Keeping Your Dog Safe In A Disaster

Kate Abbott, Petra Burke & Liz Palika  on Pet Life Radio

Today pets are no longer animals relegated to the back yard; they are a vital and well loved part of our family. When emergencies happen, it’s important to be able to keep your pet safe, either in your home with you or with you as you evacuate. A well stocked emergency kit and a first aid kit are very important, as are plans. If you have to evacuate, where will you go? Prior planning is very important. In this show, we’ll give you some important tips on how to plan for a future disaster.


ANNOUNCER: It’s a big world out there, and you’re just looking for a pat on the back, or head.  You run around the city, searching for a place to bark, working your tail off, with your nose to the ground, sniffing for a few scraps, hoping someone will throw you a bone.  You take each leap, collar after collar, hoping one day to take a bite out of success, and become the top dog.  Fortunately, you come home each day to open arms, open cans, a drink waiting for you and a comfortable place in front of a TV set.  You know you’ve got it good: really good.  Because after all, it’s a doggy dog world out there.  Pet Life Radio presents: It’s A Doggy Dog World, with your host, pet expert and award-winning author, Liz Palika, and this week’s co-hosts, Kate Abbott and Petra Burke.

LIZ PALIKA: Welcome to It’s A Doggy Dog World.  I’m your host, Liz Palika, and with me today are my good friends and co-hosts, Kate Abbott and Petra Burke, both from Kindred Spirits Canine Education Center in Vista, California.

KATE ABBOTT: Sorry for my heavy breathing, I just came in off the training field.  Hi everyone!

PETRA BURKE: Hi everyone, this is Petra.

LIZ PALIKA: This show is all about living with dogs, and for the majority of us, that means the dog is very much a member of the family. Today, our dogs don’t spend that much time in the backyard, they’re with us.  That also means today we’re going to be talking about some of the lessons we’ve learned from Hurricane Katrina and other recent disasters out here in southern California; wildfires and earthquakes are of course the big things, and we want to talk about how to keep our dogs safe during any of these emergencies.

KATE ABBOTT: I think we all saw the television shots of the pets left behind during the Katrina emergency, especially the little boy who had his white puppy taken from his arms before he could get on board the bus to go to the center.  Or the dog chained to the bridge railing in the sun, with no one around her.  No food or water.  Those scenes were really heartbreaking.

PETRA BURKE: Here in southern California we face wildfires on a regular basis, and I think all of us who work with pets on a professional manner have assisted with rescue in one way or another, so we know the system has some flaws.

LIZ PALIKA: Before we get into this further though, we need to take a break for our sponsors.  Then listeners, I suggest you grab a pen and some paper because we’re going to have some information for you on how to prepare for an emergency, and you may want to take some notes.  We’re also going to tell you what you need in a first aid kit, that you need to carry with you.  Just hold on, grab a pen and paper, and we’ll be back in a moment.

ANNOUNCER: Sit! Stay! It’s A Doggy Dog World will be back after a short “paws.”  Well, four, to be exact.


ANNOUNCER: We know you’re begging for more, so back to It’s A Doggy Dog World with your fetching host, Liz Palika, and this week’s co-hosts, Kate Abbott and Petra Burke.

LIZ PALIKA: Welcome back to It’s A Doggy Dog World.  I’m your host, Liz Palika, and with me today are my co-hosts Kate Abbott and Petra Burke from Kindred Spirits Canine Education Center in Vista, California.  Today we’re going to be talking about ways to keep our pets safe during an emergency, whether that’s a natural disaster or a man-made disaster.

KATE ABBOTT: It’s very important to prepare ahead of time, while you have time to think, and you can think clearly.  When faced with an emergency, man-made or hurricane, tornado, earthquake, wildfire, or other natural disaster, you may not have time, and you could very easily forget something that’s very important.

PETRA BURKE: Speaking of preparation, think about taking a Red Cross pet first aid course.  Not only will it teach you how to handle the basics, such as broken bones, open wounds, extensive bleeding, but other basic emergencies.  Also it will teach you how to do pet CPR.  To find a course, contact your local branch of the Red Cross. 

LIZ PALIKA: I’ve written about emergency preparation many times, in Dog World and several other magazines and in several of my books.  But one of the things I always recommend people do is prepare an emergency supply kit.  This should have everything you and your family and your pets need for a week.  Now you can store this in a plastic storage container, or even a trash can with a locking lid.  Myself, I use a trash can with a locking lid, and it’s, the kit’s in the garage next to the camping gear and right near a door so it’s easy to grab.

KATE ABBOTT: That’s a good point.  Be sure to store your kit where you can get to it and don’t have to plow through everything else, or in case of a house fire, that you can get it out the door quickly.  I use a trash can too, a locking lid, a trash can on wheels so I can haul it out quickly.  In the kit you should have a week’s worth of food for both you and your pets.  And if you have canned foods, don’t forget the can opener.  There should also be a week’s worth of water, and if you go camping be sure to keep the can opener in the whole camping gear and everything.

PETRA BURKE: Oh yeah, that would be so nice to have a, a pup tent. [laughs]

KATE ABBOTT: OK. [laughs] Oh, I got Petra all carried away here.  Here we go.

PETRA BURKE: As Liz and Kate said, keep your first aid kit handy and not behind anything, because you don’t want to dig for it in the case of emergency.  Also, you should keep in there a few things.  Medication for your people and your pets, vaccine records for your pets and all their medical records if possible and any type of, list any medical condition they might have.  Your dog licenses, your veterinarian’s name and phone number, including an emergency phone number.  And of course flashlights and extra batteries, trash bags, paper towels, baby wipes.  Store the kit in an easy, as we said before, an easy area to get to in case the emergency has occurred.

LIZ PALIKA: I’m also a firm believer in having an up-to-date, well-stocked first aid kit available.  I always have one in my van, one at our training yard and one at home, and they’ve come in handy on numerous occasions.  Somebody gets stung by a bee, and I’ve got the Benadryl in the first aid kit.  Somebody cuts a paw, and I’ve got all the stuff there.  First aid kit can be used for so many different reasons at so many different times.  But a first aid kit is especially important during an emergency.  So Kate’s going to talk to you about what your first aid kit should have.

KATE ABBOTT: The first aid kit should have obviously bandages, scissors, gauze, tape, cotton or wool.  It’s also nice to have a muzzle, although in the first aid classes you can learn how to use the gauze to make a muzzle, an emergency muzzle.  Knowing that you may be out of your home for days, it’s nice to have some diarrhea tablets.  If you’re lucky enough to find shelter during an emergency, that kind of upset in your dog’s routine can cause diarrhea and that’s no fun for anyone.  Some of the other items that are really, really nice to have in your kit are tweezers, large and small, disposable razors, for getting to the dog’s skin so you can see what’s going on, nail clippers, not just for keeping your dog’s nails short but also in case they tear a nail, thermometers, so you know how they actually are feeling inside, safety pins, plain fabrics of different widths to use as bandages, instant cold compresses—you may not always be able to find ice—plastic, to wrap around the bandages, particularly with dogs, to prevent them from pulling on it or from getting it dirty and licking on it, antiseptic cleaning wipes, sterile saline eye wash, alcohol prep pads, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a pack of antihistamine tablets, a bottle of an antiseptic, anesthetic spray, an antibiotic ointment, a spare leash and collar, a mirror, pen, pencil and paper.  Okay.

LIZ PALIKA: You can also tailor the kit to your own dog, cat or family needs.  If someone’s allergic to bees, for example, you may need to have an epipen [epinephrine?] available.  But don’t forget to check all your medications in your first aid kit every six months.  You don’t want to try to give something that’s way long expired, years ago. 

KATE ABBOTT: And if you’re as bad with time as I am, just put that on your calendar, every six months, check your kit, to make sure it’s up to date.  And to swap out the water and food so that it’s always fresh.  This emergency kit and first aid kit can be used at home, should you need to stay at home to weather the emergency, or on the road, should you need to evacuate the area.

PETRA BURKE: And when you do need to evacuate the area, don’t leave your pets home alone.  They can’t take care of themselves, you need to be there for them, as Katrina had unfortunately showed us, many many times over.  You may be able to go back to your house, you may not for weeks and months later, especially if there’s been significant damage to the area. 

LIZ PALIKA: A friend of ours that trains their dogs with our regularly was one of the people that helped evacuate dogs from the Katrina disaster, and she ended up fostering and bringing home four dogs from the New Orleans area that eventually were adopted by new owners.  Primarily because the owners had to leave, the dogs were left there at home, and there was no way of finding the owners.  The dogs basically had been abandoned and I’m sure their owners loved them very much, but they hadn’t prepared ahead of time, they didn’t know what to do with the dogs and so they left the dogs home with a, with a bowl of water and a bowl of food, probably assuming that they’d be right back, and unfortunately they weren’t.  So, anyway we’re going to talk a little bit more about surviving an emergency, but first we’ve got to break for a message from our sponsors, so don’t go away.

ANNOUNCER: Sit! Stay! It’s A Doggy Dog World will be back after a short “paws.”  Well, four, to be exact.


ANNOUNCER: We know you’re begging for more, so back to It’s A Doggy Dog World with your fetching host, Liz Palika, and this week’s co-hosts, Kate Abbott and Petra Burke.

LIZ PALIKA: Welcome back to, to It’s A Doggy Dog World.  This is your host, Liz Palika, and giggling behind me are my two co-hosts Kate Abbott and Petra Burke.  Today we’re talking about surviving an emergency, and I’m sure the giggling is just a release of stress, we’re talking a serious subject.  But we’re offering some ideas of how to keep your pets safe.  One thing we haven’t mentioned yet is identification for your pet.  A good friend of mine, Ranny Green, who’s the past president of Dog Writer’s Association of America, had gone to New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.  He spent a week there, and said that if more dogs and cats had been properly identified, they could have returned more pets to their owners.  Far too many of the dogs had no collars, no ID tags, no microchips, and no tattoos.

KATE ABBOTT: Identification should include your cell phone, as well as another phone number for someone out of the area, someone who might know the pet.  If you know that you’re going to leave, and you have to leave your pets behind, add to their identification tags that they should already be wearing, use an indelible pen to write on some tape on the back to give an alternate number.  If all you have is your home number and you’re not going to be there, put another alternate number of a relative out of state, for example.  Someone that you can contact and can be a go-between.

PETRA BURKE: You should also have photos of your pet.  And that would be a front view of their face, the side view, each, the left side and the right side, so you can prove ownership if you need to.  And also you can make up some “LOST” fliers should you and your pet be separated.

LIZ PALIKA: When making plans, decide where you’re going to go in an emergency.  Years ago, my husband and I, and again here in southern California, were evacuated because of a wildfire that was actually just at the end of our street.  As we drove out, it seemed like the flames were a hundred feet high.  Luckily, our house survived, but we had to load up our two German Shepherds, our two cats, our rabbit, several snakes, and two rats with all their food, water cages.  And once we were loaded up and we drove out of the housing development away from the fire, we had no idea where we were going to go.  My mom wasn’t about to take us in with the snakes and the rats, no matter how much she loved me. [laughs]  Imposing that many pets on friends just seemed like a little much.  We had no idea where to go and we had made no plans.  We ended up at a beachfront campground, and since it was summer we were absolutely fine, although we shocked I think many of the other campers there, but we ended up spending three days at the campground before we could go back to our house.  So it’s much better to plan ahead. 

KATE ABBOTT: I’m amazed you were able to get a camping spot in southern California in the summer on the beach.  Prepare a pre-arranged evacuation site, out of the immediate evacuation area, a boarding facility.  Check ahead of time.  If you can find hotels that normally allow pets, or give them a call and ask if they would allow pets in an emergency if they’re crated and well-behaved, which of course you are going to have your pets be.  Also check with family and friend, since you probably won’t be arriving with snakes and scorpions and rats they may be more amenable to having you stay with them.

LIZ PALIKA: Thankfully there have been some changes since the Hurricane Katrina fiasco.  As of October 2006, states are now required by the federal government to help evacuate pets as well as people during a natural disaster.  And if the states don’t provide this assistance they can lose their FEMA funding and assistance.  The law also gives FEMA the go-ahead to create pet-friendly shelters.  This is a huge step forward from the Katrina disaster and for those of us here the cedar fire, which burned thousands and thousands of acres here in San Diego.  Petra, Kate and I lived through that, did some therapy dog work in the aftermath of that, and we helped rescue pets.  None of the shelters in San Diego allowed people to bring their pets in.  And San Diego is also a very horse-friendly county.  The local fairgrounds in Delmar here in San Diego county took in hundreds of horses.  But getting the horses out of the fire area itself was a horrendous undertaking.  There were pickup trucks and horse trailers all over the place.  And many of the pet owners had made no plans.  No plan whatsoever.  And so when the fires headed their direction, they had no idea what to do.  So even though the federal government is now requiring the states to provide assistance, even though FEMA has put a little pressure on the states to do this, I think it’s very important that pet owners make their plans ahead of time.

PETRA BURKE: Self-reliance is always a good idea.  Don’t count on other people.  Have your own emergency supply kit handy.  Make arrangement to where you’re going to take all your pets.  And remember to take a first aid kit to assist in any of your pets injuries.

LIZ PALIKA: We want to touch on another subject that is related, it goes along with your emergency care, but this is also good information for you in your daily life with pets, because you know darn well whenever there’s an emergency something else is going to happen, your cat’s going to cut her paw, or your dog’s going to eat something and throw up, or whatever.  So we’ve got some emergency symptoms that require you to call your veterinarian, or if you’re out of the area to find another veterinarian that can help you.  These are symptoms of problems for your dog, and might apply to cats as well, these are symptoms where you need to get some extra help.

KATE ABBOTT: Check with your local veterinarian, your regular veterinarian, about emergency calls.  Do they want you to call them so they can be paged and meet you, or do they routinely refer you to an emergency clinic that is open afterhours.  So find out before you’re panicking what your procedure should be.  And then, if they do refer you to an emergency clinic, do know where that place is?  Do you know how to get there quickly?  Doing a little homework before an emergency can make all the difference in getting your pet to safety. 

The Emergency Veterinary Clinic of Cincinnati compiled a list of pet health emergencies.  The idea is: how do I know when it’s really an emergency and need to take my dog in, or I can wait for regular office hours.  If your animal has any of these following symptoms, call your emergency care facility and tell the receptionist that you’re bringing in your dog.  If your dog has difficulty breathing, breathing is very important, we really want breathing to continue, so any difficulty with breathing, don’t wait, take them in.  Bleeding that does not stop, apply pressure with a clean cloth, and get them in to that facility.  A bloated or distended abdomen or swollen or painful abdomen, even if they’re not vomiting, get them in.  That could be only hours of life-threatening time that you have to get them in.  If they’re unable to urinate or move their bowels but they keep trying or they have bloody stools, get them in quickly.  By the way, especially with male cats, they only have a few our before they’ll actually die from being blocked.  If they have heat stroke, how do you know for sure?  Very, very heavy panting, weakness, they may stagger, lips or gums are pale, if you can take their temperature, their body temperature will be above 104.  Inability, if your dog or cat is in labor, and they’re trying and straining in labor but they’re unable to deliver the puppies or kittens, after about an hour or so go ahead and take them on in there.  If they start to, start to deliver and they can see the puppy and kitten coming and after 15 minutes of straining still can’t get it out, get them in to emergency, it’s life-threatening for both mom and the pup or kitten.  If they’re exhibiting any loss of balance, any loss of consciousness, appear to be having a seizure, and that can be tremors, staggering around, acting as though they’re, they can’t see very well, tilting at the head, biting at imaginary objects, any of these things is an emergency symptom, get them in to the clinic.  Major trauma, injury or shock, obviously if they’ve been hit by a car, get them in.  Sometimes the symptoms don’t show up, because they’re in shock.  You need to get them in and have them checked out.  Cuts, broken bones, falls, that sort of thing, any of that they should be taken in to your emergency clinic or meeting your vet at the regular clinic.  But find out ahead of time where to go and what to do before you’re out of your mind with worry.

LIZ PALIKA: Well that’s it for this podcast, I thank you very much for listening to It’s A Doggy Dog World.  I hope we’ve been able to provide you with some good solid information today that can help keep you and your pet safe.  We would love to think that a natural disaster or man-made disaster will never be a intimate threat to us, but unfortunately those things happen.  They, it’s, here in southern California we get the tremors and the earthquakes, we get the wildfires, last week we even had a waterspout off the coast, which was major excitement for southern California, but things happen.  And much better to be prepared, to have your emergency kit all put together and ready to grab, have a first aid kit available, have all the information you need, and that just is one less thing you have to worry about in a disaster.  So thanks again for listening and we’ll see you, or talk to you again next week.

ANNOUNCER: Having a rough day?  Longing for the dog days of summer?  Think your fun, furry friend lives a dog’s life?  Well, find out everything you’re begging to know as Pet Life Radio presents It’s A Doggy Dog World with pet expert and award-winning author Liz Palika.  Every dog has his day.  And you’ll find out how to make your dog’s day fun and rewarding.  Every week, on demand.  Only on