Severe weather can be a stressful, frightening time, especially for a pet that has only ever known good care and a loving, friendly home. When emergency conditions arise, pets can easily get lost or hurt in the confusion, but a prepared pet owner will take care of their pet before, during and after any bad weather.
Before Bad Weather Hits
Whether it is a flood, hurricane, tornado, blizzard, wildfire or any other type of severe weather, proper preparation can help pet owners be ready for the emergency.
- Microchip your pet.
A microchip is inserted underneath your pet's skin and includes a unique number tied to your individual contact information. This can help you reunite with your pet if they are lost during severe weather, and it can't be easily lost or removed like a collar or license could be. Always keep your microchip information updated with your best contact information.
- Keep vaccinations updated and recorded.
Severe weather could lead to unusual disease outbreaks, or if your pet escapes during an emergency, they could come into contact with rodents or other animals carrying dangerous pests or bacteria. If their vaccinations are up-to-date, they will be more protected. Keep a vaccination record with your important documents in case you need to provide them to board your pet during an emergency.
- Train your pet well.
If your pet is well socialized, trained and accustomed to different situations, including crowds or unusual settings, they will be less likely to panic during the chaos of a weather emergency. Good training also strengthens your bond with your pet so they are able to rely on you even in an uncertain situation.
- Prepare a pet emergency kit.
Just as you should have an emergency kit for every family member, you also need one for every pet. Include an adequate amount of food and water for your pet, as well as any essential medications, and rotate these supplies periodically so they stay fresh. Include a recent photo of your pet for identification purposes. A few treats can reassure your pet, a toy will provide distraction and you should have the addresses and contact information for pet-friendly shelters, rescues and boarding facilities that may be needed.
Weathering the Storm
When a weather emergency hits, it will be a chaotic time and your pet may panic. Small pets, such as reptiles, birds, gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs, should be safely secured in appropriate crates, tanks or cages until the emergency is over. For larger pets, including cats and dogs…
- Keep their license firmly attached.
During the emergency, your pet should always be wearing their license and your contact information. Pets may panic in bad weather, and could easily find a way to escape and run off, unable to find their way home because of floods, different smells or blocked routes.
- Stay in control of your pet at all times.
To minimize the risk of your pet escaping, keep control of them at all times. If going outside for a brief walk is essential, always use a strong leash, even in a fenced yard – if a section of the fence is broken or missing, your pet could escape before you know it. If possible, keep your pet safe in a crate or carrier, which will help if an evacuation is necessary.
- Consider emergency boarding.
Some pet boarding or rescue facilities may offer emergency services, particularly in evacuation areas if pets are not allowed at standard emergency shelters. When dropping your pet off at the facility, be sure they have proper identification and everything needed for their safety and comfort until you can pick them up.
- Stay in a secure room away from distractions.
If the severe weather includes loud noises, such as thunder or heavy rain, place your pet in an interior room of your home, and consider adding a small fan or low volume radio for white noise to help block out sudden, unexpected sounds that can startle or panic your pet. A comfortable space with familiar things, such as a favorite bed or toy, can help calm your pet.
In the Aftermath
It may take just a few hours or it could be a few days, even weeks before your home returns to normal after bad weather, and you need to care for your pet properly during that time so they are less traumatized by the event.
- Search for a lost pet as quickly as possible.
If your pet is lost during the emergency, search for them as quickly as possible, but do not put yourself at risk by venturing into unsafe or restricted areas. Share the photo of your pet as well as any identifying features – collar description, license number, behavioral quirks, distinctive markings – to help your pet be recognized and returned to you right away.
- Check for injuries.
If your pet was lost or panicked during the emergency, check them carefully for any injuries or other problems. Treat even minor scratches or cuts carefully to prevent infection, and get your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible for an evaluation and any additional treatment.
- Comfort your pet and return to normal.
Many pets can be upset by emergencies long after the event. To help your pet recover, return to your normal routine as soon as you can, and spend extra time comforting your pet. Refresher training, familiar games and just being with you will help them adjust.
- Volunteer for other pets.
In the aftermath of a weather emergency, many pets can be lost and pet shelters are often overwhelmed. Even if your pet is safe and sound, it can be helpful if you volunteer with a local pet rescue to help other pet owners find their animal friends.
It takes time to recover from a severe weather emergency, but if you have prepared your pet well for such events and are careful during the emergency, both you and your pet can recover quickly and resume a happy life together.