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Preparing Your Pet for a Hurricane

It may be a tropical storm now, but Isaias is still poised to threaten the Carolinas later today (and may touch down again in the northern parts of the eastern region later this week) with potentially deadly storm surges and heavy rain. While the storm's track and intensity remains somewhat unknown, veterinarians at BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital are stressing the importance of having emergency response plans that include our pets. 

Taking steps like updating or creating a pet disaster kit or planning a pet-friendly

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evacuation route can help protect your furry friend if a natural disaster occurs.  

Follow these tips to ensure your pet stays safe and healthy this hurricane season.  

Create/update your pet’s emergency response kit. 

Amid a hurricane, it is important to continue to meet your pet’s four basic needs for survival: oxygen, water, food, shelter and sleep. Put together your pet’s emergency kit and ensure that all vaccinations, medical records, and medications are up to date.  

Items to include in your pet emergency kit: 

  • Month supply of pet food, water, and medication. If your pet is on a prescription diet and/or you obtain their food from your veterinarian, be sure to order ample amount ahead of time and call ahead to check on availability. You may also want to bring a travel cooler for medications that need to be refrigerated. 
  • Hard and digital copies of medical records and registration. Many evacuation shelters require pets’ county registration and medical records, so be sure to have both digital and hard copies in case of a power outage. For added security, seal all hard-copy documents in a plastic bag. To reduce risk of virus spread, please also be aware that many BluePearl hospitals are currently operating on a curbside check-in and drop-off basis (only the pet is permitted inside) and may not be accepting hard copies of medical records. Our teams highly recommend pet owners send records electronically and call ahead for emergencies.  
  • A crate or pet carrier. Pets can easily become injured, distract the driver, or act as a projectile, if loose in the car. While driving, keep pets safe in a crate or carrier, and anchor it to the vehicle using a seat belt or other secure means. 
  • A second leash, harness, and/or collar. 
  • Pet litter and litter box (if appropriate). 
  • Treats, toys and bedding. Anxiety and stress during an evacuation is common for pets. Treats, toys, and bedding may help reduce this. 
  • Custom first aid kit (to fit your pet’s specific emergency needs)In your kit include gauze, bandages, scissors, tweezers, nail clippers, antiseptic, pet-safe antibiotic ointment, gloves, thermometer, towels, blankets, and/or cloths. Add additional items, like eye wash or drops, if your pet has specific medical needs. 
  • Special care instructions. In the event you need help caring for your pet during a natural disaster, you’ll want to have your pet’s pill schedule, dietary restrictions, and feeding and medication instructions handy.  
  • Cleaning supplies. On your route, make sure to routinely wash crates and crate handles. 

Update identification tags.

During an evacuation many pets can become lost. Prior to evacuating, make sure your pet’s collar is secure and ID tags show the proper information. Consider microchipping (a permanent form of identification) and registering them in a recovery database for good measure.  

Plan out the evacuation route. 

Pets may become dehydrated on long road trips. Designate pet-friendly rest stops, so you can allow your pet to hydrate, eliminate, and stretch. Along your evacuation route, also map out emergency veterinary hospitals. Currently, BluePearl, Banfield, and VCA are offering telehealth options. Call the specific location to learn more about these services. Also, prepare digital and hard copy lists of the 24/7 veterinary hospitals’ phone numbers and addresses along your travel route. 

Research your destination.

Make sure your destination—whether an evacuation shelter, hotel, friend or family’s home—is pet-friendly, and if so, what documents are required for your pet to stay. Some shelters require pet owners to pre-register pets, and space may be extremely limited. Best practice is to have your pet stay with family or friends, or to board with a local veterinarian or pet groomer. 

Things to consider if your pet stays at a shelter: 

  • Vaccination history and proof pet is licensed/registered with the county may be required. 
  • Bring your own pet food, as this is often not provided. 
  • Pets must always be crated or leashed (usually).   
  • Exotic pets may not be accepted. 
  • Oftentimes, pets are housed separately from people and access to your pet may be limited.  
  • You may need to schedule time to feed, bathe and walk your pet. 

If a disaster advisory or warning has been issued, it is best to be overly cautious. Always take your pets with you when evacuating and follow state/local official guidelines. By preparing ahead of time and acting quickly, pet owners can help keep their four-legged friends healthy and out of danger.