Although I live in Southern California, home to natural disasters (earthquakes, wildfires and mudslides … oh my!), I infrequently have to deal with the brutal meteorological force that is a hurricane.
In the face of Hurricane Irene blowing its way up the East Coast, I found myself attending the BlogPaws 2011 conference in Tysons Corner, Va. Having survived all of the aforementioned natural disasters affecting the Los Angeles area, my well being was now up to the will of the hurricane deities.
Questioning my fate got me fondly thinking of my canine companion, Cardiff, and appreciating his safekeeping at home. As a significant contingent of canine and feline conference-goers were in attendance, I hope their human caretakers established a pet safety plan in the face of Hurricane Irene.
The latest natural disaster to affect the eastern United States has inspired me to share my top pet emergency preparedness tips.
Properly Identify Your Pet
A safe return home may occur more readily if the lost pet bears up-to-date identification. Fit your dog with a collar tagged or embroidered with his name and your phone number or email. As collars can be removed or fall off, microchip implantation increases the likelihood of a reasonable pet return, as long as your personal information is kept current with the microchip manufacturer. Ideally, use both a collar and a microchip.
Know Your Pet’s Location
An emergency’s urgency may cause your pet’s location to be unknown. Small dogs escape stressful situations and potential harm by seeking refuge under a bed, in a closet or another safe spot. Larger-breed dogs typically have a more obvious presence, but they can instinctually flee from any scene, unbeknownst to their owner.
Always maintain the utmost awareness of your dog’s location in your house, yard or public space. Knowing your dog’s daily habits, including his preferential locations for napping, nesting or hiding, can facilitate his discovery.
Alert Emergency Personnel of Your Pet’s Presence in Your Home
A clearly posted notification will alert emergency personnel of your dog’s presence in your home. In 2009, the American Kennel Club (AKC) and ADT Security Services partnered to create window clings on which owners can share information about their pets.
Securely Transport Your Pet
Crises typically force people and pets to flee the home environment in a sudden manner. To ensure your pet’s in-flight safety, secure transport modalities are vitally important.
Rigid or soft airline-approved carriers should be used for small dogs. The name, species, color, breed and weight of your pet, along with your contact information, should be clearly emblazoned on the outside of the carrier. As carriers do not facilitate reasonable transport of medium- and large-breed dogs, use a collar or chest harness and leash.
In case of a water emergency, use a dog life vest.
Reduce Stress for Your Pet
A calmer emotional state can be achieved by administering a dose of a stress-relieving product one to two hours before a distressing event (such as fireworks, thunderstorms, tornado-induced lift off of your home, etc.). I often administer this product to my acupuncture patients to promote better acceptance of needle insertion.
Keep Pet Supplies, Medications and Food Readily Accessible
Pet supplies, medications and food should be kept in readily accessible and transportable containers. As many dogs need consistent treatment to manage chronic conditions, prepare ahead to prevent an emergency from causing a therapeutic interruption.
Digestive upset is often associated with food changes. Containers supplying multiple portions of food can maintain consistent feeding in the face of an abrupt departure from your home.
Canine emergency preparedness kits are available for sale, or you can make a DIY (do it yourself) version.
Immediately Seek Veterinary Care
Emergency situations can expose your pet to smoke, fire, water or other noxious substances. The need to seek urgent care from an emergency veterinary facility is a realistic possibility.
Tissue trauma from heat, moisture or chemicals is not always readily apparent. Internal and external body systems can quickly be damaged and cause life-threatening malfunction of vital organs (the brain, heart and lungs). X-rays, blood tests and other diagnostics are often required to facilitate your dog’s proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Prepare to take evasive action in the face of the next environmental crisis by creating a pet emergency preparedness strategy. Your dog will be grateful for your responsible caretaking.
Copyright of this article (2011) is owned by Dr. Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist.
PHOTO: Patrick Mahaney