Helping Pet Onwers Plan for Disasters

When we hear about forest fires in the western US, hurricanes inundating our coasts, earthquakes leveling cities around the world, I realize how lucky we are to live in western Pennsylvania. But even here, we occasionally have to deal with fires, floods, tornados, derailed train tank cars, and many other natural and man-made disasters.

Families really do need to have a disaster preparedness plan for themselves, but also for their pets. Hurricane Katrina claimed 1,833 human lives, but an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 thousand animals were lost as well. Every family should have an emergency supply kit and plan for themselves and one for their pets.

At the first indication of an impending serious situation, owners should immediately bring small animals inside. Storms can cause frightened pets to run away. Likewise, animals should be leashed or kept in crates during evacuations. Dogs should always wear collars with up-to-date tags to improve the likelihood of returning home if they do flee.

Owners may not always be able to get home to retrieve their pets in the event of a disaster. They should find a neighbor willing to evacuate the pets if needed. This person will have to have access to a key and the pets need to be familiar with the person and trust them. They also need to know the location of the pets’ emergency supply kit that we’ll discuss later. This backup person should also have your contact information and know the prearranged rendezvous points, both locally and outside the immediate area.

You can get a “Pets Inside” window sticker to alert first responders.

They are available free from the ASPCA at:


Have all your cats and dogs microchipped. It is the best $40 pet investment you will ever make. They will be registered in a national database greatly increasing the likelihood of re-homing.

If your pet was microchipped years ago, make sure your phone and address information in the database is still correct. A collar with current information is also always a good idea.

First Aid Kit

Most emergency supply kits include a first aid kit. Patients with chronic medical conditions might require extra medications available.

A supply of flea and tick products is essential.

You should also have basic first aid supplies, food, and water that I’ve listed in a list at the end of the article.

Emergency Housing Options

Owners should take their pets with them in the event of an evacuation. However, public shelters can only take so many animals in a crisis, so owners need to plan for pet housing in advance.

Staying with a friend or family outside the affected area is your first line strategy. Boarding facilities and pet-friendly hotels are other options. Our clinic is an option, especially for pets with medical needs during an evacuation. Our kennel space is limited, but we are here to help you when necessary.

Emergency Preparedness kit and First Aid Kit

  • Sealed pet food sufficient for three days, minimum
  • Can opener if using canned foods
  • Enough water for at least three days
  • Collapsible food and water bowls
  • Backup collar and leash
  • Crate or Carrier for each pet
  • Medications for Chronic conditions
  • Flea and tick prevention
  • Copy of pet’s veterinary records
  • Emergency housing and contact information
  • Prearranged rendezvous points locally and out of area
  • Blankets and towels
  • Picture of pets with your family
  • Soothing pet toy to reduce stress
  • Sanitation supplies like pet waste baggies and paper towels
  • Litter for cats
  • First Aid Kit — roll of cotton padding, white bandage tape, self-sticking stretch wrap (like coflex or vet wrap), non-stick bandage telfa pads, stack of gauze squares, disposable gloves, scissors, antibiotic ointment, disinfectants / surgical scrub, sterile saline, thermometer, tweezers, pet first aid guide.

Studies have found that feeding dogs and cats to maintain a lean body weight has very positive effects on their overall health and can even increase the span of their best quality of life. Please talk with our Doctors about any dietary questions you might have.


Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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