According to a recent survey by the ASPCA, more than one-third of dog and cat owners don’t have disaster preparedness plans in place for their pets. Make sure this isn’t you.

Storm safety is crucial, and making sure you’re prepared can mean the difference between life and death for your pets.

Why Are Storms LIke Hurricanes, Tornados, and Floods Dangerous for Dogs?

What will you do with your pets if a natural disaster strikes?

When faced with an emergency, pet owners must intervene on behalf of their dogs and cats to ensure their safety. How four-legged family members fare will depend on their preparedness, says Janell Matthies, emergency services manager for the United Animal Nations, a Sacramento, California-based organization that brings animals out of crisis through various programs, including emergency sheltering and disaster relief services.

Hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, and even volcanic eruptions, not to mention human-triggered crises like house fires and gas leaks, happen with little warning. If forced to evacuate or hunker down at home, unprepared dog owners may find themselves panicking.

Advice for Keeping Your Dog Safe During a Storm

When it comes to preparedness, emergency management professionals have a saying: “If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail,” says Ines de Pablo, a Washington D.C.-trained emergency management specialist based in Herndon, VA. Here’s how experts recommend you prepare:

Rehearse Ahead of Time

Once you’ve identified and prepared for these different emergency and evacuation scenarios, you’ll need to create a plan and practice it to make sure you’re prepared should disaster strike.

Run through every step in your plan and time how long it takes your family to gather their emergency packs and meet at the car. Drive to evacuation centers, noting resources along the way. Know what you’ll do with your dog if you have to leave him behind. By practicing, you’ll be able to fill any holes in your plan and come up with solutions to any problems that may arise.

Though you can’t prevent natural disasters or emergencies from happening, you can prepare for them.

Pick Designated Caregivers

This stage will require some time and consideration. Consider a temporary caregiver who lives near your home while making your selection. They should either be at home throughout the day at work or have easy access to your house. This trustworthy individual should have a set of keys. This may work well with neighbors who have dogs of their own—depending on who has access. You could even exchange duties.

You’ll need to examine additional factors while choosing a permanent caretaker. This person is the person to whom you’ve entrusted the care of your pet if something may happen to you.

Create a Safe Room

If you reside in a location prone to natural catastrophes such as tornadoes, earthquakes, or floods, you should prepare ahead of time and escape as soon as possible.

Determine which rooms provide safe havens ahead of time. It would be best to avoid risks such as windows, flying debris, and other hazards in these spaces.

It is critical to have access to clean drinking water. Fill bathtubs and sinks ahead of time in regions where electricity may be lost to ensure that you have access to water in the event of a power outage or other emergency.

Don't Leave Pets Behind If You Evacuate

Don’t leave your pets behind. It’s important to remember that if it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your dogs. They may become trapped or escape, exposing themselves to various life-threatening dangers. Because not all shelters allow pets, you must plan ahead of time and have a plan for where your pets will go.
a dog watches a storm through a window

Create an Emergency Kit In Case You Have to Leave

Plan for the worst-case situation if you must flee your house during a crisis. If you believe you’ll only be gone for a day, expect to be barred from returning for several weeks. Pay attention to the directions of local and state officials when there are evacuation recommendations. Follow these easy actions to cut down on evacuation time:

  • Bring your dogs inside at the first indication or warning of a storm or calamity. In a crisis, pets might become bewildered and walk away from home.
  • Keep an emergency kit and leashes as close as possible to an exit. Ensure that everyone in the family knows where it is, that it is appropriately labeled and that it is easy to transport. 
    • Include a pet first aid kit and a guidebook. Ask your vet what all to include.
    • Pack 3-7 days’ worth of food, whether pop-top canned or dry food. (Make sure to rotate every two months)
    • Disposable litter trays
    • Litter or paper towels
    • Dish soap and disinfectant 
    • Disposable bags for cleaning up
    • Pet feeding dishes and water bowls
    • Extra collar and leash
    • Photocopies or a USB of your pet’s medical records, a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicines your pet requires (Remember, you need to cycle the food and meds out of your emergency kit, or they will go bad or become worthless).
    • Bring at least seven days with water bottles.
    • A travel bag and a carrier for your pets
    • Flashlight
    • Blanket
    • Pictures of your pets (in case they get lost)
    • Chew toys

Make Sure Your Pets Have Microchips

The ASPCA suggests microchipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification. In most animal shelters, a microchip can be inserted under the skin in the animal’s shoulder area. 

Check That IDs Are up to Date

Preparing for an unforeseen or natural disaster begins with ensuring your dog has its ID with it at all times, says Heather Case, DVM, director of the scientific activities division for the American Veterinary Medical Association. It should list current, updated information and, ideally, a cell phone number where someone can reach you if you and your pet separate during an evacuation. 

Affix a Rescue Alert Sticker to Your Door

This simple sticker will alert visitors to the presence of dogs in your house. Make sure it’s visible to rescuers (we recommend posting it on or near your front door) and contains information about the types and quantity of pets in your home and your veterinarian’s name and phone number. If you must flee with your pets, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers if time permits.

Preparation Considerations For Different Types of Storms

Other storms create different situations to accommodate. It would help if you reviewed the different ways to prepare for these storms.

Hurricane Safety for Dogs

Hurricanes cause floods and heavy rainfall, increasing the frequency of ailments. Furthermore, if you cannot return home after the storm, your dog may be forced to stay in a boarding kennel or shelter, potentially exposing it to dangerous infections like kennel cough. Vaccinations and parasite prevention drugs should be updated to ensure that your dog remains healthy despite the changes. Based on the most frequent ailments in your region, your veterinarian can advise you on the best preventative care plan for your dog.

Flood Safety for Dogs

If your home floods, go to the highest point in the house to see refuge. Make sure you have all of your pet’s important documents in a tightly sealed bag.

Tornado Safety for Dogs

When a tornado threatens, the best location for you and your pets is in a basement or underground storm shelter; if that isn’t possible, stay in an inside room with no windows or beneath a stairway.

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