After the disaster: Keeping pets safe when returning home

Published on September 11, 2017

Save the Whole Family Include Your Pets in Your Disaster PlanMillions of people in the southern, southeastern and western United States have been forced to evacuate their homes recently in the face of hurricanes and wildfires. Many of them brought along their pets.

As people prepare to return to their homes, veterinarians can help ensure the continued health and well-being of evacuated pets by sharing advice to safeguard these animals on their return home. This includes both protecting them from physical hazards and helping reduce their stress.

To help you provide important and timely advice to clients, the AVMA’s Pets and Disasters page includes tips to help animals who are returning home after evacuation. Among others, these include:

  • Survey the area inside and outside your home to identify sharp objects, dangerous materials, dangerous wildlife, contaminated water, downed power lines or other hazards.
  • Don’t allow pets to roam free outdoors until the area is safe for them to do so. They could encounter dangerous wildlife and debris while unsupervised and unrestrained. In addition, familiar scents and landmarks may have changed, and this can confuse your pets.
  • Allow uninterrupted rest and sleep so that your pets can recover from the trauma and stress of the evacuation and disaster.
  • Reintroduce food in small servings, gradually working up to full portions if animals have been without food for a prolonged period of time.
  • The disruption of routine activities can be the biggest cause of stress for your pets, so try to re-establish a normal schedule as quickly as you can.
  • Comfort each other. The simple act of petting and snuggling can reduce anxiety for both people and pets.
  • If you notice any signs of stress, discomfort, or illness in your pets, contact your veterinarian to schedule a checkup.

The page also includes advice for returning evacuees whose animals are missing.