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Hurricane season with pets.
It’s that time of year again, hurricane season, and those of us here in South Louisiana are all too familiar with what that can bring. We all have at least one friend of family member who has had to evacuate their home, even if we ourselves have not. Taking a little time now to make a plan and a few advance preparations, will save a great deal of stress and heartache in the event of an evacuation.
Whether your intention is to shelter in place or evacuate at the first indication of a tropical storm in the Gulf, we very strongly suggest that you have all of your pets microchipped as a means of permanent, non-removable identification. Microchips are registered on computer databases that can be accessed by any shelter or veterinary clinic. Claiborne Hill is offering a microchip special during the month of June, call today for an appointment to have your pet ‘chipped!
If you plan to shelter in place be certain that you have at least a seven day supply of food, medication, and safe drinking water for every member of your household. The average, healthy dog needs approximately one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day – which is about a quart per 30 pounds.This amount will double in hot weather, or with activity. Elderly pets and very young pets will also require more water, while cats will require slightly less. If you have horses or other large animals, be sure to consider their drinking needs as well. Animals that live outside will also need a secure location to shelter in during a hurricane.
For pets who have difficulty tolerating higher temperatures, such as bulldogs or very elderly pets or those with extremely thick coats, please consider now how you will protect these animals in the event that you are without power for several days and have no access to air conditioning. Animals overheat much more easily than humans do, and for some breeds it doesn’t take a significant temperature increase to become fatally overheated.
If you have to evacuate due to an approaching storm, your pets will not be safe left behind to fend for themselves. Take the time now to consider how you will evacuate with Fluffy and Fido, as well as where you will go. Not every hotel accepts pets, and not all of your relatives will be happy to house them either. State or federally managed emergency shelters will not accept pets at all, and policies vary from shelter to shelter regarding service animals. AAA publishes a book on pet friendly accommodation, and you can find more information on it by following the link at the bottom of this page.
Preparing an evacuation kit for your pets is the fastest and easiest way to ensure that you have all the items necessary to keep Fluffy and Fido comfortable, well fed, and safe when leaving home. If everything is already assembled in an easy to grab plastic container, you don’t have to worry about forgetting something essential. The following items are considered the required essentials, and should be included for each pet that is evacuating:
– A properly fitting collar or harness and leash, with up to date identification tags attached.
– At least a seven day supply of food, or more if your pet eats a specific, medically necessary, prescription diet. Consider that vet clinics may also be affected by evacuations and picking up a new bag of prescription food may not be straightforward.
– Manual can opener and spoon, if your pet eats canned food.
– Separate food and water dishes. Non-tip dishes are ideal.
– For cats, a small litter pan and litter.
– At least a seven day supply of any medications needed by your pet.
– A copy of your pet’s most recent vaccination records. This information is required by many hotels and campgrounds as well as the shelters that accept service dogs. Service dogs are not exempt from vaccine requirements.
– If your pet has a medical condition requiring careful monitoring or ongoing medication, keep a copy of any relevant records detailing this information.
– A list of emergency telephone numbers including local emergency services and your veterinarian.
– A collapsible wire kennel or airline approved travel crate (with bedding). These should be large enough to hold food and water dishes and allow enough space for your pet to stand up and turn around. For cats there should also be enough room for a small litter pan. Be sure to attach a label of some kind to each carrier, with your name and contact information.
– A current, color photograph of each pet. If your pet escapes or becomes frightened and runs away, having a photograph available can facilitate their return. This is where all those cell phone pictures of Fido will come in handy!
These are the bare basics that you will likely need in the event of an evacuation, however you are only limited by space and your imagination. Additional items to think of including are favorite toys or blankets, paper towels, a flashlight and batteries, a muzzle, trash bags, tie out lines, battery or solar powered fans, etc. Bath towels can double as extra bedding, or be used to cover the carriers of nervous animals. You may wish to consider also assembling a pet first aid kit to keep near your evacuation supplies, keep an eye on our website for a future post on what to include in a pet first aid kit.
We strongly suggest to all pet owners that their dogs be familiar with spending time in a kennel/crate, even if they do not use one at home. Many hotels that accept pets will only do so if the animals are confined to a kennel in the room, and Fluffy will be much less stressed if his first hotel stay is not also the very first time he’s expected to stay in a kennel. Wire dog crates that collapse and fold flat are easy to store and take up minimal room in a vehicle. They can also be used to keep cats safe in unfamiliar locations, as many cats will break for an open door at the first opportunity if they are stressed and scared. Fortunately stressed cats are usually very happy to remain inside a secure kennel, especially if it is covered with a towel or light blanket, because they feel safer in a small, contained space.
It does not matter how well trained your dog is at home, in an unfamiliar environment during a time of great stress, you cannot rely on your dog’s good behavior if he gets startled and you are separated. Even if you do not walk your dog on a leash at home, you should never go without a leash in anywhere that is not fully contained. A scared pet will simply run, and they don’t give a lot of thought to direction. It is far easier to keep them safely on a leash for the short period of time you’ll be displaced.
If you have small cage pets such as rabbits or guinea pigs, they will be quite comfortable in a plastic carrier with a water bottle attached to the door. Obviously this is not ideal for the long term, but for an evacuation situation they can be kept comfortable for a week or more like this if also provided with an opportunity to stretch their legs a few times per day.
Reptiles are also easily kept in less than ideal housing for short periods of time, as long as they are maintained at their preferred temperature with clean bedding. For snakes and small reptiles a plastic storage container with additional ventilation holes in the lid is sufficient for transport and temporary housing. Larger reptiles, turtles, and tortoises adjust very well to temporary housing in large plastic storage containers, provided the sides are high enough that they can’t climb out.
Please contact your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns regarding evacuation preparation, they will be happy to help you develop a plan and offer suggestions regarding your evacuation supplies.