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Emergencies and pets: how to be prepared

Facing potentially dangerous weather, suddenly falling ill or having to leave your premises immediately (and without notice) can be an incredibly stressful time for the whole family (including our fur-babies). Here we share some tips to help keep your pets safe should an unexpected emergency arise.

Start with the basics

There are many ways to prepare your pet for an emergency no matter their age. Some tasks may take longer for your pet to learn and get comfortable with, so the sooner you can start the better.

Some of the easier things to start with is ensuring your pet is microchipped with up-to-date contact details, and ensuring your pet is up-to-date with their vaccinations. Most Vet clinics and boarding facilities will not take animals who are out-of-date with vaccines, so this is a simple but important step in your planning process. Also having an ID tag on your pet’s collar and ensuring they’re registered with your Council and/or State is useful. And lastly, a well-fitted collar and a lead will help keep your pet secure.

Car rides & crate training

Condition your pet to enjoy car rides. If your pet is fearful of cars, start slow and progress from the engine off, engine on, short drives to longer drives, making each time a positive experience.

Train and condition your pet to enjoy and feel safe inside a crate or carrier. To start, keep the door off and encourage your pet near or inside using their favourite reward. Continue to make the crate a positive place by adding bedding, toys, and food and water. The size of the crate should allow your pet to stand up, lay down and turn around comfortably, be secure, and be well ventilated. Your pet may not have to stay in a carrier, but it may need to travel in one or be housed in a confined space. Preparing your pet for this environment will aid in reducing their stress levels.

If you suspect or know your pet suffers from separation stress or anxiety, consult your Veterinarian to ensure measures are in place to correctly manage the problem in an emergency.

Pet emergency box

A pet emergency box contains everything your pet(s) will need while away from home. Ensure the container is waterproof, secure and easy to grab, only having to add any daily medications. Suggested contents for your emergency box include:

  • Ample non-perishable food (and a can opener if required)
  • Ample clean water
  • Bowls
  • Bedding
  • Toys
  • Harness/collar/lead
  • Important pet information such as your Vet’s details, microchip number and a photo. If your pet takes medication, make sure there is a list of the medications and their instructions also
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Secure carrier/crate
  • Toileting supplies – litter tray, waste bags
  • Any other belongings required for your pet (muzzle, mobility equipment).

At the earliest warning of an emergency when you may need to evacuate, secure your pet in a room so they are easy to access when the time comes to leave. Also ensure they cannot hide in difficult to reach places such as cupboards or under beds.

Investigate relocation options

Investigate and compile a list of places you can relocate your pet(s) to in case you need to evacuate your home. Having multiple options in different locations is ideal to ensure you have somewhere safe, and the responsible person is prepared on how to best care for your beloved pet(s). Keep in mind, if you have multiple pets, they may not be able to stay together. Pets are generally not permitted in evacuation centers, so it’s best to not rely on this as your only option.

In an event where adverse weather is approaching it may be wise to evacuate your pets early as a precaution. Some pets may attempt to escape or even cause harm to themselves through stress. So, by taking your pet to a safe location ahead of time helps ensure their safety and welfare. Vet clinics or boarding facilities may be suitable, but keep in mind they may be full or need to evacuate as well.

If you are unable to get home to your pet, have someone nearby who can collect them and their emergency box and care for them until you are able to be reunited.

There are times however when the emergency arises giving us little to no warning. In these situations, it is imperative to have a plan in place that all members of the family are aware of, and well-versed on.

Basic first aid

In an emergency, your pet may become sick or get injured, and it may not be possible to access Veterinarian assistance immediately, so having some basic first aid knowledge for your pet may come in handy. There are several courses available, including:

Animal Welfare League ‘Pet First Aid Course’  

Australian Red Cross ‘First Aid for cats and dogs’

RSPCA NSW provide an accredited and non-accredited course options  ‘Provide Basic First Aid for Animals’ and ‘Animal First Aid’ 

In the event that you can’t see your Vet immediately, these websites may also be able to help with some of the basics in the short-term:

Australia Wide First Aid

RSPCA Victoria

Many Vet clinics are now offering remote consultation services, meaning you can get professional advice over the phone or via a video call. If your local Vet doesn’t currently offer remote consultation services or you are unable to get an appointment, telemedicine providers like Vetchat are also available to provide real-time assistance via your phone or computer if you find yourself unable to travel.

If you have to leave your pet behind

If for some reason you need to evacuate and you cannot take your pet with you, there are a few things you can do to best prepare for this situation.

Do not tie or tether your pet(s) to anything. If they are outside, ensure they have shelter away from the primary danger and any secondary dangers such as collapsing buildings, falling trees and power lines, and have access to food and water for a number of days in containers that will not tip over. If you can have your pet indoors, place them in a secure room ideally with no windows, harmful chemicals or items, and away from any loose furniture that may fall. If you have multiple pets, depending on their relationship you may want to consider separating them into different rooms to avoid any potential fighting.

Notify your local Veterinarian clinic, emergency workers, RSPCA and animal shelter as soon as possible to let them know that your pet is still at home. If your pet does escape the property and the danger, it may be picked up and taken to a holding facility, so remember to keep your pet’s microchip details current so you can easily be reunited.

How pet insurance can help

Pet insurance is there to provide peace of mind for unexpected events, and policies are available to provide cover for:

  • Accidental injuries such as burns, smoke inhalation, car accidents and other traumatic injuries.
  • Emergency boarding in the event you are hospitalised, and there is no one else who can look after your pet (conditions apply).

Waiting periods, limits, pre-existing conditions, condition exclusions and applicable excess will vary by product, so please check with your preferred insurance partner or refer to the applicable Product Disclosure Statement for more information. To learn more about the different products available visit petsure.com.au/findapolicy

The tail end

Having a plan in place saves time, stress and lives. Do not risk the safety of your family and pets by leaving things to the last minute. If you know of family or friends with pets, encourage and help them build an inclusive emergency plan to ensure everyone’s safety.

Any advice is general only and has not considered your personal circumstances, so may not be right for you. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider to decide if a product is right for you. Insurance products are issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd (ABN 78 090 584 473; AFSL 241436) and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd (ABN 95 075 949 923; AFSL 420183) through our Authorised Representatives and our distribution partners.

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