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Flood, Fire, Earthquake: How to Protect & Care for Your Dog in an Emergency

By Catherine Zinski

Reprinted by permission from the Southern California Dog Magazine, January 1995

Southern California offers a variety of natural treats: deserts, mountains, beaches, national forests and often perfect weather. But, Southern California also reveals nature's trickier side -- earthquakes, brush fires and flooding.

Disaster preparedness officials have on-going campaigns designed to convince us we must be ready for natural catastrophes. However, most pamphlets and booklets don't even address the question, "How can I prepare to care for my dogs if there's an earthquake, brush fire or flood?"

There are several steps you can take now to help you protect and care for your pet in an emergency.

First, be sure you have a disaster emergency kit for you and your family. Then, prepare a survival kit for your dog. It should include enough supplies for each dog you own (see Preparing Your Canine Survival Kit for suggested contents).

Stock enough water and food, using your dog's regular food. A three-to-seven day supply is suggested.

If your dog uses any regular medication, put some in your kit. A one-to-two week supply is advised. In an emergency, veterinarian hospitals and pharmacies may be overwhelmed, under supplied or inaccessible.

A first aid kit specifically for your dog is a definite 'must have.' See accompanying sidebar for contents.

Many people and their dogs will benefit from having on hand a bottle of herbal "Rescue Remedy" or "First Aid Remedy." Both are available at many health food stores. Made from the extract of flowering plants, both are used for relief of tension and stress.

Keep a spare collar and leash in the kit. The one you normally use may not be accessible in an emergency. It's also a good idea to always have an extra leash and collar in your car.

A dog crate can provide comfort and security during and after a natural disaster. The crate can safely restrain your dog, keeping it out of harm's way inside a house and in your car (see product review of automobile restraints in our next issue). If you are not restrained by cost or storage space, you might consider adding a dog crate to your disaster preparedness kit.

A brush or comb is not essential but can provide welcome therapy. Your dog will be soothed by the attention of being groomed, and you may find the action relaxing.

Another non-essential but nice-to-have addition is a favorite toy or two and treats which can help calm or distract your dog.

Whatever container you use to store your supplies must be rodent and ant proof. A large plastic container or small plastic trash can with a self-sealing lid works well.

Store your container in an area accessible to you in an emergency. In the event of an earthquake the location should be in a structurally strong area near an exit.

Fire officials suggest the container not be stored in the kitchen or garage, because a large number of residential fires start in these two areas.

It is important to check your canine survival kit twice a year. Take the box out and go through it carefully. Replace the food, medicine, water and batteries, using up what was stored. By scheduling this in association with a favorite holiday or birthday (yours or your dogs), you are not only reminded of the task but can consider it a special gift from you to your dog.

In an emergency your best ally can be a neighbor. Consider holding a neighborhood meeting and discussing a plan for how you all can care for each other's dogs. Let your neighbors know what you would want them to do if you aren't around when an emergency occurs. Consider writing a neighborhood plan and distributing it to participating neighbors.

Some area shelters and pet stores have cards you can display in a window visible from the street. The cards alert people to the number and type of pets needing rescue from your home in an emergency.

It's a good idea to keep a smaller version of the card in your wallet. Add the name of a trusted friend or neighbor who has agreed to take charge of your dog should you be disabled or otherwise unable to care for it. Clip your dog's photo to the card for accurate identification.

Take some time now to plan ahead. Then, you can relax and enjoy the many benefits and beauties of Southern California knowing you and your dog are prepared to survive whatever Mother Nature may send your way.

Preparing Your Canine Survival Kit

We should all prepare to be self-sufficient in an emergency. For dog owners, this means having on hand supplies needed to care for our dogs. A three-to-seven day supply is recommended.

  1. For each dog you own, place in a self-sealing container:
    • Water (1 gallon per day per dog)
    • Food your dog is accustomed to
    • Prescriptions or other medications (minimum seven-day supply; two-week supply is safer
    • A dog crate
    • Food and water dishes
    • Leash and collar
  2. A soft muzzle in case your dog should need restraint (even the most gentle dog may snap at strangers when under stress or in pain)
  3. Another essential for the container is a first aid kit specifically for your dog. A basic kit should contain the following:
    • rectal thermometer
    • gauze, sponges and tape
    • forceps (tweezers)
    • Hydrogen Peroxide
    • tourniquet
    • ace bandage
    • medicated soap
    • flashlight
    • topical ointment
    • scissors
    • rubber gloves
    • towel
  4. In addition to medical supplies, toss into your first aid kit a small book or pamphlet on canine first aid.

An easy-to-read guide dealing with the basics is all you need. Check area book stores or ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Familiarize yourself with the book before storing it. It is particularly important to know how to recognize if your dog is in shock and how to stabilize it. Also, learn where your local emergency animal clinics are located and several routes for getting to them in case some roads are blocked.