How to prepare your pets for hurricane season

Hurricane season officially begins on June 1, and chances are good that your dogs, cats and other pets have done absolutely nothing to prepare for it.

Make sure you have a plan to keep your pets -- and yourself -- safe during hurricane season.

Make sure you have a plan to keep your pets — and yourself — safe during hurricane season.

As a human, that’s where you come in. All pet owners should make specific plans to keep themselves and their beloved animals safe during hurricanes or other natural disasters, say experts from BluePearl Veterinary Partners.

“Your pets are your responsibility just as much as the other members of your family,” said Dr. Sonja Olson, a senior clinician in emergency medicine for BluePearl. “And part of that responsibility is to be prepared.”

Here’s a tip sheet on how to prepare your pets not just for hurricanes, but other natural disasters as well.

  • Make arrangements now with nearby friends or relatives who will put you up (including pets) during the storm. If you live in a flood-prone area, find friends who live in a safer place, such as higher ground.
  • Get familiar with pet-friendly emergency shelters in your area, but remember they are absolutely the last resort. Staying with friends is better. You may also want to scout out pet-friendly hotels.
  • Make sure you have pet carriers. And for cats, don’t forget the litter box (portable ones are available).
  • All these preparations become even more important if your pets include pythons, parrots and other exotic or unusual species. They won’t be welcome at shelters and maybe not even at Grandma’s.
  • In addition to your own box of emergency supplies, stock a pet hurricane box with leashes, food bowls, water and sealable bags for extra food. And don’t forget favorite blankets, bedding or some toys that will make Fido and Fluffy feel better. “Think of comfort,” Olson said.
  • Also, put together a pet first aid kit, which can include bandaging material, antibiotic cream and tweezers.
  • Don’t overlook the veterinary documents you should have ready to take with you. These include your veterinarian’s phone number, your pets’ vaccination histories, your pets’ microchip registrations and records detailing any chronic illnesses. Learn more here.
  • Speaking of which, make sure your pets have been microchipped, so they can be easily identified and brought back to you if you get separated in the disaster. Also, make sure the microchip registration has been updated. Learn more here.
  • Pack all the medicines your pets take, in the original bottles.

In addition to this good advice, here are a couple of things not to do:

  • Don’t change your mind about evacuating at the last minute and find yourself driving through the storm. This will almost certainly be more dangerous than staying put.
  • Don’t say at the last minute, “I’ll just board Fido at the vet’s office.” Your family veterinarian may not be open and if they are, they may be fully booked. Most BluePearl hospitals stay open around the clock even during hurricanes, but they’re not set up to be shelters. They’re open so the staff can provide treatment to injured and ill pets during this time of need.