Recently, I made a move to California and found myself smack in the middle of two back-to-back earthquakes.
Don’t let my dramatics fool you; I live hours from Ridgecrest, which is where the two earthquakes initially hit, the first one rocking our world on July fourth and the second on July 5th.
So, for me, these were baby earthquakes. Little plate tectonic kisses, if you will.
Still, they were unnerving nonetheless because, as most of us are aware, California is long overdue for what many consider to be “the Big One”, which would, unfortunately, be a catastrophic earthquake.
On both July fourth and July fifth I was lucky enough to be home when the quake occurred, which means I was able to experience the incredible force of the earth shuddering beneath my feet with my sweet little dog, who did nothing more than lift her head from her bed to stare at the blinds as they swayed back and forth.
Of course, I was giddy with fear and excitement over experiencing my first ever back-to-back earthquakes, but I was also concerned. The events got me thinking. What if the next time an earthquake hits, it’s much larger? What if I’m not home with my dog when it happens? What if I’m forced to evacuate on the drop of a dime?
Are my dog and I prepared for a natural disaster? Are you and your dog prepared for a natural disaster?
Don’t worry. I talked with some experts, and here is what I found out about natural disasters and pet preparedness. Keep reading!
1 – Know Your Region and Know Your Risks
I’ve heard the theory that dogs can detect earthquakes. I will tell you this much – my dog did not.
Still, I wasn’t necessarily surprised when the complex started shaking. (I’ll admit, my first not so logical thought was that the 1920’s building I had recently rented was for sure haunted).
And then it dawned on me. This is California, for crying out loud. It’s known for earthquakes. I should have known one would eventually strike!
But earthquakes aren’t all I have to fear as a new California resident. In fact, at the end of last summer, California was also hit with devastating fires that resulted in the deaths and displacement of countless people and pets.
Why is this important?
Because as a new resident of California, and as a super overprotective dog mom, I need to be prepared for the risks. All the risks.
And that means earthquakes, wildfires, floods, tsunamis, and landslides. And it means I should have a gameplan for if and when one of these natural disasters occurs in my region, and so should you.
Understanding your area and what your region is at risk for can help you better prepare yourself and your pet accordingly.
California isn’t the only state in America that’s at risk for a natural disaster.
Virtually every place on this planet is home to some sort of concern when it comes to natural disasters outside of mans’ control.
And while we can’t always predict when a natural disaster will occur, we can push the fear aside, talk with each other about it, and come up with a plan of action.
Knowing your region and what you are specifically at risk for will help you be better prepared should you ever come face to face with one of these scary emergencies.
Not only that but once you do have a gameplan and some sense of organization, the fear will be less looming and that sense of helplessness we all tend to feel will hopefully wane a bit.
And most importantly, if you’re an uber obsessed dog mama like me, you’ll rest easier at night knowing that your pet is included in the emergency plan and will be taken care of.
So, with that being said, let’s talk more about preparing your pet for a natural disaster.
2 – Make Sure Your Pet’s ID Tags Are Easy to Read and Up-to-Date.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes the obvious is so obvious it gets overlooked. My dog, for example, has old tags on her collar that list my old address back in Colorado.
Don’t be like me.
Get your dog’s tags updated and make sure the phone number or numbers listed are accurate. You should also make sure the address is current, and that the tags are easy to read and secure on your dog’s collar.
Make sure your pet’s ID tags are easy to read and up to date with your current phone number and address.
I also suggest listing a trusted friend or relative on your dog’s ID tags as well. This way, if for some reason you cannot be reached, your pet will have a listed emergency contact.
The reason it’s so important to make sure your pet’s ID tags are current and accurate, aside from the obvious, is that pets often get startled during emergencies and can be prone to running or hiding.
In an emergency situation, you may find that you can’t locate your pet or that your pet has run away out of fear.
While this is a terribly frightening thought, it is a common occurrence. So keep that collar on your pet and keep those ID tags updated!
3 – Microchip Your Pet and Register Your Information.
Microchipping your dog is incredibly important, even if your dog is never without his collar and ID tags.
Along with ensuring your pet’s ID tags are current, legible, and accurate, microchipping your pet is yet another means to making sure your pet can be located.
Unfortunately, during emergency situations, scanning for a microchip in a lost pet is not always a top priority, so even if you do have your pet microchipped, make sure that you also have up-to-date ID tags on your pet at all times.
But wait. If you’re going to make sure your pet is always wearing his collar and has updated ID tags, why is it so important to get your pet microchipped?
The reason I still recommend having your pet microchipped is that your dog’s collar could easily slip off, break, or the ID tags could fall off or become dirtied and difficult to read.
Microchipping your pet is just another safety precaution and another way to help get your pet located and returned to you in case the two of you are ever separated during an emergency.
Make sure your pets are microchipped and that the information on the chip is registered and up-to-date.
But what if your dog is older?
While most dogs tend to get microchipped as puppies, you can get your dog microchipped at any time and at any age, so don’t wait.
And of course, if your pet is already microchipped, make sure you have followed the proper steps to ensure the information on his chip is registered, accurate, and up-to-date.
4 – Have Travel-Ready Pet Carriers for Each Pet
Now, let’s talk about what to do if you are in an emergency situation with your pet and you need to evacuate.
I suggest having one crate per pet in the household that you can easily travel with. For larger pets or households with multiple pets, having several travel crates at once may be a bit unrealistic.
If this is the case, you can always invest in a storable crate or pet playpen which you can fold away and keep in your vehicle. A pen such as this can help to keep your pets safe and secure if you wind up at an evacuation shelter, hotel, or even a friend or relatives house.
For each individual pet carrier, make sure your pet’s travel crate is small enough to travel with but large enough for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down in.
Make sure each pet has its own travel crate that is large enough for him to stand, sit, and turn around in.
I also recommend having your pet’s name, your name, and your contact information on your pet’s travel crate in case you and your pet and his carrier become separated.
5 – Stock Up on Extra Food and Water for Your Pet
Along with having a travel crate at the ready, it’s important to make sure you have plenty of extra food and water for your pet on hand.
Make sure you have enough food and fresh water for all of your pets
And remember, storing your extra pet food and fresh water near exits or in your vehicle at all times will help you to get out in a hurry should an emergency arise.
6 – Have Extra Leashes, Harnesses, and Pet Medications On Hand and Ready To Go.
Having extra leashes and harnesses on hand can help more than you know in the case of an emergency.
I like to keep a few extra leashes in my car and in my home for my dog. Her leashes, an extra dog bowl, and some food supplies are all in on a shelf near the door, which means if we have to leave in a hurry, we can.
Make sure you have enough leashes and pet waste clean up on hand and ready to go.
Along with extra leashes and harnesses, I recommend making sure you also have adequate waste cleanup options, like poop bags, unscented wet wipes, and hand sanitizer.
Waste cleanup is something that is oftentimes an afterthought when it comes to an emergency kit or disaster preparedness kit for pets, but it is actually a vital part of making sure you and your pet are as healthy as possible when in a tough situation.
Remember, just because a tornado hits or a flood happens doesn’t mean your dog will suddenly stop having to poop and pee.
And most importantly of all, make sure you have any special medications your pet takes on hand at all times.
I would recommend having an extra supply of medications on hand and keeping some in your pet’s first aid kit at your home and also keeping some on hand in your vehicle.
Now, speaking of pet-friendly first-aid kits, let’s talk about how to go about getting one or making one yourself.
7 – Prepare A Pet-Friendly First-Aid Kit.
I personally think that a pet first-aid kit is something all pet parents should have on hand, regardless of where they live or their risks for natural disasters.
I ordered my Pet First Aid Kit on Amazon, and have attached it below so you can see for yourself what it includes.
What I like about this first aid kit for pets is that it is useful for both dogs and cats and comes with a tiny handbook on basic pet first aid.
It also comes with a number of first aid items I wouldn’t have thought to include in my pet’s first aid kit had I made it myself.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t put your pet’s first aid kit together on your own. In fact, making your very own pet first aid kit can actually be beneficial, especially if your pet has special needs or requires certain medications.
However, all pet first aid kits should include some basics, like
- Wound spray
- Antiseptic wipes
- Sterile Saline Rinse
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Emergency Contacts Card (which includes local pet hospitals, emergency clinics, and pet poison control centers)
- A properly sized muzzle
- Pet treats
8 – Have A Trusted Emergency Contact Who Can Get To Your Pet If You Cannot.
One of my worst fears is that something will happen and I won’t be able to get home to my dog.
So, what I’ve done is gone ahead and created a list of emergency contacts who can get to her if I cannot. One is a neighbor and the other is a friend who lives nearby.
I would highly recommend that you do the same and get a close friend, relative, or neighbor who knows your dog and is comfortable around him to agree to rescue him during a natural disaster if you cannot.
Make sure you communicate with a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor on your pet’s evacuation plan and ensure they can get to your pet if you cannot.
Make sure you communicate with your trusted contact about your pet’s evacuation plan. Let them know where they can find a spare key, how they can enter your home, and where they can find your pet’s leash, harness, first aid kit, and medications.
9 – Have Your Pet’s Vet Records and Medications Organized, Easily Accessible, and Ready for Travel at A Moments Notice.
Along with ensuring you have extra doses of your pet’s medications with you, it’s also wise to keep a copy of your pet’s vet records on hand and with the rest of your pet’s things in case of emergency.
You will also want to have your pet’s medications clearly organized and labeled in case a caregiver who is unfamiliar with your pet’s needs is stepping in to help.
That way they will have a better understanding of your pet’s medical requirements.
Have your pet’s medical and breed information on hand, organized, and near exits so they can be easily grabbed in an emergency.
So, what kinds of pets does this step apply to most?
Well, all pets to be honest. Of course, pet owners with dogs and cats who have special needs like diabetic dogs or pets with epilepsy, for example, should pay extra close attention to how organized and clearly labeled their pet’s medications are.
10 – Save Pet-Friendly Emergency Contacts In Your Phone and Know Where Local Shelters, Vets, and Pet-Friendly Hotels are In Your Area.
Along with having an emergency contact card in your pet’s first aid kit, it is also extremely important to have emergency contacts and addresses logged in your phone.
Let’s face it, we as pet parents and just as people don’t really go anywhere these days without our phones.
Chances are we are more apt to have our phones on hand during a natural disaster and it may be more time-efficient to search through your contact list to find a local pet emergency contact than to go digging through your first aid kit for the card.
Ensure you log all emergency contacts in your phone so you have them at your fingertips.
Some important pet emergency numbers to have on hand and logged in your cell phone include
– Your personal veterinarian
– The National Animal Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435
– Emergency Disaster Information Line: 1-800-227-4645
– Pet Travel Hotline: 1-800-545 USDA
Other Ways To Safely Manage Your Pet Before, During, and After A Natural Disaster.
Before a natural disaster occurs there are routine, every-day things you as a responsible pet owner can do to help ensure your dog is healthy and able to recover quickly both physically and emotionally from something traumatic, dangerous, and frightening.
Ensure your pet is properly socialized to help make unexpected travel easier on everyone. This means knowing that he is comfortable with other people and dogs.
Know your pet’s personality, so you can know how to manage them before, during, and after a natural disaster.
I also suggest making sure your pet is up to date on all of his vaccinations.
During a natural disaster like an earthquake or tornado, your primary focus should be your safety. (I know, I have a hard time with this one. My dog is my baby). But remember, you can’t help your dog if you are injured or hurt.
If you can’t reach your dog or find your dog in time, rest assured that dogs are much smarter than we often give them credit for and can often find great hiding places and take care of themselves during a sudden disaster.
So take cover, hold onto your pet if you can, and stay as safe as possible.
After a natural disaster, you should first get yourself, your family, and your pet to a safe location before checking for injuries.
Assess your pet for injuries and watch him closely for signs of pain. Remember that, like humans, a dog’s adrenaline may reduce or hide any pain or injury off the bat. Keep a close eye on your pet for several hours to ensure you don’t miss anything serious.
I should also note that signs of anxiety in your dog can mimic illnesses and behavioral issues. Keep an eye out for vomiting, diarrhea, shaking, hiding, and even fear-based aggression.
To help your pet relax once the dust settles, you can also try calming supplements, noise machines, diffuser oils, CBD oils, and even music therapy to help your dog calm down and regain some sense of safety.
Do you have other tips and ideas on how to best prepare for and protect your pet in the case of a natural disaster?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Madison Guthrie (also known as Sonny Mackenzi) is a pet care specialist and positive-reinforcement trainer who works most closely with anxious and reactive dogs. Born and raised in Littleton, Colorado, Madison developed a love for animals at an early age and spent most of her childhood outdoors rescuing stray pets and helping to rehabilitate injured wildlife. Along with animals, Madison also developed a love for writing and music. Over the past five years, she has worked to use her passions to help the pets and pet parents in her community build stronger bonds and live happier, healthier lives together. Currently, Madison lives in South Pasadena, California where she owns and operates Miss Madison LLC, a marketing company that focuses on helping privately owned veterinary establishments and pet care companies grow and thrive. She also works as a dog trainer at My Dog Spot, which is an award-winning pet care and training establishment in Pasadena, California.