By ERIN SILVER
In the stress of preparing for a hurricane it can be easy to forget about pets.
Aside from food and general meds, there are prescriptions for anxiety and special dietary needs that can make family life a lot easier if there is a supply on hand.
According to Lucy Richardson, owner of CedarTree Vets, there is a lot that owners can do before and during a storm in order to make sure their pets feel safe and cared for.
That a hurricane might fill an animal with stress is something that is often not considered.
“Many pets feel anxiety during a storm, and some have real weather phobias which can become extreme during a hurricane,” Dr Richardson said. “There are several different medications which can help, and you need to discuss this with your vet ahead of the storm so they can prescribe the most appropriate medication for your pet.”
When the hurricane hits, there is a lot more that pet owners can do to help anxious dogs and cats get through the violent winds and rain.
“It may help to build a storm cave for your pets in a crate lined with aluminum foil and covered with towels to help them feel secure,” the veterinarian advised. “They also often like small spaces, like bathrooms, to feel more safe.”
Music can also help distract them from the noise of the storm, Dr Richardson said. But what is most important, is that “you must stay calm as they will read your body language and react to it”.
With hurricane season an annual event, there is nothing to stop pet owners from preparing long before the warning comes that a storm is on its way.
Dr Richardson suggests that people stock up on food and prescription medications to last for at least two weeks. She also thinks it is wise to have litter trays and litter and pee pads for pets, as well as the obvious – an adequate food and water supply.
“You don’t know what condition the island will be in after a hurricane,” she said. “Stores and pharmacies may not be open.”
Another recommendation by the vet is that people stock up on bottled water for pets to drink in case their tank water becomes contaminated with salt or debris.
Of course, when the weather picks up, it is better if pets are inside.
“This is especially important for cats, who can get disorientated in bad weather and stay out,” Dr Richardson said. “Do not let them out during a hurricane at all, not even in the quiet of the eye, as weather can change very quickly and is unpredictable.”
As such, it is also useful to have a secure and correctly sized carrier for each pet in case of an emergency.
“If a window or door blows in and your pet becomes frightened, they may run out. You must be able to secure them in a carrier or on a leash or harness,” Dr Richardson said.
Should a carrier not be available, keep your pets with you in a central room in the house – away from windows if possible.
Said Dr Richardson: “Do not leave them in a basement unsupervised. They will be frightened, too, and will need reassurance from you.”
She also advises people not to board their pets during a hurricane. “They will feel safer in their own home with their own family,” she said.
However, if your pet does run out of the house, don’t worry.
“Lost animals are either taken to the closest vet and scanned for a microchip, or given to the animal wardens who have a database of all licensed dogs,” said Dr Richardson. “[Owners are then] contacted through the police service.”
Also important whenever it is not safe to go outside, is that dogs are provided with pee pads or fake grass, which is cleaned regularly.
“For cats, you will need the same number of litter trays as you have cats plus one, and they need to be cleaned every time your cat uses them, in the same way you flush the toilet.”
Don’t forget the entertainment! To keep pets from going stir crazy, Dr Richardson recommends having toys. “Use flash lights and tug toys to keep them amused. Teach them new tricks, or groom them to help keep them entertained.”
Pet owners will also want to have their vet’s emergency number on speed dial in case they need assistance. “Even if we can’t get to you, we can still provide information through our virtual vet platform during a storm,” Dr Richardson said.
Her biggest piece of advice is to not leave things to the last minute. “Preparation is the key to a safe and successful hurricane season. Speak with your vet about hurricane prep at your next wellness checkup.”