With hurricane season already pounding the U.S., first with Hurricane Harvey and now with Hurricane Irma, post-hurricane health concerns for pets should be on the minds of anyone living in affected areas.
Dogs living in hurricane devastated areas are exposed to many of the same dangers as people. Before a hurricane, dog owners should prepare not only for their own safety, but also to help keep their pets safe.
1. First Aid
A canine first aid kit is essential for any natural disaster. High winds and floods can expose dogs to all sorts of dangerous debris, from broken glass and rotten garbage to mounds of fire ants.
Your first aid kit should include the following:
- Your dog's paperwork (medical records, vaccination records, emergency contact information, medication records, a recent photo of your dog)
- A canine first aid manual (you can download a free AKC first aid eBook, but it is important to have a hard copy in case you lose power for your electronics)
- Gauze, nonstick bandages, and adhesive tape for wounds
- Extra food
- Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting, but be sure to have the proper dosage written down)
- Antibiotic spray, ointment or wipes
- Treats to offer comfort or distraction
- Eyedropper or syringe to flush wounds
- Medication and prescription information
- Extra leash and collar
- Soft muzzle (even docile dogs may need one if badly injured or very stressed)
- Disposable gloves
- Bottled water
- Magnifying glass
- If you're in a flood-prone area, you should also consider a life-jacket for your dog
With all that water, heatstroke is probably not the first thing on your mind. However, floods bring power outages, and power outages mean no fans or air conditioners. In many cases there may be limited access to fresh water.
Make sure you stock up on fresh water for your pets, and prevent them from drinking floodwater, as it may contain harmful substances or bacteria that can make them sick. You should also make sure they have access to shade, as this can help prevent heatstroke.
3. Flea and Tick Control
It is a good idea to have your dog on a flea-and-tick-control preventative at all times, but this is especially important during disasters such as floods. Consult with your veterinarian before any expected disaster to make certain you have the appropriate flea and tick control. Group housing situations can expose your dog to parasites such as fleas, and if you are forced to spend time outdoors or in a new environment with new pests, you want your dog to be protected from ticks and tick-borne diseases. Making sure your pet is protected from fleas and ticks can also help protect you and your home environment from them.
If you follow standard vaccination protocols, your dog is probably vaccinated against major diseases such as distemper and rabies, but floods bring their own set of risks. One of the most dangerous of these risks is leptospirosis. This disease is often found in standing water where it is easily picked up by dogs. Leptospirosis can be transmitted from pets to people.
Group housing and standing water will expose your dog to other diseases, too. Consider having your dog vaccinated against kennel cough prior to any potential disasters if there is a possibility your dog may end up in close proximity with other dogs not from its household. Talk to your veterinarian about any other potential health risks your dog might encounter if you live in an area prone to natural disasters.
5. Heartworm Disease
Hurricanes bring lots of water, and often leave behind floods. All that standing water leads to explosions in mosquito populations. Mosquitoes can transmit heartworm disease, which is the last thing you want to be worrying about when dealing with flood conditions.
Heartworm disease is costly and difficult to treat and may cause permanent damage to your dog's heart and lungs. Fortunately, it is easy and inexpensive to prevent. If you live in an area with mosquitoes, it's best to have your dog on heartworm prevention year-round, as a single bite from an infected mosquito will infect your dog. Make sure your dog gets his heartworm preventative on schedule and pack an extra dose in your first aid kit so you don't miss any during a disaster.
6. Access to Fresh Food and Water
As you pack supplies, make sure you include plenty of fresh drinking water and food for your dog, too. Store the food in watertight containers, as feeding moldy or rotten food can make your dog sick. If you think your dog’s food has been contaminated with water, try and find safe alternatives from a local shelter or a friend.
Although it's not a health concern, it's also important to remember how vital identification is. Should you and your pet become separated, the best way to assure you and your pet become reunited is for it to have appropriate identification. Your dog should have a collar and tags with its name, your address and your phone number on it. AKC Reunite can help you reunite with your dog. Your dog should also be microchipped and your registration information should be kept up-to-date. Its also a good idea to have a recent photo of you and your pet readily available to help with identification.
Advanced planning can help keep you and your pet safe during natural disasters and the months following.