Hurricane Pet Preparedness

Patty Khuly, DVM
Updated: October 05, 2016
Published: June 17, 2010
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Last reviewed October 3, 2016

Every year I do a post on this. Water safety, heat hazards, and storm phobia, too. Though it may bore some of you, I can’t help but feel I learn a little more every time I write one of these hurricane preparedness posts. So it’s probably the case that you’re learning something new too. And if you’re not, you better be willing to teach us something in your comments, below. Deal?

As someone who’s lived through more than my share of hurricanes (I live in South Florida, after all), I’ve become something of a pro on animal disaster prep. That’s why I feel qualified to offer you my tips. And now that the season is upon us, I think we can all use a refresher, anyway.

1. Do most of your prep well in advance … on paper

This is by far my most crucial bit of advice. Imagine a storm on the horizon that's due to arrive three days from now. What will you do? You’re working your butt off, knowing you’ll have to organize all the teensy details in your yard and tie up loose ends at work. Next thing you know you get word that it might be a category 4. So now you have to scramble to evacuate, too. That means shopping, vet trips, etc.

Think out the scary scenarios in your head and commit them to paper before you’re faced with storm or evacuation notices twelve hours — or less — beforehand. Know where you're going AND TAKE YOUR PETS WITH YOU! There is never a good excuse to leave your pets home alone during an evacuation-worthy storm! Let me repeat … TAKE YOUR PETS WITH YOU!

2. Isolate pets so you can divide and conquer

If you’re staying at home, here’s what you need to do:

Find a spot to isolate each pet in your home so you know where she’ll be if the storm gets rougher than you expected. Crates and cages are a must for most pets. Think out the ideal spots: Away from windows, against walls, or inside small bathrooms that have been safely trimmed of nummy, peppermint foot creams, and poisonous sprays.

This year I’ve even planned things out for my goats. While I’m currently building a category 2-worthy shed, I’m investing in two extra-large crates just in case we get a big one and they need to stay inside.

3. Plan for safe water stores

Yeah, you need to plan for enough clean water for your pets, too.

Have plenty of empty containers for filling up with clean water for after the storm, should major infrastructure damage occur in your area. Buying bottled water is usually a waste of energy, whereas filling up clean, reusable containers is very green and (I think) more convenient to boot. (Pets don’t savor Perrier any more than tap water, in my experience.)

4. Focus on food and supplies before the storm

Have enough pet food, medication, and supplies on hand for a minimum of two weeks. Get to your vet and pet store way in advance.

5. Sedation sensation

OK, so I don’t ever sedate my pets — none have yet to require it. But I'm willing. Some pets will experience severe trauma during the kind of storm that brings heavy thunder, loud freight-train noises and/or tree limbs crashing down about your house. We’ve dealt with this recently, so refer back to my storm phobia what-to-do post.

If you know that your pets have severe noise phobias, sedatives and secure crates will almost certainly be necessary. Plan ahead by discussing this with your vet in the off-season so you can give the meds a whirl in a controlled (non-storm) setting. Do NOT plan on using any meds for the first time just before a major weather event (also discussed in a recent post on sedation).

OK, so that’s what I’ve got. Concentrate most assiduously on #1, OK?

Pic of the day: Hurricane Irene, 2011 / NASA Storm Images and Data