• Dr. Tashard Major

How to best prepare your pets before and after the hurricane season.

Tropical storms and hurricanes are a fact of life in the Bahamas.  Strong winds and large amounts of rain can create a situation where normal veterinary care and supplies may not be available for days or even weeks!  Preparation is key!  Once the storm is sure to make landfall, it is probably too late to find the pet food, medications, and other supplies you will need.

We strongly recommend that as you prepare for your family's well-being during a hurricane that you extend that care to your four legged family too.  Planning ahead is the best way to ensure the safety of your entire family.  To help you weather the storm safely, here is a simple guide you can take to help ensure your pet stays happy and healthy during a disaster.  

Remember, if you do not feel safe in your home, then it is not safe for your pets either!  Never leave them behind!  

1. Ensure your pet has identification.

Microchips work very well for Animal Services and nearly all veterinary clinics can read them, but during a hurricane those services may not be available.  A tag with your name and cell phone number will help concerned citizens identify your pet.  Be sure that you update your information with the microchip company.  Update any telephone numbers and addresses to ensure that your pet makes it home safely - especially if you have to evacuate!

2. Find out which clinics or shelters allow pets before the storm strikes.

Many pet owners complain that they were turned away from shelters. Call your local veterinary clinics and shelters to find out where you can take your pet before the storm hits. When you find out your options, make plans for your pet well in advance.

3. Use a pet carrier.

Carriers are important during a storm for ease of transport. Even for pets that will normally stay right beside you, a storm can cause many pets to become overly excited or even wander away.  If you have to leave your home shortly after a hurricane, keep your pet close.  Remember there can be fallen trees, power lines, etc which are dangerous.  Carriers may be required at your local shelter.  Be sure to label it with yours and your pet's information!

4. Make sure to stock up on at least two weeks of pet food and medications.

If a hurricane strikes, make sure you have 14 days of prescription medications, as well as heartworm and flea & tick preventives. Pack them in a bag with your pet's essentials and write down your current administration schedule in case you have to leave your pet at a local shelter. Administer heartworm and flea preventive before placing your pet in a shelter facility - even if it's not quite time for an application. Your pet may be exposed to fleas and mosquitoes and the extra protection will only help.

Pet named Bear onlooking after Hurricane Matthew left sanctuary in ruins.
Photo courtesy by Patricia Vazquez

5. Carry two week's worth of food and water.

If possible, divide your pet's meals into individual storage bins or bags. This will help ensure you bring enough food and allow you to assist others who may have to care for your pet during an evacuation. Carry bottled water (24 ounces per day for a 20-pound dog and 8 ounces a day for a 10-pound cat) and bowls. Many shelters will not have adequate food and water on hand for pets.

6. Bring a sturdy leash or harness.

Carry the simple slip-type webbing or nylon leashes with you at all times. A frightened dog can slip out of a collar, but a slip leash can hold it securely. A slip leash can also be used to restrain a cat in a pinch. Carry an extra leash in your pocket in case someone else needs it or you lose yours.

7. Have a plan for pet waste.  If you shelter in place during hurricanes and tropical storms, you should NOT allow your pet outside for ANY reason!  This means that you will need to plan for them to go potty.  Have an area in mind where you want to encourage your pet to potty.  This might be the normal location for cats, but dogs may need some thought.  Have doggie waste bags, newspaper, and enough cat litter to weather the storm.  Some air freshener might help too since you can't open the windows!  A heavy plastic bag that can be tied shut after depositing your pet's waste will help minimize the odor.

8. Create a pet hurricane kit.  In addition to your human family's supplies:

- Pet food and water for 2-3 weeks  

- Manual can opener

- Medications for 3-4 weeks

- Medical records (clearly showing that all vaccines are up to date) stored in a waterproof container

- Written instructions about your pet's care including feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior issues, and medicine.

- Contact information for your veterinarian

- Current photos of your pet (printed - not on a phone)

- Doggie waste bags or cat litter (and box) and a bag to store collected waste in. Newspapers might make cleanup easier too.

- A sturdy leash, harness, or carrier.  Some dogs might benefit from a muzzle.

- A collar with identification

- Food dishes

- Pet first aid kit

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