How To Prepare For A Pet Emergency

The Resource for Everything About Dogs

How To Prepare For A Pet Emergency

by Rocky McCloud


There are 163,000,000 dogs and cats in the US, yet 65% of their owners have no plan to keep their pets safe in an emergency. More people die in fires than in hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and all other natural disasters combined, yet 85% of parents in a recent poll said they do not discuss fire safety with their children. 72% of Americans think they have a 3-day supply of water, but only 23% know that each person needs one gallon of water per day in an emergency situation.

Begin to get the picture? Okay. Most of us are not really prepared for an emergency. Let?s get down to what it takes to survive an emergency: preparation, preparation, preparation. Last time I talked about how to prepare for fire. This time I want to talk about how to prepare for a pet emergency.

In the U.S., pets outnumber humans by about 60 million. 63% of all households own a pet, 45% own more than one. We own an estimated 73 million dogs, 90 million cats. We spend over $1500 per year on a dog, over $900 on a cat, including the vet, food, boarding, grooming, vitamins, treats and toys. There are no estimates for emergency supplies.

Hurricane Katrina was a wake-up call for emergency preparation, not only for ourselves but also for our pets.

Of an estimated 250,000 pets left behind in New Orleans, only about 15,000 were rescued. These suffered from heartworm disease, internal and external parasites, dehydration, trauma, wounds from debris and standing water, malnutrition, lethargy and exhaustion, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

  • Don?t leave your pets behind if you have any choice.

    What to do:

  • Include your pet(s) in your emergency plan. I always talk about the importance of having a plan, writing it down, making sure everyone in the household understands it, and rehearsing it. The plan should include your pets.
  • Keep pet license and shots up to date.
  • Make sure that collar ID and Rabies tags are worn at all times. ID should include cell phone number, as well as any temporary shelter address you might have. Can apply tape to back of ID tag and write with permanent marker.
  • Have a list handy of all boarding possibilities (including friends/relatives) out of the immediate hazard area. Most emergency shelters will not allow pets other than service animals that assist people with disabilities.
  • Bring pets indoors well ahead of a natural disaster.
  • Prepare an indoor area in which pets can stay. Should be an area easy to clean; away from breaking glass, wind, noise; and have adequate food and water. If danger of flooding, area should be as high as possible and/or allow access to a high place.
  • Keep a sturdy leash available for each pet.

  • If possible, keep cats and dogs separate. They may get along with each other in normal times, but emergencies are not normal times.
  • Keep pets securely leashed when outside home and car. Emergencies are stressful times, and frightened pets may panic and attempt to escape.
  • Have pet emergency supplies ready to take along on short notice.

    What you need:

  • Food. Dry, preferably vacuum packed. If wet food, be sure to have a can opener. Enough for at least 72 hours.
  • Water. In sealed pouches or sealed gallon jugs. Enough for 72 hours.
  • Food/water bowl(s).
  • Medications. If your pet is on medication(s), have a 2-week supply.
  • Toys. One or two favorites.
  • Crate(s). A sturdy pet carrier.
  • Plastic bags for waste. Litter box and litter for cat(s).
  • Photo for identification if pet is lost.
  • Pet First Aid Kit.
  • Backpack or 5 gallon covered pail to hold the above.


    The key to surviving any emergency is preparation. If you have to be an emergency statistic, be one of the good ones?survivors. Remember...have a Plan for what to do, write it down, make sure everyone knows the Plan, rehearse it. No Plan will cover every possible contingency, but we?ll do our best to cover most of them with tips and suggestions for what to do and what you might need in order for you, your loved ones, and your pets to survive an emergency. Good luck, and stay safe!


  • Rocky McCloud is a partner of Rock Bottom Company of Tonasket Washington. He writes on the subject of emergency survival preparation and authors the "Free Emergency Prep Guide" found on both of the company's web sites:

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