Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 29, 2013

Disaster plans should include contingencies for pets


— When a disaster suddenly strikes, it can be frightening for everyone - including your pet. The best thing you can do to ensure your safety and that of your pet is to develop a plan for emergencies and have that plan ready before disaster strikes.

Pet owners should ensure their animals are identified using a system, such as a collar or microchip, that will allow them to be reunited if they are separated, said Wesley Bissett, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Collars may be less expensive but are easier to lose, while microchips are permanently implanted within the animal. Bissett also recommends that pet owners keep a photo of them and their pet to verify ownership.

It's imperative to keep a pet’s vaccinations current. “If you do not typically have your dog vaccinated for Bordetella, or kennel cough, consider doing so as storm season approaches,” said Bissett. “This is disease prevention, in case your pet is checked into an animal shelter.”

Pet owners also should remember their animals when packing emergency supplies: Keep a one-week supply of food on hand, to prevent the pet's gastrointestinal tract from becoming upset, as well as enough water for the pet for up to three days. If you must evacuate, be sure to grab your pet's food and water bowls before leaving.

The emergency kit also should include a two-week supply of your pet's medications, as well as a copy of the pet's medical records. "It may be difficult to have prescriptions re-filled in an emergency situation," said Bissett. "Also, make sure you have a kennel or crate to transport your pet in case of an evacuation."

Following a pre-written strategy during a disaster will help ensure your safety and that of your pet. A disaster plan not only saves valuable time, it also helps you remember important details.

“It is also important to heed all evacuation recommendations and orders,” said Bissett. “If the number of animals that you will be evacuating will require multiple trips, plan ahead and leave early."

Pet owners should remember to get help for their pets if they are injured during a disaster. In many cases, veterinary care is part of the state or local disaster response. “If help is not instantly available," said Bissett, "perform first aid until help arrives."


Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.