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Unexpected Emergencies: The Worst May Be the Most Likely

Disasters and other emergencies are no time to be looking for a pet, or something you must have for your pet's health and safety.
The problem with emergencies is that the worst ones tend to be the ones we least expect.

That sounds obvious, but every year, even every week, someone faces the aftermath of a Midwestern tornado, a West Coast fire or East/Gulf Coast hurricane…and they don’t have what they need to safely get through the emergency. The same is true of a house fire, a local flood or even just something like a fallen limb or ice storm.

We’re not talking about a direct hit by mile-wide tornado or the equivalent. No amount of planning and preparation can avoid some things. Basically we’re suggesting that everyone consider those emergencies, disasters and other “challenges” that are likely to occur in their region that might require more than a box of band aids or tube of ointment to get through without problem.

Fortunately, a lot of grief can be avoided with a good first aid kit, some canned food and water. Add a few items you might need – a fire extinguisher is always a good idea – and you can be good to go.

But what about your pet? That’s the thing that many overlook, an it’s understandable to a degree. Most of our pets are healthy, even fairly self-sufficient. And if something does happen, you can always take them to the vet, right?

Not so fast. Almost any emergency can make “getting to the vet” difficult or at least temporarily impossible. And if your pet has a serious injury, time may be of the essence to stabilize a wound or take other emergency action.

That’s exactly how our first aid kits for pets evolved. A family member experienced an emergency in the field (another area where it’s hard to find a vet!). The only thing handy for emergency wound treatment was a roll of duct tape. Not the best solution, but better than nothing.

But there are other concepts you might think about, and here are a few we’ve come to appreciate:

• Create an emergency plan – and include your pet in the planning. Escape routes in case of fire or other emergencies are become more widespread, especially for families with small children. Including your pet in that planning and even “drills” is a great idea. It might help you discover that something as simple as a leash or a “cat box” can literally be a lifesaver.

• With the above still in mind, make a mental note of where your pet(s) nap or hide. If you are forced to evacuate your home quickly, that could also be a life-or-death issue. And remember even “good” pets can be difficult to gather if they sense stress. Practice crating your pet and consider rewarding him or her with treats so they associate that with the pet carrier. Again, that could save valuable time in an emergency.

• Know in advance what you’ll need to do with your pet(s) if you have to evacuate. Leaving a pet behind is never a good choice as they can become trapped or face multiple dangers. Having multiple options in case one is unavailable is smart. Start with your vet or animal hospital and ask them. This sounds like a lot of work but one or two phone calls may answer your questions – but you won’t have time for that when an emergency occurs.

• Consider a “first responder alert sticker” for your front door that alerts emergency personnel to the fact that you have pet(s) and briefly describes them. Remember if you flee from something like a flood or forest fire, you should write “Evacuated” so a responder doesn’t waste time look for a pet that’s not there.

• Keeping the phone number, address and other useful contact information of a animal hospital is something many do. We even make it easy with our first aid kits that include a place to keep just such information. We’d recommend that list also include things like a pet poison hotline and any special services your particular pet might need.

• Finally, make sure your pets have good identification. The best may be a microchip but at least have a way to identify your pet should you become separate during a disaster or other emergency.