Prepare your Pets - Build an Emergency Supply Kit
During an emergency, whether it is localized to your family or extends to the wider community, you will want to ensure that your pets are taken care of and you’re prepared. Build your emergency supply kit for pets.
Though I'm sharing the complete kit list now, add to it over time. Don’t let the list overwhelm you so you do nothing. Use your normal purchasing of supplies to stock your emergency kit. For example, the next time you buy dog food (or hamster food), buy two. One will go in the house to restock and the other will be placed in your emergency supply kit. When you’re ready for another bag, you can buy one, move the “emergency supply” bag into the pet pantry and restock your kit with the new one. As with many of your supplies, you can shop your emergency supply shelf/container as long as you refill immediately.
Place the emergency supplies for your pets either in one container (airtight and waterproof if you can) or at least in one location or shelf. Though a large trash can isn’t airtight, it can be big enough to hold most of the items and protect your supplies from minor water damage.
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Items to prepare your pets for an emergency:
Food (3-7 days). Your bag of kibble will usually last longer than seven days if you’re using this kit to restock your everyday supplies each time. Add canned food even if you routinely don’t feed it to your pets. The canned food will have water in the food which can decrease the amount of water your pets will need to drink (and you need to store) for an emergency. The canned food will also be safer to use if flood waters impact your emergency supply kit - see the FDA's (U.S. Food & Drug Administration) guidance on How To Save Undamaged Food Packages Exposed to Flood Water.
Water (3-7 days). Your pet needs approximately 1 ounce of water per pound (of pet) per day. If your pet is 8 pounds, you’ll need a cup a day. A one-gallon jug of water would be sufficient for a week. Your 60 pound dog will need a half-gallon of water a day, so you’ll need 1.5 gallons for the first several days and 4 gallons would ensure enough for 7 days. This is an approximation which changes based on activity, weather, age, and stresses. The more active — the more water. The warmer the weather — the more water.
Medication (3-7 days). Even though your pet medications should be on your emergency grab & go checklist (those priority items you can't or won't put in an emergency kit), consider storing a few days supply of medicine here. Include flea and tick medication. Keep using and restocking the meds! Don’t let them get old. Build the habit of stopping by your emergency supply kit when you bring home the new medicine and replace the emergency supply.
First Aid book for pets. I like The First-Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats as it contains information on over-the-counter medication you can use (and which ones aren’t safe for your pets), first-aid techniques, and a guide to common injuries and conditions. I recommend having both a print book and an ebook if you can. If have to choose only one format, go with the print version. You won’t need electricity to read it. There are also apps for your phone and tablet, but I’ve found that a book to have more details and to be more helpful. The one app I tried kept telling me to go to my vet for everything.
First Aid Kit. Create a special pet first aid kit or add pet items to your main kit. Refer to your first aid book for an extensive list of items to have or search the internet using keywords such as - pet first aid kit list. In general, you’ll want to have supplies to respond to:
Routine care needs
Cuts, abrasions, foreign objects
Broken or sprained limbs
Poisoning, allergic reactions
In addition to you vet's contact information, you'll want to have the Poison Control Number for animals. Have a credit card ready as a fee will usually apply.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435 (there’s a fee)
Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661 (there’s a fee)
A note about paying a fee for the poison control call — these call centers are staffed 24/7 by experts experienced in toxicology and animals. There’s no government funding like the human poison control center. Yes, the specialist on the other end of the line may direct you to your vet, but you'll have a case number to give your vet to reference.
Travel bag, carrier, or crate (one for each pet). Consider two reasons for having this item. To provide a safe space to shelter during a disaster and to safely transport your animal. A safe space requires a sturdy cage or kennel with sufficient room for your pet. When we moved our dogs and cats from Hawai’i in 2014, we had to use IATA (International Air Transport Association) approved kennels . They’re sturdier then a regular kennel (and a bit more expensive) but they’ll last. IATA's Traveler's Pet Corner will help you size your kennel for your pet, click on the link Guidance for Dimensions of Container.
The kennel should be big enough for the dog to comfortably stand, turn around, and lie down. The cat kennels need to be big enough to hold a litter tray or other material to allow your cat to go to the bathroom in the kennel. You’re not likely to leash your cat to go for a walk to urinate and defecate as you would your dog.
You might also consider a smaller carrier if you’re just transporting a small animal. A kennel big enough to comfortably house your cat or dog is usually too big or cumbersome to transport them to the vet or away from the disaster.
Anti-anxiety vest or wrap. Often referred to as a Thundershirt®, one specific brand, these anti-anxiety vests can help calm your dog or cat (and I’m assuming other pets as well) during a highly stressful time.
For a do-it-yourself wrap (which works!), use a scarf, long narrow strip of cloth, or a stretch bandage like Ace®. Place the middle of the scarf (cloth or bandage)on the front chest of your pet, wrap both ends up and over the dogs shoulders and back (the withers). Then bring the wrap down under the chest behind the front legs (the girth). If your scarf or cloth is long enough, cross the ends around the belly and back up to tie on the back. If the scarf isn’t long enough, tying off under the belly will still provide comfort to your pet. Within seconds my large dog is calmer and will even fall asleep.
Even the self-sticking wrap bandages can be used if you have nothing else. You’ll just start at one end and make the same general wrapping pattern, just not with two ends.
Collar/Harness and leash with Tags (cats/dogs). The next time your replace a collar or leash that’s still in good condition, add it to your emergency kit instead of giving it away or throwing it away. Keep your old tags on the collar IF YOUR CONTACT NUMBER IS STILL CURRENT.
Which reminds me, are the current tags current? Is your contact information the same? Get new ones immediately and double the order (one for your everyday collar and one for your emergency collar). Out-of-date information can delay your pet being safely returned to you if they’re lost. And yes, have a harness and leash for your cat. Even though your cat may not like the leash and harness at first, it allows you to take the cat out of the kennel for a little exercise but still remain under your control. A harness is preferred to collars as it’s harder to squirm out of a harness than it is a collar.
Muzzle. Even if your dog doesn’t normally bite, in times of stress, you don’t want your animal reacting instinctively and hurting you, anyone else or another animal. If you don’t have a muzzle, another leash can be used. Take time now to search on YouTube to look at creating an emergency muzzle or learn how to get your dog used to a muzzle. Here's one I found — "emergency muzzle"
Long leash and yard stake (dogs). During an emergency or disaster, you’ll want to keep your dog under control at all times either in a kennel or on a leash. Under normal circumstances your dog may remain in the yard or under your voice control with no problems. But when you’re stressed, your dog is stressed. Help them stay with you by keeping them on a leash at all times. The long leash and yard stake allows the dog to move about freely but still be contained. However if your dog routinely breaks the line or pulls up the stake, you’ll have to be prepared and add what will work for you and your dog.
Litter tray and litter (cats). Since it’s less likely that you’re cat will walk on a leash and harness to use the bathroom, you’ll need to have some material (newspapers, litter, etc) in the kennel for your cat. Litter can be used for other purposes too.
Poop bags (dogs). You’ll need to clean up after your dog, especially if you’ve had to evacuate to a shelter area. The fold top sandwich bags are great for pooper scoopers. Add those and some plastic shopping bags or small trash bags to your kit.
Food & Water bowls. Regular bowls might take up too much space or add weight which you don’t want to carry. Consider multi-purpose plastic food containers, collapsible pet bowls, or even a Frisbee®. Those flying discs can be purchased cheap, have a lip to hold water or food, and are rugged. They can also be used as a toy if your pet likes that kind of thing. But don’t let them chew on them unless it’s made for that.
Bedding. You probably won’t have room for a second set of bedding material, but keep a car blanket, terry bath rugs, or towels handy to put in the kennels.
Toys & Treats. Your pet may be too stressed to play initially, but be prepared to offer a return to normalcy by having a toy, chews, or treats available when they’re ready. It can help both of you regain your balance.
Note: I’ve suggested three to seven days of food, water, and medication. If you have room to store the supplies, consider increasing that to two weeks. Three days is a minimum to allow you to recover from the initial emergency. If the emergency or disaster is widespread, relief efforts may take longer to get to you. Start with three and add as you have the space and resources.
I’ve mentioned that you should keep your pet under control at all times during an emergency or disaster. If your pet gets scared, it may run away from you and the safe place you’ve come to. Don't add to your worry and stress by having to search for a lost pet after you’re safely away from the emergency or disaster area. Even if you shelter in place, you’ll want to ensure your animals can’t get out and get lost. Keep animals inside unless on a leash or inside a well-maintained physical fence.
Records to put in your kit
Vet records. Include vaccination records, particularly rabies, and any special instructions or health concerns. Highlight the description of your pet (breed, weight, coloring, etc) to find it quickly if you need to give a description of your pet. Sure you know what they look like, but your vet may describe them differently.
Vet contact information. It’s probably in your contacts already, but add it to the paper and paperless records.
Recent photo of pet. It’s likely you have several (if not a thousand) pet photos on your phone, print several. Include photos from different sides and show any special marking, like that back paw that is white or the tip of the tail that’s black, etc. Get items in the background that can help determine actual size of the pet. A chair can help the authorities know whether your dog is 10 pounds of attitude or 50 pounds of fluff.
Microchip records. Be sure to update your information and include it with your emergency kit paperwork. Your local humane society may be able to help with updating the information or you may have to contact the manufacturer. Check out 3 Easy Steps to the Safe Return of Your Pet for more on microchipping.
Other Vital Documents, such as adoption papers and proof of ownership. Add anything you think you the authorities might need to reunite you with a lost pet.
You may choose to go paperless for most situations, but for these items, use both paper and paperless copies so you can access the information regardless of emergency conditions. After all, you’re preparing for an emergency or a disaster and you don’t know whether the electricity and the internet will be working in your area.
Place the print copy of the records in a waterproof bag. Though most manufacturers of the reclosable zipper bags, like Ziploc®, will not call these bags waterproof, they’re a good start until you can get waterproof bags in your emergency kit (if you choose to). I personally use the freezer bags and double bag. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s a start.
Scan or snap a picture of these documents and keep the paperless copy in the cloud application you prefer such as Dropbox, Box, Google Drive. Keep another copy in a note-taking app such as Evernote*, OneNote, or Google Keep for easy access and sharing on your phone or tablet. I prefer Dropbox and Evernote, but I’ve used them all. Share your cloud folder and your notebook with trusted family members or friends. Give access to this information to at least one person who lives outside of the state.
My book on pet preparedness
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