Pet care tips from Dr Adam Sternberg
Developing an Emergency Plan for your Pets
When developing an emergency plan for your family and home, ensure you have a disaster plan that includes your pets. It’s important to plan well and talk about your plan with your family members and neighbours to ensure you are prepared.
Emergency situations are very stressful and frightening but if you have an established plan ready to go then it will be easier to make quick decisions and take action to keep your pets and family safe. Here are some items to take into consideration when developing your plan.
1. Pet Identification
Check that your pet’s microchip details are up to date and current, don’t forget to include your mobile phone numbers and emails. If you’re not sure if your pet’s details are correct call your local council or Greencross Vets clinic for advice. It is also important to have a pet ID name tag on your pet’s collar with your contact details so your pets can be quickly reunited with you. If you don’t have an ID tag you can write your phone number on your pet’s collar in an emergency. If your pet doesn’t usually wear a collar at home, consider having a collar ready for emergency situations.
2. Planning and Transportation
Ensure that your pet’s collar is fitted properly so they don’t slip their collar and run away. A harness may be the safest option and then you can secure your dog in the car safely when driving. If you don’t have a collar and need to secure your dog quickly, loop the lead through the handle to create an improvised collar but take care it is not too tight. If you have extra leads please bring these with you when evacuating as other pet owners may need them and you may encounter lost pets.
If you have small pets like birds, bunnies or cats ensure that you have secure pet carriers at home ready to use in case of emergencies. Covering the carrier can reduce stress but ensure the carrier is cool with adequate ventilation. Birds in particular are very sensitive to smoke so keep them in a well-ventilated area. If you do not have enough carriers and are in an emergency situation, use a sturdy box with holes in it to keep your smaller pets secure.
To develop your plan, we recommend role-playing scenarios and decide what you will do in each scenario. For example, if your dog is fearful you may wish to plan ahead and purchase a basket-style muzzle (similar to what racing greyhounds wear) so your dog can breathe easily but cannot bite in fear or hurt potential rescuers if you are being assisted by people they may not know. Ensure your dog is comfortable wearing a harness, lead or basket muzzle during normal situations so that is routine for them in the event of an evacuation.
Most importantly, practice how you will move your pets in the case of an emergency. Can you place your cat in a pet carrier? You may wish to practice this a few times, it can take longer than you think! By planning ahead and practicing regularly you know approximately how much time you will need.
3. Food, water and medication
If you are preparing to evacuate, ensure you have enough pet food and water for your pets. Don’t forget to pack a water bowl, collapsible food or water bowls are ideal but clean, plastic containers can be easier to carry. If your pet has a medical condition and/or takes regular medication don’t forget to bring this with as well. If you need more medication for your pet or if your pet is very anxious, call your local Greencross Vets clinic for advice, we are here to help.
When developing your emergency plan please consider that in emergency situations some evacuation centres may not accommodate pets. Consider speaking with friends or family nearby to find out if they will be able to look after your pet in the case of an emergency. It helps to have these conversations ahead of time so you know who the best person to contact is. Contact your local Greencross Vets clinic for advice and discuss your plan with your neighbours and share information about helping your pets if you are not home during an emergency. You may wish to invite your neighbours to your home to meet your pets and show them where you keep your pet supplies, carriers and leads. Keep in regular contact with your neighbours during the fire danger period to let them know your plans, especially if you are going away for an extended time.
5. Leaving early with pets
If you are leaving your home early, remember to prepare your pets too. Keep your pets securely inside with you until you are ready to go. Ensure you have their carry cages or leads, bedding, food, water and supplies readily available. Your pets may be stressed and upset so take care when handling them and try to keep them close and contained in one location. Pets are safest inside a secure room, on a lead or in carriers. Make sure they have plenty of water to drink.
Don’t leave your pets in a hot car unattended and watch out for signs of heat stress. It’s very important to keep your pets cool and hydrated. Sadly in stressful times there are lots of distractions and it can be easy to miss the signs that your pet is overheating. Learn more about heat stress here:
Heat Stress can be fatal for your pet
6. Large animals and livestock
The Australian Veterinary Association has some very useful resources about how to care for large animals and livestock during emergency situations. Learn more: How to care for Livestock and Large Animals