(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois) August 24, 2020—Hundreds of wildfires are burning in California, forcing more than 100,000 people to evacuate and affecting air quality as far away as Nebraska. Meanwhile, two tropical storms are bearing down on the Gulf of Mexico, threatening millions more with potentially dangerous winds, flooding and tornadoes.
In response to these ongoing and looming emergencies, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is encouraging pet owners to develop disaster preparedness plans with their pets in mind. The AVMA has resources available for pet owners, including tips on assembling a pet evacuation kit, what to do if your pet is lost, and what to do after a disaster. You can view AVMA's "Pets and Disasters" resources on the AVMA's website.
"We can't simply think of these natural disasters as a human problem; our pets are threatened as well, and we need to take special steps to plan for their health and safety during these events," said Dr. Douglas Kratt, president of the AVMA "That's why we are encouraging all pet owners to develop disaster preparedness plans and evacuation kits with their pets in mind. In addition, those currently in areas affected by wildfires or wildfire smoke should closely monitor their pets' health and take steps to protect them from potentially dangerous smoke exposures."
Pet evacuation kits
Dr. Kratt encourages all pet owners to get ready for emergencies by preparing a pet evacuation kit. Assemble the kit well in advance of any emergency and store in an easy-to-carry, waterproof container close to an exit.
Your pet evacuation kit should contain the following:
- Food and Medicine
- 3-7 days' worth of dry and canned (pop-top) food
- Two-week supply of medicine
- At least 7 days' supply of water
- Feeding dish and water bowl
- Liquid dish soap
- First Aid Kit
- Anti-diarrheal liquid or tablets
- Antibiotic ointment
- Bandage tape and scissors
- Cotton bandage rolls
- Flea and tick prevention (if needed in your area)
- Isopropyl alcohol/alcohol prep pads
- Latex gloves
- Saline solution
- Towel and washcloth
- Litter, litter pan, and scoop (shirt box with plastic bag works well for pan)
- Newspaper, paper towels, and trash bags
- Household chlorine beach or disinfectant
- Important Documents
- Identification papers including proof of ownership
- Medical records and medication instructions
- Emergency contact list, including veterinarian and pharmacy
- Photo of your pet (preferably with you)
- Travel Supplies
- Crate or pet carrier labeled with your contact information
- Extra collar/harness with ID tags and leash
- Flashlight, extra batteries
- Comfort Items
- Favorite toys and treats
- Extra blanket or familiar bedding
Protecting pets from wildfire smoke
If you are in an area affected by wildfire smoke, you should take added precautions to keep your pets safe. The most important thing is to keep them indoors as much as possible, with the windows shut to keep your home as free from harmful irritants as possible.
Your cats may be fine inside, but your dogs may need to get outdoors when nature calls, or for exercise. Let your dogs outside only for brief "bathroom" breaks when air quality alerts are in effect. Avoid intense outdoor exercise during periods of poor air quality, and try to hold off on heading outdoors to walk or exercise your pets until the smoke has cleared.
Finally, have an evacuation kit ready to go, and make sure your animals are included in your disaster preparedness planning.
Dr. Kratt said that if any of your animals are experiencing any of these signs, consult your veterinarian:
- Coughing or gagging
- Difficulty breathing, including open mouth breathing and increased noise when breathing
- Eye irritation and excessive watering
- Inflammation of throat or mouth
- Nasal discharge
- Asthma-like symptoms
- Increased breathing rate
- Fatigue or weakness
- Disorientation or stumbling
- Reduced appetite and/or thirst
How to help animals in affected areas
The American Veterinary Medical Foundation, which serves as the charitable arm of the AVMA, has an ongoing disaster relief program offering grants to help veterinarians provide medical care and temporary shelter for animal victims of disasters such as the California wildfires or the storms threating the Gulf states. To learn more about how you can donate to help veterinarians help animals, visit the AVMF website. Donations should be made under the general category of "Disaster Relief."
For more information, or to speak with Dr. Kratt about keeping pets safe during a disaster or evacuation, contact Michael San Filippo, AVMA media relations manager, at 847-732-6194 (cell) or msanfilippoavma [dot] org (msanfilippo[at]avma[dot]org).