Disaster Preparedness and Your Pets

Disaster Preparedness and Your Pets

This episode of Vet Chat with Dr. Ryan Llera, we step away from the usual pet health information and tips to discuss the importance of having a disaster preparedness plan in place for your pets in the event of a natural disaster. As I am writing this introduction the news and weather channel are playing in the background and what I’m hearing is terrifying and frightening, and I’m no where near the path of this impending storm heading for Florida. The news is sharing stories and images, and emergency workers are pleading with people to be prepared for the storm and prepare for evacuation.

Dr. Ryan Llera shares important information on Disaster Preparedness and Your Pets

[Tweet theme=”tweet-box-normal-blue”]Disaster Preparedness and Your Pets[/Tweet]

It’s an unfortunate set of images we see and deal with every few years.  The stories are equally or even more disturbing.  Time and time again during disasters, pets are often an afterthought and it’s heart breaking to see when there is sometimes fair warning and sadly history repeats itself.  For some people, their pets are all they have when everything else has been lost.

Sometimes you get a warning of an impending natural disaster (hurricane, ice storm) and sometimes you don’t (tornado, earthquake).  So when you do get warning, you should get prepared to care for or evacuate with your pets.  September is National Disaster Preparedness Month so let’s go over what you need to do to be ready with your pets.

My first word of advice (having been through a hurricane before), if you’re concerned about devastation like seen the hurricane Katrina or Harvey or the Ontario ice storm of 1998, LEAVE!  Get to somewhere safe and don’t be isolated.  Many areas have laws that allow you to evacuate with your pets to a local shelter.  Here’s a list of things to do/pack before leaving:

  • 5-7 day supply of food & water; don’t forget the bowls & a manual can opener if necessary.
  • At least a 1 week supply of medications plus their instructions – the info & extras are in case of a dropped dose, vomited up, or if you need to get more.
  • Leash, collar/harness, and if necessary a muzzle for your dog – this can help avoid accidents by pets going places they shouldn’t be.
  • A spacious carrier for your cats – especially in the case of you needing to stay in a shelter and they can come with you.
  • Current copies of vaccination records, name of your veterinary clinic, & records especially if they have any chronic medical conditions – also helpful to keep a picture of your pet for identification purposes.
  • Comfort items – toys, blankets, special treats, catnip!
  • Poop bags & cat litter with pan – you still need to clean up after all and disasters are often a time when infectious diseases can be spread.
  • Location of shelters or hotels that you can stay at with your pets – not every place will let your pets in.
  • Get a microchip implanted AND update your contact info – this can be done at almost any vet clinic or shelter and if you get separated you can be reunited with your pet.

[Tweet theme=”tweet-box-normal-blue”]What if you can’t take your pets with you during a natural disaster?[/Tweet]

Disaster Preparedness and Your Pets

Place a note or sign in your window letting people know pets are inside

What about the circumstances if you can’t take your pets with you? This is a horrifying thought most certainly none of us ever want to encounter.  Many of the above points apply – specifically, the microchipping.  A pre-arranged boarding facility should be located and reserved, it may even have to be a distance away.  As a last resort, some people are forced to abandon their pets sadly.  Make sure to keep the house secure so they don’t escape into the unknown outdoors.  Put a sign in a visible window with info about the pets and your contact info.  Do not confine them in a cage in case they need to get out of a room.

Hopefully you never need to experience a disaster that requires you to need these things.  I cannot stress enough the importance of planning ahead and preparing to care for your pets.  If you’ve been involved in an emergency situation or can think of anything else to pack, please let us know in the comments so that we can help others that may find themselves in this terrible situation.


Dr. Ryan LleraDr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic in Kingston, Ontario. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with 2 cats, 2 dogs, 2 horses, and a rabbit. Ryan is also a regular guest writer for the Ontario SPCA blog. You can find more of his writing at drryanllera.com or see what else he is up to on Facebook & Instagram



Author: Kelly Harding

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