Lately, it seems like all I’ve seen in the news are natural disasters of one kind or another, from wildfires to tornadoes and almost everything in between! When I see reports of these disasters, being the crazy animal lover than I am….I always think of what happens to the animals….especially much loved pets. Since today happens to be “National Animal Disaster Preparation Day,” I thought it might be a really great time to get my readers really thinking about preparing for emergencies!
Naturally, we hope these things will never happen to us, but when you’re the owner of a special needs dog, planning takes on a whole new level of importance! Special needs dogs don’t often cope well with change, and sometimes have behavioral issues that are pronounced enough that it can be dangerous for them or for others when a crisis situation occurs. You may have to think of things that other dog owners can blissfully skip past….like how do I manage an aggressive dog when he is especially frightened and I have to be in a public shelter with him? Or what happens if my excessively skittish dog makes the great escape in a storm or fire and won’t come to anyone?
It’s scary enough to have to experience a disaster of some sort, but when that dog can’t cope with everyday life in general… even under the best of circumstances, how in the world to you manage when there’s a disaster? When your dog just can’t understand what’s going on….how do you help them see that they really do need to cooperate and operate under their very best behavior?
Well, just like anything in life, you have to plan ahead and be prepared for life to happen, because sometimes life really just does! When you have a special needs dog, it’s really extra important to have a plan because without one, you won’t have a lot of good options for your dog, and no one wants to leave a pet behind or see them not be able to function because needed supplies aren’t readily available! When emergencies happen, you may not get much time to put something together, so it’s a good idea to have a plan and emergency kit put together and ready to go!
Things to consider in your plan:
- How long will you be away? For many disasters, think of at least 5-7 days, although it may be shorter or longer.
- Where will you go? Will you be in a shelter, or at a friend or relative’s home? Will your dog go to a kennel or will he be with you?
- Who is responsible for getting your dog and his kit when it’s time to evacuate to a place of safety?
- What will you bring? Make sure you have an emergency kit to bring with you.
- Are there things you need to do now to get your dog ready if an emergency occurs? (i.e. is your aggressive dog comfortable wearing a basket muzzle? Does your dog understand being in a crate for an extended amount of time?)
Your Dog’s Emergency Kit
- A ziplock baggie containing feeding instructions, general instructions about your dog’s special needs, and current shot records
- Food, water and bowls for 5-7 days. Make sure you have extra water along. It’s better to not need all of it than to run out!
- Any necessary medication. Be sure it’s not expired.
- Two leashes and two collars or harnesses….have an extra one along…just in case you need it!
- Crate or carrier
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Wet wipes, disinfectant wipes, etc.
- Liquid soap for cleaning up
- Brushes and combs for grooming
- Blanket and extra dog towels
- Garbage bags
- Emergency whistles to call your dog in case you get separated.
- High value treats…LOTS of them!
- Muzzle, if needed
- Thundershirt, if needed
- Favorite toys and chew bones
- Long line for exercise (no retractable, please!)
- Puzzle treat dispenser toy
- Pet First Aid kit
- Up to date ID tags for your dog’s collar or harness
- Emergency stickers for your doors and windows to alert rescue personnel at your home
- Ziplock baggie of your dog’s fur (Be sure you wear gloves when you brush and gather the fur so it has only your dog’s scent on it. Then, scent dogs will have a clear scent to track your dog and find him if he’s lost).
What Can I Do to Prepare My Dog Now?
This can honestly be the very most important part of handling an emergency, and it’s so very important to start the work of preparing your dog now, rather than wait until the crisis hits! Your dog is going to be stressed enough from the emergency, so if he is already comfortable with the necessary preparations, you’ll be helping him cope in a very useful way!
Be Sure Your Dog Has a Microchip and Renew it Annualy
- This almost seems like a no-brainer, but I meet folks all the time who have never gotten around to getting their dog microchipped. It’s no guarantee that you’ll get your dog back when he’s lost, but it’s one of your very first lines of defense and one of the easiest ways that someone who finds your dog can make sure he gets returned to you. Remember…collars and tags can come off of your dog and get lost, but his microchip will travel with him!
Muzzle Train Your Dog!
- When dogs are scared or injured and in pain, they are more likely to respond aggressively. Definitely, I think all aggressive dogs should be able to wear a basket muzzle just in case one is needed. Sleeve muzzles are fine for short periods of time…like a nail trim or shots, for example, but a basket muzzle can be comfortably worn for several hours, which might be necessary. Dogs can open their mouths to pant in a basket muzzle, and they can even get drinks from a bowl while wearing one. For dogs with any kind of aggressive issues, wearing a muzzle may be the only way that you will be allowed to bring them into a public shelter, so it’s important for them to be comfortable with one…or you may not have an option to bring them with you.
Whistle Train Your Dog
- When an emergency hits, your dog may be lost in the midst of the storm or fire. When dogs are afraid, they may not want to come to anyone. Training your dog to come to a whistle may help him find you when he can’t hear your voice. A whistle is heard over distances and noise, and once a dog is trained to come to the sound, it won’t matter who it is that’s blowing it! Your dog will respond!
Crate Train Your Dog
- I think all dogs should be comfortable being crated for an extended period of time. If a dog becomes injured in an emergency, he may have an extended stay at a vet’s office, where he will need to be confined in a small space to keep him calm and quiet. If he’s already comfortable in a crate, he will feel less stressed at a vet’s office.
- If you find yourself in a public shelter, being able to have your dog in a crate will help him to have a safe place that’s familiar in the midst of a new, stressful environment.
Do Your Research
- Before a crisis hits, be sure you’ve researched kennels, motels that will accept dogs, shelters that allow dogs, etc. You’ll want to know where you’ll be welcome before the emergency hits.
- Be sure to have backup friends, relatives, or neighbors who can rescue your pet and grab your emergency kit if you’re not home or can’t get home.
No one wants to be faced with an emergency or crisis that means leaving home for an extended time, but being prepared just in case something happens will give you tremendous peace of mind, and ensure that your furry best friend won’t get left behind or lost in the shuffle!