Wildfires, hurricanes, tsunamis, or perhaps the zombie apocalypse . . . whatever the reason for abandoning one’s home, it’s a good idea to have an emergency kit ready with some essentials. People typically have a pre-packed bag for themselves, but far fewer have one for their furry family members. Here are some items that I recommend having handy:
1. Spare collar and leash. Preferably with a tag containing your dog’s name and your contact info.
2. A familiar toy and/or blanket. Evacuations are stressful for everyone! Having a comforting item that smells like home can greatly reduce your dog’s anxiety.
3. Your dog’s medications. This is especially important if he or she is on antibiotics or heart, seizure, pain or anxiety medications. Abruptly stopping these medications can cause serious health issues with your dog.
4. A water purifier. Good for you, good for your dog. It’s also a heck of a lot lighter than a case of bottled water. While it’s true that Fido can often drink less than sparkling clean water, he can also be exposed to water-born parasites, bacteria, pesticides and other substances that can make him quite ill. To be safe, it’s best to purify the drinking water for you both.
5. First aid kit. Again, this benefits both you and your dog. At the very least, a first aid kit should have:
- Bandaging supplies
- Iodine or chlorhexidine wound cleaner
- Triple antibiotic ointment or cream
- Vaseline (or similar ointment) to protect burns/cuts and to help with dry/cracked paw pads and noses
- Hydrogen peroxide
- A brief note on peroxide: While it is not a good antiseptic — that is what the iodine is for — it works well in a pinch for wound irrigation and getting the dirt and debris out of a cut or abrasion. It can also be used to induce vomiting if your dog eats something potentially toxic. Before you do this however, contact a veterinarian to see if inducing vomiting is the correct approach. Some substances can do further damage if they are vomited.
6. At least 2 days’ worth of food. Abrupt changes in a pet’s food can cause diarrhea and other digestive upsets, which is not something you want to deal with in a situation already filled with chaos!
7. Appropriate snacks or treats. Similar to having a favorite toy or blanket, having a supply of treats they are accustomed to will help alleviate extra sources of stress. Plus, having a tasty treat can help lure a scared dog out of hiding to help with rescue attempts.
8. Duct Tape. This can be used as emergency bandaging, to repair a torn item of clothing, or you can even fashion a makeshift leash if need be! Channel your inner MacGyver and you can probably come up with at least a dozen more uses.
Two other things that I highly recommend, but not necessarily in an evacuation kit:
- A sign in your front window telling rescuers how many pets you have: You may not physically be able to take all of your pets with you when you evacuate your home. A sign in the window will help rescuers know what — and how many — pets to look for when they come to help.
- A pet microchip: These are small, silicone-coated devices that are implanted by a veterinarian with a needle. About the size of a grain of rice, they are a means of permanent identification of your pet and greatly increase the chances of you reuniting with them should you get separated in an emergency. These are not GPS tracking devices (GPS technology exists for pets but in a real emergency these systems may not be reliable). Animal shelters, veterinarians, and rescue organizations have devices that read the microchip number and allow them to get in touch with you.
I hope I have given you some food for thought on how to best prepare yourself and your dog for an emergency. In cases like this, it’s important to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.