Pet owners must prepare for disasters for themselves, but also for their loved pets. Before a disaster arrives, you should also take time to review the important details of your pet’s medical history, including vaccination and rabies status. Also, please review or make a plan with your buddy regarding which diet and medication your pet is taking and how it is to be given.

Microchip your pets, as often there are stray or lost animals that are clearly from a loving home. You can also consider adding a second name to the microchip database, allowing for an alternate person to be contacted if you unable to be reached. Birds can also benefit from easy identification through leg bands, and a photo in the disaster preparedness kit.

If you are away from home and from your pet, make a buddy system with a neighbor who knows your pet – and who your pet knows and trusts- so they can take the proper steps for reuniting. When your buddy arrives to help, your pet may be confined inside the home. The buddy system should allow for access to the pet as well. If you are the buddy, remember to take a favorite stuffed animal or toy. This can help calm the pet during a stressful time.

The Humane Society of the United States recommends a disaster supply kit which includes: 3-7 days of food, water, medication, veterinary medical records, leash, photo of pet, litter + pan (if applicable) sealable plastic bags. Please date when the food and medication has been stored, as it will need to be replaced before it spoils.

You should also have a carrier for each pet. Carriers that need to accommodate a litterbox should be larger, and well ventilated.

While we may be invited into a shelter during a disaster, our pets may not. Pet owners should plan ahead for a second choice, such as extended family and friends who live out of harm’s way, that can be organized beforehand. A list of hotels that are pet friendly should be included in your disaster preparedness kit. Hearing, sevice, and guide dogs (emotional support animals are not recognized as service animals by the ADA) can be allowed into shelters, but please check with our emergency coordinators in advance. Other service animals, such as monkeys and horses, may also require additional coordination.

Santa Barbara fires make national news, so speaking specifically about fire injury is important. Injury can come from both burns and smoke inhalation. Smoke can cause damage to our lungs, but it is the upper respiratory system – mouth, nasopharynx, and larynx – that absorb heat first. It is referred to as a “heat sink,” and thermal injury can be seen here over the first 24 hours. The damage can increase, with swelling of the mouth and throat, possibly causing an airway obstruction. This can sometimes require emergency treatment. It is important to continue to monitor your pet if there has been exposure to heat and smoke for at least 24 hours so you can identify any difficulty breathing, lethargy, or pain that they may be experiencing.

At Advanced Veterinary Specialists, you can pre-register your companion in our database. This will allow you to identify the caretaker and define what treatments can be authorized. You can also provide all pertinent medical history in case of an emergency. This will allow the emergency veterinarian to have access to correct information that may inform treatment. You can also take a tour of our facility, allowing both you and your companion an opportunity to see the hospital in a non-stressful visit. An emergency can be disorienting, so giving yourself a preview of our hospital is a great way to prepare yourself.