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Floods have the unfortunate distinction of being the most common natural disaster in the United States. Floods can develop slowly as a result of rain or snow, or they can come on quickly and with no warning, as in the case of flash floods. Not only can floods cause major damage, they can also be frightening and even life-threatening for your dog. Make sure you know what to do – and what not to do – in the event of a flood:
Flood Safety Tips for Dog Owners
- Take your dog inside and move to the highest floor of your home.
- Bring inside any dog toys or training equipment that may get damaged or swept away by the flood.
- Put your dog’s important documents, such as vaccination records, your vet’s contact information, and your dog’s microchip number, in a waterproof, sealed bag.
- Evacuate if you are told to do so, and take your dog with you. The PETS Act requires that household pets and service animals be included in any emergency preparedness operational plans by state and local authorities, so there’s no need to leave your dog behind.
- Make sure your dog is physically able to move to safer ground, if necessary. He should be comfortable getting up stairs, and traveling in a car if you have to evacuate. Consider buying a ramp or dog stairs, if you have a senior dog.
- Know your flood risk. Enter your address on FEMA.gov, and see how prone your area is to flooding.
- Understand the different flood alerts issued by the National Weather Service so that you can respond accordingly.
- Figure out where you’ll take your dog if you have to evacuate quickly. This might be a friend’s home or a pet-friendly hotel located outside the area. You can also call your local Red Cross office to find a pet-friendly shelter. It is wise to have several options in mind, in case certain roads are blocked and you have to change direction.
- Create a neighborhood buddy system. Should a flash flood hit while you’re away from home, arrange with a neighbor to evacuate your dog. Show him where your dog’s emergency bag is, agree on a meeting spot, and keep your neighbor’s contact information on you at all times.
- Make an emergency “go bag” to take with you if you have to evacuate with your dog. This bag should contain essentials that you and your dog will need while away from home. Consider bowls, extra leashes, your dog’s identification and registration numbers, a photo of your dog with a detailed description and proof of ownership, a detailed history of his vaccinations, his medications, and prescriptions; a few days supply of dog food and bottled water; and a first aid kit. Look into a collapsible carrier or crate, as well. Label your “go bag” clearly, and put it in the designated place. For extra preparedness, create a second version of his go-bag to keep in your car.
Flood Safety Cautions for Dog Owners
- Don’t leave your dog outside or tied up during a flood.
- Don’t leave your dog in the basement or on the lowest level of your house during a flood. Move to the highest floor possible and stay together.
- Don’t wait to evacuate. The longer you wait, the bigger the risks are for your dog. Grab his emergency “go bag,” follow evacuation directions from local authorities, and do not veer off route.
- Don’t walk your dog in floodwater. Just six inches of moving water is strong enough to knock your dog down (and you!).
- Don’t walk your dog, or drive, over bridges that sit above fast-moving water.
- Don’t assume your dog can swim. Many dogs are not natural swimmers and can panic if put in such a situation. Keep a dog life vest in an easy-to-access location and put it on him the moment a warning is issued.
- Don’t let your dog drink floodwater. Chemicals, sewage, gasoline, and other substances may have contaminated water sources. Give him bottled water until authorities tell you the water is safe to consume.
- Don’t let your dog stay wet for too long. Wetness can cause inflammation of the skin, which is a breeding ground for bacterial and fungal infections.
- Don’t let your dog outside without a leash immediately following a flood. There may be broken glass, nails, sharp sticks, or other dangerous objects that could hurt him.
- Don’t panic! The calmer you are, the calmer your dog will be.
In a flood, your initial reaction may be to wait it out at home. That may or may not be the best option for you and your dog. Weigh both options thoughtfully, and stay informed. Sign up for alerts from the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio. If you live near a river or stream, you might also want to sign up to for text alerts from the United States Geological Survey to find out if that body of water is rising above sea level.