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How to build an emergency preparedness kit for your pets

The Last Chance Animal Rescue in Waldorf, Maryland, is housing some 100 animals affected by Harvey. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

WASHINGTON — You’ve heard it’s smart to put together an emergency kit for your family in case of a natural disaster, like Hurricane Harvey, or another emergency event. But what about when it comes to your pets? Are you prepared?

Having an emergency kit ready at all times is one of the best things you can do for your pets, said Dr. Katy Nelson, a veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, Virginia. You can make a separate kit for your pet, or you can just add items for your pet to your larger family emergency kit; most things you would put in a pet emergency kit can also be used for humans, Nelson said.

“Get a nice Rubbermaid container that’s got some handles on it that you can throw in the car if you need to run out the door, and have a set number of things in there,” she said. Make sure to get a container that can float, which is key in a flooding scenario like Texas has experienced with Harvey.

So what should you put in an emergency kit for your fluffy, four-legged family members? Here’s what Nelson recommends:

  • Bandages
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Activated charcoal
  • Canned pumpkin (good for pets’ upset stomachs) or canned prescription pet food for upset stomachs from your vet
  • A bag of pet food
  • Collapsible bowls
  • An air mattress and towels to give your pet a comfortable place to rest
  • A copy of your pet’s medical records (not just receipts)

“Having all of these things in there, having all of it planned out, can make an incredibly stressful situation a lot easier,” Nelson said.

Getting your pet microchipped is also key and can greatly increase the chances that you are reunited with your pet in the event that you are separated in an emergency situation.

“[Microchips] are the No. 1 way that rescue organizations and veterinary hospitals are going to be able to identify your pets and get in touch with you,” Nelson said. Make sure the microchip is updated with your personal contact information.

Another important step you can take right now is to look up pet-friendly hotels and veterinary emergency hospitals within a 90-mile radius of where you live, Nelson said. That way, you will know exactly where you can go in case an emergency strikes.

“Just that little ounce of prevention can help so much whenever you are in a situation where you’ve got to get out quickly,” Nelson said.

No matter what kind of pet you have, don’t forget to take their needs into account when building an emergency preparedness kit. Their life could depend on it.

“We’re seeing it in Texas again, like we saw in the Louisiana floods last year and like we saw with [Hurricane] Sandy — people are not leaving their pets behind,” Nelson said. “So make sure that you’re prepped to take them with you — birds, cats, dogs, whatever you’ve got — make sure that they’re prepped to go.”


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