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Anatolian Shepherd Dog laying inside his open crate.
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Over the last several years, the proliferation of natural disasters made one thing very clear to me: My family needed a disaster plan in place for our dogs.

In September 2017, my spouse spent Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean with one of our dogs. When Irma went from a Category 3 to a Category 5 overnight, she couldn’t evacuate, as the last flights were canceled. Expecting the worst, she packed up the supplies she and the dog would need if the island suffered catastrophic damage. The pair went to a hurricane shelter and prepared to hunker down. Irma largely spared the island she was on, unlike nearby Barbuda and Anguilla, but it was a very close call.

From fires to floods to hurricanes, the worst can and does happen to dog owners all over the country. Just as you should have a plan for the humans in your family, you also need a disaster plan for your dog.

Assess Severe Weather Risks

I’s impossible to be prepared for everything, but knowing which natural disasters are most likely to affect your area can help you plan for as many of them as possible, whether it’s wildfires, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Once you understand the types of situations that can happen, it’s easier to know what supplies to keep on hand.

The official website of the Department of Homeland Security,, shares a few tips for staying in the know. Consider keeping an NOAA Weather Radio set to your local emergency station. You can also receive severe weather alerts from the National Weather Service via an app created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Anatolian Shepherd Dog laying inside his open crate.
s-eyerkaufer via Getty Images

Prepare a Dog First Aid Kit

Most emergencies require a first aid kit. This kit should include medical supplies, food and water, and anything you may need to care for an injured dog. Along with any first aid supplies, it may be helpful to include a copy of your dog’s medical records, vaccination records, and emergency phone numbers.

Pet Evacuation Checklist

Evacuations are stressful. You may have to leave behind valued possessions, and you’ll often have very little time to decide what to take. The last thing you want to worry about is what your dog will need.

Put together an evacuation checklist for pets ahead of time that covers the essentials. Make sure you and anyone who regularly watches your pet know where to find your dog’s food, medications, medical records, leash, and crate.

If for any reason you need to board your dogs, you’ll need proof of vaccinations. In the rare case that your dog becomes lost, you’ll also want all of their medical information on-hand.

Pet Evacuation Plan

If you have to leave your home, dogs complicate things. Not all hotels accept pets. It may be harder to find friends and relatives willing to open their home to both you and your dog. Because of the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, communities in over 30 states have shelters that accommodate people with pets. Find out what’s available in your area before disaster hits.

It’s also a good idea to research pet-friendly hotel chains as a part of your emergency preparation plan. You should also consider crate training your dog. Crate-trained dogs can be accommodated more easily because they’re comfortable spending time in their crates.

Golden Retriever holding a first aid pouch in its mouth outdoors.
PK-Photos via Getty Images

Stay Up-to-Date on Dog Vaccines & Microchip Information

Nothing shuts doors faster than failure to provide proof of vaccination records, especially for dangerous diseases. Keeping your dog up-to-date on vaccines offers protection from conditions such as rabies, distemper, or leptospirosis while increasing the chance of being allowed into disaster relief shelters and kennels. Also, if you and your pet become separated, dogs with microchips are much more likely to be returned with their owner.

Getting your dog microchipped is just the first step. You also need to register the microchip with a current phone number so that shelters and veterinary hospitals can reach you if they find your dog. You can even look into a collar with GPS technology for added peace of mind.

Prepare Your Car for Unexpected Emergencies

If you’re traveling with a dog, you could encounter a disaster you’re unprepared for, as vacationers to Florida and the Caribbean discovered when Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit in 2017 within weeks of each other. That’s why it’s essential to have a disaster plan that moves with you. For dog owners, that means keeping a pet go bag in your car. This should include a canine first aid kit, veterinary paperwork, pet food and water, contact information for your veterinarian, and a travel crate.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel outdoors drinking from a portable water bowl.
Banepx via Getty Images

Additional Considerations for Your Emergency Plan

Ensure your family knows the details of your evacuation plans, as they can vary significantly between different pet owners. For instance, if you own a breeding or sporting kennel, evacuating your dogs will prove to be a bigger operation. You’ll have to arrange for transportation of multiple dogs. Plus, you’ll need to make sure you have enough food for all of them, as well as any additional supplies needed for litters or females in estrus.

Your dog’s personality also plays a role. Not all dogs get along well with others. If you know your dog has trouble in crowded environments, consider packing a crate and perhaps even a soft basket muzzle for your pet’s protection. If it’s cool in your location, you may also place a blanket or towel over the crate. This will allow you to give your pet some privacy.

Medications can also pose complications. You’ll need a cooler and ice on hand for medications that need to be refrigerated in case you lose power. Talk with your veterinarian about how to preserve the integrity of your dog’s medication, and what to do if it loses potency.

Once you’ve established a plan, you should practice as much of it as possible. If you have a tornado shelter in your yard, teach your dog to climb in and out of it. If you think your dog may need to be muzzled during an emergency, you can test putting the muzzle on ahead of time. Be sure to use positive reinforcement so that the action doesn’t add stress to an already stressful situation. Most importantly, basic obedience will help ensure that your dog stays safe, while also allowing you to focus on keeping your family together.

This article is intended solely as general guidance, and does not constitute health or other professional advice. Individual situations and applicable laws vary by jurisdiction, and you are encouraged to obtain appropriate advice from qualified professionals in the applicable jurisdictions. We make no representations or warranties concerning any course of action taken by any person following or otherwise using the information offered or provided in this article, including any such information associated with and provided in connection with third-party products, and we will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages that may result, including but not limited to economic loss, injury, illness or death.

Related article: Setting up Your Dogs Emergency Caregiver
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