Disaster Preparedness Planning for Your Dog
Your dog is likely your sidekick, an important member of your family, and one that looks to you to get their daily needs. However, it’s also important to remember that they’ll also look to you during moments of crises. While they may provide mental comfort and support to you when times are stressful, you’ll need to provide the essential supplies for them during an emergency situation.
Unforeseen emergencies and natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and wildfires can strike at a moment’s notice, requiring evacuations, shelter in place orders and the reliance on preparations you should have in place. In the event of a disaster, proper preparedness and planning will pay off with the safety of your family and pet.
Preparing a pet emergency kit
While disasters can cause a lot of stress and anxiety, being prepared can help lessen the stress and help you remain calm so you can take care of your family and pups. When preparing disaster kits for your family, make sure to include a kit for your dog(s), too.
A dog emergency kit should include (per each pet):
- Recent photographs of your dog
- Updated health, vaccination and registration records
- Microchip number
- 2-week supply of drinking water in gallon-sized plastic containers
- 2-week supply of canned or dry dog food stored in air-tight, waterproof containers
- A can opener for wet food
- 2-week supply of medication(s) (as needed)
- Travel food and water dishes
- Dog bed and/or blankets
- Spare ID tag
- Carrier, crate or kennel
- Cleaning supplies, paper towels, waste pick-up bags
- Potty pads
- Dog first aid kit
- Calming aids
- List of contact numbers such as veterinarian, nearby shelter, emergency pet hospitals and pet-friendly hotels
In addition to your dog’s emergency kit, it is always best to be practice safety measures in their daily life to be best prepared and ready for any situation.
- Always make sure your dog wears an ID tag and is microchipped
- Keep microchip and ID tag information up to date
- Have at least a week's supply of dog food and water on hand at all times for your pet, storing the dry food in airtight/waterproof containers
- If your dog is on long-term medication, keep a backup supply on hand
- Have a secure carrier and train your dog to be comfortable using it
- Start a buddy system with someone in your neighborhood so they will check on your dog during a disaster in case you aren't home, agreeing to do the same for them; exchange information on veterinarians and have a permission slip put in your file at the veterinarian's office authorizing your friend to get necessary emergency treatment for your pet should you not be available
- Know where the animal shelters are in your area, as you may need to visit them after a disaster to look for a missing pet
- Since pets are not typically permitted in Red Cross shelters, look for shelters ahead of time to make sure your dog has a place to stay
- Research hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets such as any restrictions on number, size or breed. Also ask if "no pet" policies would be waived in an emergency
- Make a plan with with friends and relatives outside your immediate area where you can stay with your pet if needed
- Prepare a list of contact numbers including your veterinarian, an emergency veterinarian and nearby shelter
- Include your pets in any evacuation practices and lessons you may be giving children in your family
- Practice good manners and basic cues with your dog to that during a time of stress, you know they will listen to your direction
Evacuating with your dog
The most important thing you can do to protect your dog is to take them with you when you evacuate. If you leave while a disaster may come near your home, even if you think you may be gone only for a few hours, take your pet. Once you leave, you have no way of knowing how long you'll be kept out of the area and you may not be able to go back for your pet.
Pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost or killed. In any case, never leave your dog tied or chained outside. If you must leave your dog, then leave them in a room without windows such as a bathroom, garage or laundry room. Make sure to provide plenty of food and water. Leave a note outside the door and outside your home in a visible spot advising the location, type of dog and your contact numbers as well as the number of your veterinarian.
If your area is likely going to be evacuating, opt to leave early and don't wait for a mandatory evacuation order. A planned but unnecessary trip is far better than waiting too long to leave safely with your pets. If you wait to be evacuated by emergency officials, you may be told you must leave your pet behind to protect others’ safety.
If your pet is not allowed at the temporary shelter, contact friends, family, veterinarians or boarding kennels to arrange for care. Make sure to supply medical and feeding information, food and medicine with your pet.
If you cannot return to your home right away, you may need to board your pet. Most boarding kennels, veterinarians and animal shelters will need your pet's medical records to make sure all vaccinations are current.
Sheltering in place with your dog
If your family and dog must wait out a storm or other disaster at home, work to make it a safe place for all of you.
- Bring your pet into the house and confine them so you can leave with them quickly if necessary
- Clean your home with pet-safe products to keep you and your pets healthy
- Make sure each pet carrier has up-to-date identification and contact information
- Keep leashes and carriers ready
- Make sure they are wearing their identification
- Have medications, pet food and water along with your other emergency supplies
- Be sure to comfort your pet, as they are scared, too, and hearing your voice will help
- Continue to feed your dog at the regularly scheduled time and provide water at all times
For more information and recommendations on preparing a pet emergency kit, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s “Pets and disasters” page and consult with your pet’s veterinarian on any specific recommendations for your pet.
Note: The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian.