A Pet Parent’s Guide to Preparing for Emergencies

Pet emergencies are chaotic to be sure, but planning can help things flow more smoothly. Here are some instructions before disaster strikes.

Petful is reader-supported. As an affiliate of platforms, like Amazon, we may earn a commission when you buy through links on this page. There is no extra cost to you.
Rescued animals arrive at the New Orleans airport, Sept. 10, 2005. Photo: Michael Rieger/FEMA

When disaster strikes, the last thing you want to do is frantically gather critical supplies for your family and your pets. You may have assembled a disaster preparedness kit for people, but do you have one for your pet?

The best way to avert disaster is to be totally prepared for it, so do yourself and your 4-legged friends a favor and assemble an emergency preparedness kit especially for your pets.

The American Red Cross recommends you keep the same type of emergency kit for your dog or cat as you would for your family.

Store everything in a plastic tub or in a pet crate in a convenient place. Include these items:

  • Extra pet medications
  • Cat or dog first aid kit (see below)
  • Food, treats, water, bowls
  • Sturdy leashes, harnesses and carriers
  • Pet beds, blankets and toys

In a waterproof bag, store information about feeding, medical conditions and any behavior problems; copies of the pet license, vaccination records and microchip paperwork; and current photos. Every six months, switch out the food and treats to keep them fresh, and check the pet meds to make sure they haven’t expired.

Pet First Aid Kit

Although human first aid kits have many supplies that will work for pet emergencies, they don’t have everything you’ll need to help your pet in a critical situation. Assemble your own with these supplies:Pet first aid kit

  • Gauze sponges
  • Triple antibacterial ointment
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Betadine
  • Ear syringe
  • Cotton squares
  • Q-tips
  • Ace bandages
  • Gauze bandages
  • Nonstick wrapping bandages
  • Bandage scissors
  • Sterile, non-adherent pad
  • Hypoallergenic tape
  • White petroleum jelly
  • Eye wash
  • Hot spot spray or foam
  • Pepto Bismol tablets
  • Benadryl
  • Buffered aspirin
  • Kaopectate tablets
  • Hydrocortisone 1% cream
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Tweezers
  • Muzzle
  • Rectal thermometer

Keep your main pet first aid kit at home and store a smaller kit in your car.

Pet First Aid/CPR Classes

Another way to prepare for emergencies is to take a pet first aid class. The American Red Cross offers regular classes.

It might interest readers to know that although I have a fully stocked emergency kit for my pets, we’ve done nothing about creating such a kit for ourselves. I guess you can tell where my priorities lie…

Natural Disasters: Planning Ahead

With all the natural catastrophes in the past few years, we’ve had far too many opportunities to learn the value of being prepared, especially where our pets are concerned. Emergencies are chaotic, but a little forethought can help things flow more smoothly if the worst happens.

Lost Dog Flier
Just an example of a simple “lost pet” flier. (Miller isn’t really missing!)

Lost Pet Flier

It’s a good idea to create a lost pet flier for each of your pets before an emergency happens. That way, if one of them escapes, you’ll be able to respond more quickly.

Design a simple document that includes a clear photo of your pet, his name, your contact information, the date and where you last saw him. Offer a reward and indicate that your pet needs daily medication, which might make someone more apt to return your pet if he’s found it.

Directions to the Emergency Vet

If you only have minutes to get your pet to the hospital, having the pet ER’s information handy could help save your pet’s life. Locate your nearest 24-hour emergency vet and plan the route you’d take if you needed to bring in your pet for treatment.

I recommend getting directions from Google Maps, and then copying and pasting the map onto a document that includes the vet’s name, address, phone number, hours and cross streets. You might also add step-by-step directions so you won’t have to muddle through the map while you’re driving.

Create this document even if you have GPS or know exactly where the vet’s office is located. Post it on the refrigerator so that if there’s an emergency, anyone at your house can get your pet to the vet.

Pet Evacuation Plan

If you already have a family emergency response plan, you’re a step ahead. You’ll want to put the same amount of thought into planning and practicing your plan for evacuating your pets in case of fire, earthquake or other catastrophe. Dogs and cats should not be left at home alone when a hurricane is coming your way. You can never be sure when you will be able to return home, and your pet may not survive on his own.

Gather your first aid kit into a rubber container large enough to hold everything. Collect enough crates for all your pets, and store their leashes and harnesses inside. Place the the crate(s) and supplies in your garage or another emergency exit location.

Next, create a plan that allows you to evacuate your family first, and then your pets. It’s really important that you practice this plan, especially if you have multiple pets. Your plan should include capturing your pets, getting them into their crates and getting their crates into the car. Practice on stuffed animals, and then do a trial run with your pets.

List of Shelters That Allow Pets

Most human emergency shelters don’t accept pets, although after Hurricane Katrina this policy is changing. Research nearby shelters that will allow your pets to accompany you, and keep a list of their contact information in your emergency preparedness kit. Be sure to include copies of your pet’s vaccination records in case the shelter needs them for admittance.

Hurricanes: Special Concerns

If you need to evacuate, leaving your dog or cat at home alone during a hurricane should be an absolute last resort. Doing so could put him in great danger. But if leaving your dog behind is your only choice, definitely do not leave him chained outside! Instead, leave him inside your house, confined in a safe area. Leave your bathroom door open, with the toilet seat up, so your dog or cat can have access to water if needed. (Of course, leave plenty of food also).

Post a notice outside your home, in plain view, stating what pets are in your home. Include a telephone number where you can be reached, along with the name and telephone number of your veterinarian. This veterinary information is very important, as emergency medical responders face physical and legal risks if they try to help your pet.

During the Storm

If the dog remains with you throughout the hurricane, try to stay calm. Your pet will sense any uneasiness you have, and your reactions will trigger his actions.

After the storm has passed, it is best for you to accompany your pet outside. Nature will probably have changed quite a bit, with downed trees and power lines, which can be dangerous. Debris and contaminated foods may be blown around outside, so have your dog on a leash, allowing you to control what he comes into contact with.

Your pet’s behavior may change after all the upheaval. He may become confused and need a little reassuring that things are okay now. Once his safe, secure feeling returns, he should be himself again.

* * *

Petful writer Gayle Hickman contributed to this post.