Preparing pets for disasters

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Dear Paws: I live in a part of the country that rarely sees extreme weather events like tornadoes, hurricanes, floods or blizzards. So I never gave much thought to having a disaster preparedness kit. However, a couple of weeks ago my neighbor’s house caught fire and burned down. Thankfully no one was injured, and they did not own pets, but it got me thinking about how I would care for myself and my cat and dog should I lose my house through an unforeseen disaster.

I put together a small disaster kit that I keep in the trunk of my car, stowed out of the way. It has copies of my pets’ medical records, two extra leashes and collars with extra ID tags attached, a few single-meal pouches of dog and cat food, a gallon of water, and a couple of old t-shirts for emergency bedding (which also hopefully have a familiar scent to help them feel at home). If we have to leave our home very quickly – and in a fire there is no time to try and grab anything, except family – I have a little less to worry about afterward. – Sara in Washington state

Dear Sara: That’s a great idea, and a very important point about priorities in a disaster of any kind – natural or otherwise, like a house fire. Time is essential, so first, get to safety, and worry about paperwork much later.

Preparing a pet care kit ahead of time is an important part of overall disaster planning. Sit down with your family to discuss how you will handle events like house fires, evacuation orders, or other unplanned events, and get more ideas at sites like the CDC’s emergency preparedness web page. You should also put together a list of local and federal agencies and organizations that can help you during and after a disaster. Knowing where to turn and what to do can make a huge difference in recovering from an unforeseen event.

Making a disaster emergency kit from what you have on hand is fairly easy, and it’s the most economical way to do it.

However, you can also upgrade your preparedness if you want to. Here are a few kits you can buy, if you want, that will help you quickly put together an emergency evacuation kit for your pet:

Ready America’s Cat Evacuation Kit includes a soft-sided pet carrier with an outside pocket (where you can store important pet documents), a collapsible travel bowl, and a three-day supply of cat food and water, which have a five-year shelf life. It also includes a travel-size litter box, four pounds of cat litter, pet wipes, a spare safety collar, and a six-piece first-aid kit. It also has a little cat toy and a pack of treats. The kit retails for between $50 and $60, which is not too bad considering some cat carriers alone cost that much.

Find it here online.

Also, ReadyAmerica has a version of this kit configured for small dogs under 20 pounds. Instead of litter, you’ll get 6 dog waste bags, and a rawhide bone and chew rope are also included for entertainment. Find this dog evacuation kit here.

This AKC Pet First Aid Kit is a good addition to emergency evacuation kits. Priced at under $16, the 46-piece kit comes in a heavy-duty zippered case and can be used not only for emergencies but for common issues like safely removing ticks. Gauze, medical tape and scissors are included, but you’ll want to add your own packets of alcohol wipes, insect relief wipes and hand sanitizer. Many kit owners have customized the bag interior with their own preferred items, which is perfectly fine and makes it a nice, portable first aid kit to use anytime. Find it here online.

For about twice the price, $29.95, JoJo offers a 16-piece first aid kit with medical-grade scissors and tweezers, antiseptic wipes, triangular sling, insect sting relief pad, an instant ice pack, wooden tongue depressor, sterile gauze, bandages, styptic powder (to put on pets’ nails to stop bleeding), and an emergency blanket, among other things. Its compact size–9″x7″ and about 1″ thick, make it great to store with an evacuation kit or to take along camping, to the park and elsewhere.

Find it here.

Of course, it’s helpful to have a good reference for rendering first aid to your dog or cat. That’s why this convenience-sized Pet Emergency Pocket Guide is an invaluable addition to your disaster preparedness kit. Its information is basic and rapidly accessible, helping you to determine if a pet’s symptoms are mild and just need to monitored, or if something much more serious is going on. It also helps you handle minor first-aid tasks. While it’s also a good idea to have a more complete pet first-aid reference book in your home (and a great idea to read it cover-to-cover), add this to your evacuation kit to round out your preparedness.

Find it online here.

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Original version published on Aug. 8, 2016, via King Features Weekly Service.