Hurricane 2019: Evacuating is stressful for pets. A veterinarian has some tips.

Evacuating can take its toll on pets. Hereís some tips on making it easier for them.
Dr. Erick Mears is the Florida Medical Director for BluePearl Veterinary Partners. [BluePearl Veterinary Partners]
Dr. Erick Mears is the Florida Medical Director for BluePearl Veterinary Partners. [BluePearl Veterinary Partners]
Published June 12
Updated June 13

As hurricane season approaches, people around the coastal regions are preparing their homes and families for an emergency. But when a big storm hits, misinformation is often spread about what to do with a vital member of the household: the pet.

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

As a general rule, what’s good for you and your family is good for your pet, so create a hurricane plan that includes the needs of everyone (Buster included). By following these three rules, pet owners can reduce the risk of pet injury — or worse — and quickly recoup after a disaster strikes.

1. Create an emergency preparedness pet kit.

During an emergency, the goal is to keep your pet happy and comfortable, so keep an up-to-date kit on hand ahead of each season.

Remember, basic needs for survival are generally the same for both humans and animals, especially physiological needs for food and water.

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

During Hurricane Irma, BluePearl 24-hour animal hospitals cared for a shocking number of dogs and cats with urinary blockages. The culprit? Stress and dehydration. The stress of evacuating, along with decreased water consumption, can produce a host of urinary issues, including urinary obstructions. Be sure to bear this in mind when building your kit, and remember to keep your pet drinking regularly during a crisis.

What your emergency pet kit needs:

• At least five days of pet food and water.

• Extra medicine and hard copies of medical records. (Power outages are common, so retrieving computerized records my not be possible.)

• Important documents such as registration information, vaccination documents and a rabies tag. (Most boarding kennels and veterinarians will require medical records to ensure that vaccinations are current.)

• A backup leash and collar.

• A crate or pet carrier.

• Pet litter and litter box (if appropriate).

• Favorite treats, toys and bedding to help reduce stress.

• First aid kit customized for your pet’s emergency medical needs.

The chaos that comes with evacuating also leads to a large number of lost cats and dogs. Talk with your veterinarian about permanent identification such as microchipping, and register your pet in a recovery database for good measure.


HURRICANE MICHAEL: LESSONS LEARNED

911 calls from Hurricane Michael paint horrifying picture of what it’s like to not evacuate

What the Panhandle’s top emergency officials learned from Michael

‘We’re not going to give up.’ What a school superintendent learned from Michael.


2. Plan for your pets.

Each year, our emergency veterinarians in Clearwater, Tampa, Brandon and Sarasota see the effects of hurricanes on hundreds of dogs and cats.

In almost all evacuation cases, pets should never be left behind. This means owners need to plan ahead and identify inclusive places to take shelter along their evacuation route.

When building out your plan, be mindful of the fact that, for public health reasons, not all emergency shelters accept pets. For this reason, pet friendly hotels are a great alternative.

If you are considering staying with an out-of-town friend or relative, choose a home where your pet will feel welcome by both people and pets. A dog or cat bite by another dog or cat is something we see frequently in our emergency rooms amid a crisis. Remember, pets can be very territorial, so consider pet interactions when choosing a destination.

Lastly, make a list of contact information and addresses for local veterinarians, boarding facilities or animal hospitals where you plan to seek temporary shelter. Having these contacts will be beneficial if you are unable to return home or sudden medical issues arise.

3. Stay informed, adapt.

Staying informed on what emergencies “might” happen may save you and your pet’s lives.

Align your plans with the established plans of your local and state government and be ready to adjust your course of action if the unexpected occurs.

The safety precautions you take for yourself translate to the safety of your pet. So, as the saying goes, safety first.

Dr. Erick Mears is the Tampa Bay medical director for BluePearl Veterinary Partners.


2019 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

PREPARE YOUR STUFF: Get your documents and your data ready for a storm

BUILD YOUR KIT: The stuff you’ll need to stay safe — and comfortable — for the storm

PROTECT YOUR PETS: Your pets can’t get ready for a storm. That’s your job

NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter


What Michael taught the Panhandle and Tampa Bay

What the Panhandle’s top emergency officials learned from Michael

‘We’re not going to give up.’ What a school superintendent learned from Michael.

What Tampa Bay school leaders fear most from a storm

Tampa Bay’s top cops fear for those who stay behind


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