Hurricane 2018: What a veterinarian learned from Irma

Published May 10 2018
Updated May 11 2018

They say you learn a lot about yourself during a crisis. But during Hurricane Irma last year, we also learned a lot about your pets.

HURRICANE GUIDE: Emergency information, tracking map and storm resources

Literally hundreds of dogs and cats came in to BluePearl Veterinary Partners’ 24-hour animal hospitals in the Tampa Bay area during last year’s hurricane and its aftermath.

So this year, as hurricane season approaches again, we’re not just wondering what might happen if a big storm hits.

We know, because we just went through it.

Hurricane Irma taught us several lessons that apply to your pets, and I’d like to share a few of them so we can all be better prepared.

2018 TAMPA BAY TIMES HURRICANE GUIDE: FIVE LESSONS FROM IRMA

CHARLIE FRAGO: How to (barely) survive a week without power

COLLEEN WRIGHT: I took shelter from Irma. Here’s what I learned.

WAVENEY ANN MOORE: How I took care of my mother during Irma

MOLLY MOORHEAD: How to hunker down when you’re not evacuating

CAITLIN JOHNSTON: Evacuating? Drive tens of miles — not hundreds

At times, it seemed that our emergency rooms in Clearwater, Tampa, Brandon and Sarasota were filled with dogs who had been bitten by other dogs, and cats who also suffered dog bites. It makes sense when you think about it. As people evacuated along with their pets, they sometimes stayed with friends and relatives who had their own pets. One dog doesn’t always realize another dog has been welcomed into the home, and that’s when the snarling and snapping starts.

The lesson is: If you live in an evacuation zone, make your evacuation plan months in advance.

Choose to stay with friends or family where you and your pets will feel welcome.

Or at very least, supervise pets closely and consider keeping them in separate areas of the home you are visiting. Bringing a crate for your pet also can be helpful.

2018 TIMES HURRICANE GUIDE: GET READY FOR STORM SEASON

Forecasters predict an active Atlantic storm season

Heed Irma’s lessons to protect your stuff

Gear up to gut it out. Prepare your kit now.

Don’t wait for the storm to protect your pets

We treated a surprising number of dogs and cats for urinary obstructions, a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition. But why would this happen during a hurricane?

Because when you’re boarding up windows and trying to escape a dangerous storm, it’s easy to overlook something as mundane as setting out your pet’s water bowl.

Plus, all that activity is likely to stress out your pets. Stress plus dehydration make pets more susceptible to urinary issues including blockages.

The lesson is: Keep your pets eating and drinking normally.

Power will go out during a hurricane — that’s a given. But power outages can make it hard for a veterinary hospital to retrieve computerized records.

And because a veterinary ER may not have previously treated your dog or cat, the staff will want to know as much as possible about your pet’s medical history.

The lesson is: Keep a copy of your pets’ most recent medical records, as well as the original bottles for their prescription medications.

By the way, this is always a good idea, not just during hurricanes. It’s especially helpful when traveling.

My last point is not really a lesson from this hurricane — it’s just common sense.

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The lesson is: Keep yourself safe.

Please obey all evacuation orders. Get yourself to a secure location long before the storm hits.

Because if you haven’t kept yourself safe, your pets aren’t going to be safe either.

Dr. Erick Mears is the Florida Medical Director for BluePearl Veterinary Partners.

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