How to protect your pets in bad weather and other emergencies

March 6, 2013

There are plenty of tips to keep yourself and your family safe in the event of bad weather or a natural disaster. But what about your dogs, cats and other pets?

“Many people believe that because their pets have a coat of fur they are able to withstand the cold better than humans. This is not the case,” according to the Web site for the American Animal Hospital Association. “Like us, animals are accustomed to the warmth of indoor shelter and cold weather can as hard on them as it is on people. Forcing animals to be outside during harsh weather can lead to serious illness.”

Likewise, animals don’t have any natural protection against hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes or floods.

Here are some tips to help keep your animals safe and comfortable:

In cold weather

— Keep your pets indoors as much as possible, especially in temperatures below freezing.

— If and when your pets go outside, don’t leave them alone. Apart from discomfort, animals risk falling through ice or getting trapped while seeking shelter.

— If you must leave your pet, make sure it has shelter with bedding and non-frozen water.

— Very young and old animals are especially vulnerable to the cold, as are animals with health conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease.

— Before starting your car, check under the hood or honk to frighten away a cold cat that may be curled up against the engine for warmth.

— Keep your dogs leashed, especially in a snowstorm.

— Never leave pets alone in a car.

— Watch for warning signs of discomfort: whining, shivering, anxiety, slow movement, and looking for places to burrow.

— Also watch for signs that your pet has antifreeze poisoning, which can make the animal appear drunk.

— If you light a fire or space heater, watch your animals to make sure they don’t get burned or knock the heat source, potentially setting fire to your home.

In a disaster

— Prepare a pet survival kit. Include a harness, leash or sturdy carrier, bottled water, food, medications, veterinary records, a manual can opener, food dishes, a first aid kit, and a blanket or sheet.

— Make sure each animal has an ID tag with your contact information.

— Keep photos of your pets with you as proof of identification in case you are separated.

— In case of evacuation, take your animals with you. Know which shelters and hotels accept pets.

— If you are forced to leave your pets behind, leave a supply of water and dry food.

Sources and more information:The Weather Channel; American Animal Hospital Association; FEMA; Humane Society ; ASPCA.

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