How to keep your pet safe in an emergency
Aussies love pets — all 29 million of them!
In fact, Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world.1 So, given our fondness for fur-kids, it’s important to consider them in your emergency planning. This might include your prep for extreme weather events like fires, floods and storms, or a medical emergency.
To understand how to best prepare, we spoke with Dr Dani Hoolahan, Petinsurance.com.au’s chief veterinary officer, for her tips on keeping your furry friend safe during an unexpected event.
Have a plan
“The first, most important thing is to have a plan (and a solid plan B) in place in case of an emergency. This means knowing what you would do with your pet if you had to evacuate, including where you would keep your pet if you couldn’t take them with you,” Dr Dani said.
Think about the kinds of emergency situations you may need to prepare for — and what your options are if you need to evacuate. Make a list of accommodation that is pet friendly. This might include your vet, a boarding facility or a motel. You might even let a family member or friend who lives nearby know your plans, in case you need them to take care of your pet in your absence.
You should also consider how to secure your pet in a way that allows you to evacute them quickly if needed. Dr Dani says, “At the earliest warning of an emergency where you may need to evacuate, secure pets, but especially cats in a room so they are easy to access when the time comes to leave. Also ensure they can’t hide in difficult to reach places such as cupboards or under beds. The last thing you want when you need to urgently evacuate is to not be able to find your beloved pet.”
Additionally, you may find it helpful to ensure that your pet is:
- microchipped (update your contact details if necessary)
- registered with your local council
- well-fitted with a collar that has a tag with their name and your mobile phone number, and
- up to date with their vaccinations (many boarding facilities won’t accept pets that aren’t). Be sure to keep a record of this in a safe place.
The RSPCA has put together a comprehensive guide to preparing your pet for an emergency.
Make a pet emergency kit
Your kit — preferably put together using a fire and waterproof container — will include everything your pet needs while they’re away from home. If your pet is currently taking medication, don’t forget to add it to your kit before you leave.
Things you might add to your pet emergency kit include:
- at least one week’s supply of non-perishable food and clean water, including bowls and a can opener if required
- instructions for any medications
- a first aid kit
- contact details for your vet and accommodation facilities
- registration and vaccination certificates
- a secure carrier
- blankets, bedding and toys
- supplies for toileting, such as a litter tray or poo bags
- ID tags and a lead, and
- photographs of your pet on your mobile phone or in a waterproof bag.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. Your pet’s needs may vary, so do your own research.
Train your pet
Try to condition your pet to become familiar with car rides.
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To encourage them to get used to their crate or carrier, leave the door open and coax them inside with a treat. You could also add blankets or toys — or even food and water, if the crate’s big enough — to make them feel safe.
Dr Dani suggests that the “size of the crate should allow your pet to stand up, lay down and turn around comfortably, as well as be secure, and well ventilated. Pets may not have to stay in a carrier, but they may need to travel in one. Preparing pets for this environment will aid in reducing their stress levels.”
“Many dogs are more amenable to travelling than cats, whose first instinct may be to run and hide. Having a good quality carry crate that your cat is used to can help alleviate some of the stress involved with transporting them,” she said.
Additionally, spend time with them in the car. Take things gently to start with, by simply getting your furry friend used to the sound of the engine turning on and off. Once they appear comfortable with this, you might attempt short, and then longer, drives.
If your pet is easily stressed or suffers from separation anxiety, ask your vet for advice.
Learn basic pet first aid
If your pet is injured or becomes unwell, you may not be able to get to a vet right away. In this situation, a few basic first aid skills may come in handy. These organisations offer first aid training for pets:
Dr Dani says, “A reputable pet first aid course can be very useful for pet parents to help initiate first aid in an emergency situation, although first aid is no substitute for prompt veterinary attention.”
Some vet clinics may offer remote consultations via phone or video call. There are also services available like VetChat where you can speak to a vet over the phone or your laptop 24/7 for a small fee.
What to do if you need to leave your pet behind
“When an adverse situation or weather is approaching it’s wise to evacuate pets early as a precaution. Some pets may attempt to escape or even cause harm to themselves through stress, particularly in storms or other extreme events. So, taking your pet to a safe location ahead of time can help ensure their safety and welfare,” says Dr Dani.
However, there are a few things to remember if you need to leave your pet at home:
- Don’t tie them to anything.
- If you leave them outside, make sure they have access to shelter away from things like falling buildings, powerlines and trees, and that they have plenty of food and clean water.
- If you leave your pet indoors, aim to keep them in a secure room away from windows or any other harmful things like chemicals. If you have two or more pets, think about whether keeping them together could cause fighting.
Once you’re in a safe place, alert your vet, emergency services and the RSPCA as soon as you can so they can make sure your pet’s okay.
If your pet leaves your property, they may be picked up and held on your behalf. This is another reason to ensure their microchip details are up to date. This way, the shelter will be able to notify you that they have your fur-kid.
Consider Pet Insurance
AAMI, together with Petinsurance.com.au, offers Pet Insurance with a range of features to support your kitty or doggo following an emergency.
Depending on your cover, your policy may provide coverage for accidental injuries sustained by your pet during an emergency, or temporary accommodation for them if you become hospitalised. Keep in mind, conditions apply. To understand what’s included, read your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).
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Terms, conditions, waiting periods and exclusions apply. Petinsurance.com.au is general insurance issued by the insurer The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd (ACN 090 584 473; AFSL 241436) (Hollard); is distributed by Pet Insurance Pty Ltd (ACN 607 160 930; AR 1234944) (PIPL) and PIPL’s authorised distribution partners (including Platform Ventures Pty Ltd (ABN 626 745 177; AR 001266101) under the AAMI Brand) and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd (ACN 075 949 923; AFSL 420183) (PetSure). PIPL is an authorised representative of PetSure. PIPL and PIPL’s authorised distribution partners (including Platform Ventures Pty Ltd (ABN 626 745 177; AR 001266101) will receive a commission which is a percentage of the premium paid to Hollard and PetSure may receive a portion of the underwriting profit, if any – ask PetSure for more details.
Any advice provided is general only, has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs and may not be right for you. Consequently, before acting on this information, you should consider the appropriateness of this information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. You should obtain and consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) in deciding whether to acquire or continue to hold, Petinsurance.com.au Pet Insurance, and for important information about dispute resolution. The TMD is also available.