them from possibly running off. Label each carrier with your contact information, being sure to include your  cell phone number since you will likely be away from home. Other helpful supplies to have on hand include a small litter box, doggie waste disposal bags, and a small familiar toy or blanket to help comfort your pet.

Do a little research now to find an emergency shelter, hotel or relative that will allow you to bring your pets in case of an emergency, so that you can remain together if at all possible. While leaving your pet behind should be your last option, if you absolutely must leave a pet at home while you evacuate, it is of utmost importance to leave some type of large container with water. Leave as many dishes on the floor filled with water and food as possible, water being the most important. I know it sounds like a bad idea, but many pets have been saved because they were able to drink from a toilet. Nothing should be discounted or neglected when we’re dealing with life or death situations and plenty of water needs to be available if we absolutely must leave the pet home alone. Don’t assume that you will return in a day or two; there is no way to know that, so take every precaution to improve the chances of survival.

Getting this emergency supply kit together for the pets could actually be a fun family project. When my children were young, I would make it an afternoon adventure to come up with a list of things that may be needed and then getting them all together. This was an opportunity to teach my children the concept of safety, share with them our love for animals, and spend the afternoon doing a fun activity together. This does not have to be treated like a boring chore, and it really should be done.

Although I have made a few suggestions here, an emergency supply kit is a personalized thing that should be tailored to the particular needs of a neighborhood, household, family, or pet. If you take away one thing from this week’s post I hope it would be that this project of creating an emergency kit could actually be fun rather than a bothersome chore. The key is knowing that all households need one, and actually taking that first step at getting one started. No one has ever regretted being prepared, while the same cannot be said about not being prepared.

As always, if your pet seems “out of sorts” or you notice something is not right, a trip to the veterinarian could be one of the best decisions you make. In many cases, the longer you wait the more the problems have potential of escalating. If you have any medication related questions your 1800PetMeds pharmacist is available to answer those for you.

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