In recent months, communities across the United States have faced multiple natural disasters, including hurricanes, fires, and floods. Do you and your family have a strategy to find one another and your pets following a disaster? 

By Diana Mivelli

When setting your resolutions, will making a plan for the welfare of your pets in the event of a natural disaster make the list alongside the usual exercising more, eating better, or quitting smoking?

Natural disasters include tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, floods, and earthquakes. In the Pacific Northwest, we are cautioned about The Big One and the havoc it could cause. How many of us have planned accordingly? Do you and your family have a strategy to find one another and your pets following a disaster?

Natural disasters include tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, floods, and earthquakes.

Certified Pet Tech Instructor Annette Lanker has taught Pet CPR and First Aid classes in Washington state for eight years. “We all prepare for ourselves but don’t always prepare for our pets.”

Her recommendations include:

Build a good Pet First Aid Kit. Key items include feminine hygiene napkins (or newborn diapers) to stop bleeding; a muzzle (“even the most well-trained animal may bite when injured or afraid”); Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for stings and insect bites (discuss dosing with the vet); ice pack; pet first-aid book, roll gauze; antiseptic wash; vet wrap; scissors, and hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting as directed by your vet). Keep one kit in the car and another in the garage. Lanker’s comprehensive kit includes 27 items. For a complete list, see the American Veterinary Medical Association site at

Remember water and food. Each pet needs 1-2 liters of fluid daily. Keep a baggie full of food. Keep treats on hand, especially if you regularly use them; this provides your pets continuity during an already stressful time. Dog booties are useful on broken pavement or concrete. Keep a walking leash and a tie-up leash. Consider the stress of having to spend time in a car or a shelter. Have appropriately sized crates for all your pets. Your pet should be able to stand and fully turn around in the crate. It’s best if they have a bed and food and water in the crate. Can a water container be attached to the side of the container? If not, the animal might tip over the water. Include several doses of medication. Too expensive to get an extra dose? Ask for 3 extra pills at each refill, ask for samples, and build up the quantities over time.

Pet identification. During a disaster, your pet may end up at a shelter. Microchip your animals and confirm that the registration has been submitted to the microchipping company’s corporate offices.

Lanker said that in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy while vets clinics were underwater, their locally saved records were untrackable. Had the registrations been submitted, more pets would have been reunited with owners instead of re-homed.

Keep hard copies of recent pictures of you with your pets. If your animals have unusual markings, make sure the distinguishing features are shown in photos. Also keep hard copies of vaccination records. You want to be able to identify your pet and establish ownership.

Plan ahead. Designate a contact person whom everyone will check in with following a disaster. The contact should live outside the region and agree to the role. List several contacts on the microchipping list and confirm each is willing to pay a deposit to get your pet(s) out of a shelter, if found.

Grow Community. This is a good reason to get to know your neighbors. If you are unable to make it home, can a neighbor check in on or take in your animals, feed them, and dose them if needed?

Attend a Pet CPR and First Aid Class.
Learn to be prepared in an emergency. For more information, visit Lanker’s Facebook page here.