When a disaster suddenly strikes it can be frightening for everyone, including your pet. The best thing you can do for you and your pet’s safety is to be prepared, develop a plan for emergencies, and have it ready before the disaster strikes. Planning ahead is the key to keeping yourself and your pet safe before, during, and after a disaster.

“Before a disaster, it is important to insure that all your animals are identified within a system that will allow you two to be reunited if separated,” said Wesley Bissett, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). “Identification can come in a variety of ways, such as collars or microchips. Collars may be less expensive but they are much easier to lose, whereas microchips may be more expensive but provide the advantage of being permanently within the animal. You should also try to keep a photo of you and your pet together to verify ownership.”

When preparing for a disaster, it is imperative that all of your pet’s vaccinations are current. “If you do not typically have your dog vaccinated for Bordetella, or kennel cough, consider doing so as storm season approaches,” said Bissett. “This is disease prevention in case your pet is checked into an animal shelter.”

When packing emergency supplies for your pet remember to store at least a one-week supply of pet food to keep the pet’s GI tract from becoming upset, and enough water to meet you and your pet’s needs for up to three days. If you must evacuate the area, make sure to grab your pet’s food & water bowls before leaving.

“If your pet is on a prescription for a chronic illness, keep at least a two-week supply of medication as well as a copy of the pet’s medical records,” said Bissett. “It may be difficult to have prescriptions re-filled in an emergency situation. Also, make sure you have a kennel or crate to transport your pet in case of an evacuation.”

During a disaster, it is important to follow a pre-written strategy to ensure you and your pet’s safety. This not only saves valuable time during the disaster but can also aid in remembering important details of the event afterwards. “It is also important to heed all evacuation recommendations and orders,” said Bissett. “If the number of animals that you will be evacuating will require multiple trips, plan ahead and leave early!”

“If your pet is injured during a disaster immediately seek veterinary medical help, which in many cases is available as part of the local or state response,” said Bissett. “If help is not instantly available, perform first aid until help arrives.”