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Disaster Preparedness for Pets

Posted April 07, 2014 in Dog Checkups & Preventive Care

dog in a flood

The recent, tragic mudslides in Oso, Washington remind us how quickly our environment can change in shocking and devastating ways. Floods and mudslides—generally the result ofheavyrain and snow—are very unpredictable, but far from the only natural disaster that puts our pets at great risk.

What natural disasters may strike me and my pet?
[Editor’s Note: While a disaster could strike at any time and in any form, what follows is a list of disasters that have frequently affected many pets at a time.]

  • Earthquakes— Earthquakes, which are not weather related, could strike during any season—while other natural disasters are more seasonal.
  • Hurricanes— According to the National Hurricane Center, “Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins June 1st and ends November 30th.” Dr. Justine Lee reminds us that, “During Hurricane Katrina many pets were sadly abandoned.”
  • Tornados— In the U.S. tornado season tends to move northward from late winter to mid-summer. According to, “In Southern states, tornado season is typically from March to May. In the Southern Plains, it lasts from May to early June. On the Gulf Coast, tornadoes occur most often during the spring. And in the Northern Plains, Northern states, and upper Midwest, peak season is in June or July.” The two regions with a disproportionately higher incidence of tornadoes are Florida and Tornado Alley. Florida’s high tornado frequency is credited to their almost daily thunderstorms, as well as the many tropical storms and hurricanes that affect the Florida peninsula.
  • Forest and grass fires— Fires may threaten pets anytime the air is dry.

All of these natural events can be locally and personally devastating. Fortunately, proper preparation can minimize the loss of property and life—both human and animal.

How can I keep my pet safe during a natural disaster?
While some disasters, such as hurricanes, may give you a little time to prepare. Most give no warning, and unless preparations have been made the loss of human and animal life and separation from family members may dwarf the physical destruction. So just how do you, as a pet owner, make preparations for a disaster?

  • Microchipping your pet will help you reunite. One of the most heart-wrenching results of a disaster is the separation and loss of a pet. In a time of fear even the most loyal and obedient pets may instinctively run away from the terror, and you could be forced to evacuate and leave them

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.