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yellow lab lying on beach wearing sunglasses

The summer months mean warm sun, cold drinks, and more time spent outdoors. Many pet owners view this as an opportunity to get outside with their furry, four-legged friends. Unfortunately, being outside in the hotter weather comes with some risks for pets, so owners need to take the proper steps to make sure their dog or cat is safe.

What Potential Dangers Does My Pet Face?

While our pets love to be outdoors where they can run, play, and explore, they don’t always know what’s best for them. As a responsible pet owner, it’s your job to keep your dog or cat out of trouble (which can be easier said than done). Read on to explore some of the most important things to watch for when it’s hot outside.

Hot Surfaces

Walking your dog on hot surfaces, such as the road or sidewalk, can harm your pet’s paws. The temperature of asphalt can get up to 125 degrees when the air temperature is only 77 degrees. A good rule of thumb is to test the road with the back of your hand. If you can withstand the heat for seven seconds, it should be safe for your dog.

If the surface of the road or sidewalk is too hot, there are other ways to help your pet get exercise. You and your dog can head down to the dog park or local woods, where they can walk on cool grass or dirt paths. Alternatively, you could grab a few of their favorite outdoor toys and head to the backyard for a few rounds of fetch.

Insect Stings

Curious pets, especially dogs, have a bad habit of finding and disturbing hives and nests, which may result in dangerous and painful stings. A good way to keep your pet safe from stinging insects is to regularly check your property for signs of wasps, hornets, and bees. It’s also best not to leave your dog or cat unattended, so they don’t go sticking their noses where they don’t belong.

If you discover that your pet has been stung and is exhibiting symptoms such as swelling, redness, and itching, you should take them to a vet for evaluation. If your pet isn’t showing any severe symptoms, you may be able to treat the area yourself by gently washing with mild soap and water. You can also apply ice every four to six hours to ease their discomfort.

Heat Stroke

Since dogs don’t sweat like us, if they spend too much time out in the hot sun, they can develop heat stroke, also called “heat stress” or “heat exhaustion.” Some telltale signs of heat stroke include excessive panting, drooling, red gums, vomiting, diarrhea, and mental decline. If you observe any of these symptoms, get your pet to a cool place with plenty of water immediately.

Having a designated pet room with their favorite toys can be a great place for your pet to relax and cool off after spending time outside. You can also use this space as an alternative play area when it’s too hot or as a secure place to leave them when you run errands instead of having them in a stuffy car.

How to Travel with Your Pet

Many people like to travel during the warmer months, which often means bringing along a pet for the trip. While the air-conditioned interior of the car can keep them nice and cool during the journey, there are still several safety precautions you need to consider when your pet tags along.

Properly Secure Them During the Ride

When going for a drive with your pet, especially on a long road trip, it’s important to ensure they have a safe and comfortable space to relax. Look for a crate that is appropriate for their size so they can lay down. If they enjoy standing up and moving around, install a dog guard between the front and back seats to keep everybody safe.

Another great travel option is a car harness for your dog or cat. These devices attach to your car’s seatbelt to ensure your pet is safe and secure. Harnesses also help prevent injuries to your pet in the case of an accident, stopping them from being ejected from the vehicle or thrown around the cab.

Prep a Travel Kit for Your Pet

A to-go kit is another smart addition to your car if you like to travel with your pets. Pack a few of their favorite toys or blankets, so they have something familiar with them when you’re traveling. Also, make sure to bring essentials like food, water, and a leash for when you make a pit stop.

It’s also a good idea to bring a first aid kit and medications with you during the trip. Because they’re going to be in an unfamiliar environment, they could potentially get scared and accidentally hurt themselves in their crate or while trying to get out of the vehicle. Being prepared can prevent you from having to rush them to the vet.

Other Warm Weather Considerations

There are a few other factors you will need to consider during the summer months, especially if you plan on having your dog or cat outside for extended periods. In addition to having plenty of cool water and a shady place for them to relax, you’ll want to think about some of these other safety factors.

Getting Your Pet a Haircut

While you may think that shaving your pet when the temperatures rise will keep them cool, sometimes their coats actually help to do that for them. Make sure to do some research about your pet’s specific breed so you can make the best seasonal grooming choices. A trim for longer-haired animals can be helpful, but taking too much off the top can do more harm than good.

Watch Out for Sunburn

Many pet owners probably don’t realize that their four-legged companion can get sunburn just like humans can. When taking them outdoors, apply pet-friendly sunblock to areas such as their ears, bellies, and noses. It’s generally a good idea to reapply every three to four hours.

Be Mindful of Fireworks

The summer months often mean big parties, loud noises, and fireworks. Pets often find fireworks frightening and may run away in a panic. To ensure this doesn’t happen, keep your animals indoors during any holidays or parties where you know fireworks will be in use.

Having a Safe and Happy Summer with Your Pet

Many of us look forward to the summertime, especially those of us with pets. It’s an opportunity to get out and explore in the fresh air and sunshine. As long as you remember to take the proper steps when spending time outdoors or traveling with your animal, you can both have a safe and happy summer.

 

Guest author Hazel Bennett is a freelance writer and blogger. She has a degree in communications and lives in Northeastern Ohio. Hazel loves writing about numerous topics and showcasing her expertise with words.

This year our holiday season is going to be a bit different. There will certainly be adjustments to stay safe and healthy. Maybe your family will eat Thanksgiving dinner over Zoom. Maybe you’ll be mailing a lot of Christmas or Hanukkah gifts. We have one constant though, and that’s our pets! Our four legged family will be there with us like they have been all year. However, holidays can be a stressful or potentially dangerous time for our pets. Here are some tips to keep your pet safe and stress free during the holiday season!

gray and white tabby cat staring at camera sitting next to Christmas treeHoliday Stress

Typically, the holiday season is a time of change in your pet’s environment. There are more people visiting their home and changes to their owner’s routine or work schedule. Pet owners put up decorations in the home and move furniture around. There may even be fireworks or boisterous gatherings that can be too noisy for pets. With a little planning, you can reduce the stress your pet may feel at these changes.

  • Create a safe space for your dog or cat to retreat to when events become too loud or chaotic for them. Put it in a quiet place in your home with their favorite bedding and toys and even a fan or white noise maker to help mask any stressful sounds. Make sure it is a space that they are willingly go to, do not force them to retreat there (especially for pets with separation anxiety, they might rather be with you). You might even consider leaving a longer lasting special treat there, like a stuffed kong or bone, to encourage their enjoyment of this safe space. For cats, if they are being closed into a room, make sure they have access to their litter box and food/water.
  • If your pet prefers to be near you and the action, keep a close eye on their behavior to ensure they are not becoming overwhelmed or anxious. Be sure to let your guests know how to interact appropriately with your pets. Ask them to not follow or chase your pet if he or she walks away from them. Be sure that if your pet retreats to their safe space guests do not bother them. Consider requesting that guest not feed your pet any treats by hand, especially human food! If they’d like to give your pet a treat, they can offer pet friendly treats by placing them on the floor nearby to reduce the risk of a stressed pet lashing out.
    • If your guests are bringing pets of their own, consider asking them to come before the others so that you can introduce both pets in a less chaotic environment where you can closely monitor their reactions to ensure everyone’s safety and enjoyment.
  • Watch the doors as you greet guests as they enter your home. Even a pet who is comfortable around people may make a break for an open door to get away from any stressors. Be sure your pet is wearing their collar/ID tags and has up to date microchip information just in case.
  • Keep countertops and trash cans secure. Even the most well behaved pet can be tempted by all that delicious food. Be sure that you are watching your countertops and trash cans (or have secured them when you leave the room) so that your pets cannot get into something that could harm them.
  • Consider forgoing the pet costume. Many pets do not appreciate wearing clothes. If you attempt to put a costume on your pet and they react anxiously or negatively, quickly remove it to decrease the amount of stress they are experiencing.
  • Use pheromone diffusers or collars to help your pets cope with any stress during the holidays. Adaptil and Feliway are well known and effective brands of pheromone based products that could help your pet.

Holiday Decorations

Festive decorations in and around our home are important to many of us. We love our Christmas trees, garlands, and candles galore. Decorations can pose a hazard for pets though, so make sure you have secured them all safely and do not bring any toxic decorations or plants into your home where your pet can reach them.

  • Secure your Christmas tree. Consider tying your tree to the ceiling or nearby doorframe with fishing line to prevent it from tipping if your pets climb up or try to play with the lights and ornaments. The AVMA also recommends hanging lemon scented air fresheners in your tree to deter cats from climbing up (and your house will smell lemony fresh!).
  • Ensure your tree’s water source is kept away from pets. Be careful if you put any additives in your tree’s water, but even tree sap can be harmful to pets if ingested. Some Christmas trees also have fertilizers that could be harmful to your pet. Try to prevent your dog or cat from drinking out of your tree stand.
  • Keep your pets away from lights, tinsel and ornaments. PetMD suggests keeping lights, tinsel, and ornaments off the bottom third of your tree to reduce temptation. Those shiny ornaments, especially homemade ones out of natural materials or salt dough, are a great temptation for pets. Make sure any that could be broken or ingested are out of your pet’s reach. If eaten, they could cause a blockage or toxicity. Tinsel is another great temptation for pets, especially cats. Consuming them can cause intestinal blockages that may require surgery. Chewing on electrical cords can be harmful and may cause burns. Zoetis Petcare recommends spraying cords and even trees with bitter spray as a deterrent for pets.
  • Do not place toxic plants within reach of pets. Several popular holiday plants are dangerous for pets. According to the ASPCA, Amaryllis, mistletoe, poinsettia, balsam, pine, cedar, lilies, and holly are all poisonous if ingested so be careful not to allow your pets near them or better yet, make sure you don’t have any in your home.
  • Watch candles and potpourri around your pet. Open flames can be tempting to pets so make sure you are always supervising your pet if you have lit candles around. Both liquid and solid potpourris contain essential oils and ingredients that can damage your pet’s eyes, mouth, and skin if inhaled or eaten. Be especially careful with essential oils if you own a cat, they are extremely sensitive to most oils.

Don’t forget to unplug any decorations, blow out any open flame, and secure trash cans before you leave your home. Electrical cords can be a temptation for both dogs and cats.

Holiday Food

We all want to share our holiday meal with our pets. What harm is a little taste of turkey going to do? However, experts advise against feeding your pet human food for multiple reasons. Your food may have ingredients or additives that are toxic to your pet. While some people food is technically safe for pets, feeding your pet from the table can result in some pretty excessive begging (not to mention the drooling!) so it’s not a good habit to get into. If you’d like to be extra safe, you can feed your pet homemade pet treats or specifically formulated commercial treats with a holiday flair. However, there are a few human foods that your pet can share with you:

Holiday Pet Safe Food list

If you suspect that your pet ate something that could be harmful, contact your veterinarian or call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline (a fee may apply). Be sure that your veterinarian’s contact information, as well as an after hours emergency clinic, is easily accessible.

ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 1-888-426-4435 

Bonus: DIY Treats for Your Pet

Your pet may not be allowed to eat much of the people food you’re enjoying, but they could have some special treats of their own. Check out this recipe for turkey and cranberry meatballs for your pup or these tasty treats for your cat.

Happy holidays to you and your family, two and four legged! Stay safe and stay well!

smiling golden retriever puppy sitting on a deckSeptember is National Pet Insurance Month. Many of us have homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, car insurance, and health insurance. But what about our pets? Could adding pet insurance for your furry friends be a worthwhile expense?

Pets are a popular part of the American family, with 67% of households owning at least one. The number of families who own pets, despite the potential economic hardship, is on the rise. In 1988, only 56% of households included a pet. Dogs, cats, aquarium fish, birds, reptiles, and other animals are now seen as valuable and integral family members who serve as companions, helpers, entertainers, and even protectors of the home.

With approximately 85 million households in the United States owning a pet, caring for these nonhuman family members has become a $99 billion a year industry, more than doubling since 2010. This statistic not only attests to their popularity, but also to the level of financial sacrifice many pet owners make to keep their pets healthy and happy.

The cost of veterinary care alone is expected to reach $30.2 billion this year. As veterinary care continues to incorporate many of the advanced diagnostic and surgical techniques that are commonplace in human healthcare, the cost of veterinary care will likely continue to rise. And with many pet owners facing economic strains due to the pandemic, a sudden pet health emergency, even if not grave, could have them facing the possibility of “economic euthanasia,” having to put their pets down because they lack the funds to cover sudden veterinary expenses.

What is pet insurance?

An increasingly popular option to prevent this type of situation is a pet insurance policy. Unlike human health insurance, which usually pays out directly to the medical provider, pet insurance works on a reimbursement basis. You must first pay the veterinarian for the procedure needed and then request reimbursement from the pet insurance company. The reinstatement amount is rarely 100% of the cost, although some of the more complete plans cover up to 90 percent of vet costs. The reimbursement process is usually simple, requiring only the vet’s invoice (and sometimes some treatment records) along with a completed claim form.

Like other types of insurance, pet insurance is essentially a package of many different types of coverage. Some packages cover only the bare essentials, while others are more comprehensive and include preventive care and rehabilitation. Dental coverage for pets is rare, but a few carriers are now offering it as an option in their pricier policies. However, nearly all pet insurance policies exclude preexisting conditions and specific conditions such as hip dysplasia. They also can include payout caps on particular procedures, on the yearly payout, or even on the total the policy will pay. Most pet insurers will reimburse you for care rendered by any licensed American vet, but some limit policyholders to certain veterinary clinics and networks.

All pet insurance plans have a deductible of one type or another. Most insurers give their customers a choice of deductibles; policies with lower deductibles cost more. Being able to adjust the deductible allows customers to pick a policy with a monthly payment that fits their budget.

Why consider it?

The cost of veterinary care is increasing due to improvements in technology and higher costs in training, equipment, and facilities. We all hope that our pets will never have an emergency, but the current estimate is that 1 out of every 3 pets will need emergency care every year. If your pet is that 1 pet who requires care, pet insurance can help defray those costs. This could be the difference between getting your pet help and being forced into a decision about “economic euthanasia.” If you have pet insurance and are not worried about a large expense, it may allow you to consider more treatment or diagnostic options. Pet insurance can also help cover the cost of boarding or pet sitting if you are hospitalized, a definite bonus during this pandemic. For more information and some examples of whether pet insurance could be worth it for your fury family member, check out this information from Washington Consumer’s Checkbook.

How to compare policies

There are a wide array of pet insurance policies available to pet parents these days. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are comparing companies to find the best fit for you and your pet:

  • Does the policy provide comprehensive coverage or accident-only coverage? Some companies will allow policy holders to add on wellness and routine care (things like spay/neuter, dental cleanings, vaccines, and flea/tick treatments) and a very few provide that coverage normally. Remember that most policies do not cover hereditary diseases or pre-existing conditions and often have a maximum age limit.
  • What is the total cost? You should compare the monthly price, options for premiums and deductibles, and potential limits on payments/payouts. The average monthly price of pet insurance is $47 for dogs and $29.50 for cats. Keep in mind that you always have to pay the veterinarian out of pocket and then you can be reimbursed.
  • What is in the fine print?
    • Does your policy require you to go to a specific in-network veterinarian or can you visit anyone?
    • Check for any exclusions involving species, breeds, or conditions that are not covered.
    • What is the waiting period for claims reimbursements and what is the reimbursement rate? Many companies will provide up to 90% reimbursement for claims.
    • Is there a payout cap and if so what is it? Is it an annual cap, a per-incident cap, or a lifetime cap?
    • Is the deductible a per-incident or annual rate? Per-year deductibles provide a better value for most pet owners.

Where can you get it?

There are many companies out there that provide pet insurance. You may even be able to combine it with your home or auto insurance from places like Progressive or Nationwide. If you are more interested in companies that specialize in pet insurance, this list can help you get started:

  • Healthy Paws – Ranked #1 for customer satisfaction, no maximum payouts, and fast claims processing, does not raise rates as pets age
  • Embrace – Includes dental care and allows for shrinking deductibles
  • PetPlan – Can begin plan as early as 6 weeks of age, covers up to 90% of some claims
  • Trupanion – Offers one policy regardless of species, covers some hereditary diseases, and has no set limits, does not raise rates as pets age
  • ASPCA – Provides a discount for multiple pets and does not require in-network vet visits
  • PetFirst – Includes preventative care as well as accidents and emergencies
  • Pets Best – Good for elderly pets because does not have an age limit
  • FIGO – A newer company with easy online access and up to 100% coverage
  • Prudent Pet – Covers preventative and wellness care with low deductibles
  • Trusted Pals – Adjustable co-pays and deductibles without requiring in-network visits

Are there other options?

As an alternative to pet insurance, some veterinary clinics, like VCA and Banfield, are providing “care plans” to help owners defray some of the unexpected costs of veterinary care. Many of these care plans provide differing levels based on the age and type of animal, but most include annual exams, vaccinations, lab work or diagnostic testing, and non-emergency office visits.

While more and more pet owners today are looking into pet insurance, it comes down to your personal opinion. Can you afford pet insurance now? Will it likely save you money in the future? And will it provide you the peace of mind knowing that you have help if something drastic or expensive happens to your pet?

Contributing Author:
José A. Sánchez Fournier is a writer with ConsumersAdvocate.org. Previously, he spent 15 years as a journalist with El Nuevo Día, the largest daily newspaper in Puerto Rico.

The Fourth of July is a fun and festive holiday with barbecues, family, friends, and fireworks. But there are several hazards to be aware of for your four legged friends and that last aspect, the fireworks, can be utterly terrifying for pets. The loud noises send many pets scurrying for the nearest hiding hole, whether that’s in your home or down the street. Check out our safety tips to learn how to avoid the perils and stress that can accompany the holiday so that everyone can have a safe, relaxing 4th of July.

Food Hazards

You probably already have a list of foods that are toxic for dogs, like chocolate, grapes, and avocado. But did you know that fatty foods can lead to pancreatitis and non-edible parts of foods (like bones, corncobs, peach pits, and watermelon rinds) can cause gastrointestinal obstructions? There are so many foods that can be problematic for dogs that it’s easier to just remember not to give your pups any human food! And remind your friends and family of the rule so that Grandma doesn’t accidentally hurt Fido by giving him corn. Ok, you can give him a small bite of your hot dog, I won’t tell…and it is a holiday!

Keep in mind that some dogs are not very wary of grills and grilling utensils as well. That amazing smell of grilling burgers and brats could encourage your pup to stick his nose on a hot grill, or even jump up and burn his feet. Make sure grilling utensil and skewers are out of reach for your pets so they aren’t tempted to start gnawing on a sharp stick flavored with lovely meat juice!

Environmental Hazards

Citronella candles and tiki torch oil are great to help keep the bugs away from your grill out, but can be hazardous to dogs if swallowed or if the fumes are inhaled. Keep your pets away from lit candles as well as any fires, sparklers, or glow sticks you have lit.

Remember to supervise your pets if you are celebrating near water, either a pool, lake, or river. Always know where your pet is and act as a lifeguard for them when they are in the water.

The Ever Dreaded Fireworks

Many of us love fireworks – the boom, the colors, the excitement – but our pets, not so much. Their superior sense of hearing and smell can turn those celebratory explosions into a scary event. Be sure to keep your pet away from anywhere fireworks might be lit. If you know your pet has a fear of fireworks, teach them some coping mechanisms and use calming supplements, music, or wraps to help your pet feel more comfortable.

Make sure that your pet is secured, both in your home and in your yard. Never leave your pet outside unattended during fireworks in case the noise startles them and they bolt. Keep your pet’s collar with ID tags on them just in case the worst happens and they take off. Be sure to microchip your pet so that you have a better chance of getting them back if they do escape. If you know your pet is afraid of fireworks, do their last potty break for the night before the noises start so that they can remain safe inside for the duration.

Calming Assistance

Ideally, you know that your pet is afraid of fireworks and loud noises and can work ahead of time to help desensitize your pet and teach them relaxation and coping techniques. But that process takes time and the 4th of July is almost here. So here are a few tips and products that you can use to assist in keeping your pet comfortable.

  • Set up a safe space for them. Create a “happy place” in advance of the fireworks where your pet can feel secure. Find a spot in your home that your pet already likes to relax that could buffer some of the sounds, like a walk-in closet or a bathroom without windows (yes, my dog loves to sleep in the shower…it is her safe space). Fill it with cozy bedding and blankets (those that smell like you may help keep your pet even calmer, like you’re there giving them a hug), favorite toys, and maybe a special treat or chew to distract them.
  • Don’t make a fuss over your stressed pet. When our pet is distressed, it is difficult for us to not comfort them, but excessive comforting can validate their fears or reward the pet’s behaviors. Give them a few pats, tell them its ok, but otherwise carry on as if nothing special or stressful is happening. They can take their cues from you and hopefully realize the world is not ending.
  • Drown out the sound. Try to leave calming music or a peaceful tv show on to help block the sound of the booms. Make sure your pet can hear it from their safe space but don’t make it too loud or the extra noise could bother your pet even more. Closing all of the windows and doors in your house may also help. The link below is a special pet speaker designed to help calm your pets.
    • Pet Tunes Canine – a speaker and playlist clinically proven to calm dogs, also available for cats
  • Give your pet a “hug.” You aren’t literally hugging your pet, but by putting a comforting wrap on your pet, like the Thundershirt, you are giving them compression comfort that could help ease their fears.
  • Consider calming supplements or pheromones. There are several natural supplements that are designed to reduce anxiety for pets. You may want to start them before the fireworks begin to allow the supplement time to work. Supplements like L-theanine, L-tryptophan, and Casein are naturally found supplements that produce calming hormones in your pet.
    • Pheromone collars, like the Adaptil Calm-on-the-go Collar, can provide a slow and consistent release of calming pheromones while in contact with your pet’s body heat.
    • Rescue Remedy is an essential oil based calming supplement that you can add to your pet’s water to help keep them calmer.
    • CBD treats and supplements are also becoming more popular with pet owners to aid in reducing their pet’s anxieties.

Use these tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday for all two and four legged friends and family. Happy Fourth of July!

 

No one wants to think about when disaster might strike, especially now with the current global crisis. We may not get hurricanes out here in Minnesota, but tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural or man-made disasters can surprise us. You may not have a disaster plan in place, but now is the time to start thinking about one. June is #PetPreparedness Month and in honor of that, this week’s blog post is about how to prepare a disaster kit for your pets and have a disaster plan ready. I hope you never have to use it, but if you do, you’ll be glad it’s there.

Disaster Planning

It’s not easy or fun to think about worst case scenarios but having a disaster plan can make the difference in keeping your pet safe. Here are some things to think about when making your disaster plan:

  • Know your region’s native disasters:

    • Is your region prone to hurricanes or tornadoes? What about blizzards, wildfires, or earthquakes? Identifying the common natural disasters in your region can help you create a specific disaster plan for your pets and your family.
    • It’s also a good idea to become familiar with local evacuation routes.
  • Write out a pet evacuation plan:

    • Create a pet evacuation checklist that includes everything that you need to bring or have with you and everything that needs to be done to safely evacuate your pet
    • Have plans in place both for when you need to stay put and when you need to get away. If you are staying home know which rooms provide the safest haven (no windows, no flying debris). Remember, if it isn’t safe for you to stay, it isn’t safe for your pets.
    • Identify pet-friendly evacuation shelters in advance so you are ready if and when the time comes to quickly evacuate. If there are no pet-friendly shelters in your area, consider other options such as your vet’s office, local animal shelters, pet-friendly hotels (either in your location or on your evacuation route), local boarding facilities, or a trusted friend or relative’s house.
    • Include all necessary contact information for shelters, veterinary offices, boarding facilities, and hotels in the pet disaster kit.
    • Be sure to have multiple options outlined in your plan. This way you don’t waste time searching for a plan B if necessary.
    • Although your pets may be more comfortable together, keep in mind they may need to be housed separately due to space or supply constraints
    • If you are unable to keep your pet with you, have a plan in place with your veterinarian to help keep your pet as safe as possible in your absence.
    • In the case of sudden emergencies (such as a house fire), place a waterproof “Pets inside” sticker on entry points (front and back doors) listing how many pets are living in your home. Emergency responders will then know to keep an eye out for your pets.
  • Create a buddy system:

    • You will also need a plan if disaster hits while you are away from home. You should identify temporary housing for your pet. Prepare for this by asking a trusted neighbor, friend, or relative if they’re willing to check in on your pet. You can create a buddy system but agreeing to do the same for their pets.
    • Be sure to add their name to your contact list in your disaster kit. And make sure to tell your buddy where your pet disaster kit is located in your home.
    • Designate specific locations, both in your neighborhood and farther away, where you will meet in the case of an emergency.
    • You may also want to consider choosing “designated caregivers” who will take your pet in (or who live nearby and can go to your pet daily) both temporarily and permanently if something should happen to you.
  • Microchip your pet:

    • Make sure you keep the contact and address information up to date in a reliable recovery database. Include contact information for an emergency contact out of the area as well.
  • Practice evacuating:

    • Make sure to get your pet comfortable with their carrier or crate ahead of time. This way, being confined does not create additional stress and your pet will be less likely to attempt to escape their carrier.
    • Practice getting your pets into crates or the car with their kit. This way your pets will be more comfortable if you truly need to evacuate in an emergency.
    • Know where your pet may hide if he or she is stressed or scared. Have a plan for getting your pet out of their hiding space quickly and safely if necessary.
    • For emergencies in which you stay at home, practice gathering and containing all of your pets and yourself in the designated safe room.
  • Know who to contact:

    • For information on evacuation planning, contact your local emergency management office, animal shelter, or animal control to get advice and information.
    • The Humane Society can help with locating shelters near you that can take in pets.
    • Use the FEMA app or NOAA radio to keep track of developing events or situations.
    • Check out this website to see if your state has a pet disaster plan or law.
  • For tips on what to do with large animals and livestock click here.

    • Be sure to have an evacuation plan for large animals as well and include identification, vaccination/medical records, and contact information with each animal.
  • Watch this video from FEMA for more information:

Disaster Kit

It’s important to have a disaster kit prepared for your pets in case of emergency or evacuation. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) this is what you should include:

  • Documents:

    • Photocopies of vet records including rabies certificate, prescriptions for any medicines, medical history/summary, vaccinations, most recent heart worm test for dogs and FeLV/FIV for cats
    • Photocopies of registration, proof of ownership/adoption records
    • Microchip information
    • Your contact information, your veterinarian’s contact information, and addresses and phone numbers for emergency contacts and family/friends/location where you will be staying
    • Pet description (breed, sex, color, weight) and recent photos of pets, sometimes a selfie with your pet helps to prove ownership
    • Waterproof container for all of the documents
    • The CDC has a good document that contains much of this necessary information here: Boarding Document
  • Water, Food, Medications:

    • 2 week supply of food for each pet stored in waterproof containers
    • 2 week supply of water for each pet
    • 2 week supply of any medications if applicable
    • 1 month supply of flea & tick and heart worm prevention
    • No-spill food and water dishes
    • Manual can opener if applicable
    • Feeding instructions for each pet
    • Medication instructions for each pet
    • If your pet has anxiety, reactivity, or sensitivity be sure to include information on their typical behavior and triggers and how to interact safely with your pet
  • Other Supplies:

    • Collar with ID, leash, and harness
    • Toys
    • Waste bags or piddle pads
    • Litter and litter box for cats
    • Pet carrier with bedding, blankets, or towel (be sure to write your pet’s name, your name, and your contact information on each carrier)
    • Cleaning supplies for accidents (paper towels, plastic bags, disinfectant)
    • Pet life jacket
    • Pet paw protectors/boots
    • Grooming items/nail clippers
    • Basket muzzle if applicable (make sure your pet is accustomed to this ahead of time)
    • Pet first aid kit and first aid book. For information on what to include in a first aid kit click here.
    • Flashlight with extra batteries

Be sure to keep your Pet Emergency Kit up to date.

Whenever you get new annual vaccination records from your veterinarian, check the kit and add updated contact information, photos, and perishables (food and medications) if necessary. Write the date on your perishables to make sure you know when you last replaced them.

The Aftermath

Your pet’s behavior may change after a disaster or evacuation. They may become aggressive, defensive, or skittish. Be aware of their well being and environment in order to protect them from hazards and protect others from negative reactions.

  • Keep your pet under your control at all times.

    • Fences, gates, or barriers may have been damaged and will not contain your pet.
  • Disorientation is common.

    • Your pet may be disoriented, especially if the disaster has affected the scent markers they use to determine “home.”
  • Watch for hazards.

    • Be aware of nose and paw level hazards including chemical spills, debris, exposed wiring, or other substances that may not seem harmful to humans.
  • Prepare for an adjustment period.

    • Give your pet time to adjust to his or her new surroundings and environment while keeping a close eye on his/her behaviors. Keep them in a secure space until they readjust. Try to re-establish a normal schedule as quickly as possible.
  • If any problem behaviors persist, contact your veterinarian.

April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month!

puppy with first aid kit, pet first aid, pet health

We are living in some crazy times right now. You have to plan for disaster in your job, your rent or mortgage, and potentially your family. But have you planned for taking care of your pets? Your pets are family and should be a part of that planning!

At this time many veterinarians are unable to perform routine care for your pets. Now is a great time to familiarize yourself with basic first aid and safety for your pet! You may still need to get your fur baby to a professional but you can manage minor injuries, assess and stabilize, and provide some routine care yourself.

How can you prepare?

According to the American Animal Hospital Association, 25 percent more pets would survive if one pet first aid technique had been applied prior to getting emergency vet care. Many pet owners do not know what constitutes an emergency or what to do in an actual emergency to help stabilize their pets. Here’s how you can change that:

  1. Attend a pet first aid and CPR class! There are many courses out there, both online and in-person, to teach pet owners basic first aid and CPR. The Red Cross and Pet Tech have well known programs. Links to both courses are at the bottom of this post.
  2. Always keep a pet first aid kit nearby! Every pet owner should have a first aid kit at home. If you often take your pets camping, hiking, or hunting you may also want to have a first aid kit in your car. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the ASPCA have good checklists for what should be included. Make sure you check your first aid kit at least once per year to switch out any medications or supplies that have expired. Set a reminder to do so in April during Pet First Aid Awareness!
  3. Pet proof your home, especially your kitchen. Make sure you know what foods your pet should not eat and keep them out of reach from your furry friend. Remove hazardous objects from your pet’s environment, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies tend to examine their world with their mouths and you do not want to have to rush your pup to the vet because he ate a sock or your child’s action figure.

What should you do?

  1. Know your vet and your pet. Regardless of whether you’ve just moved to the area or lived there your whole life, make sure that you (and consequently your pets) have a relationship with a local veterinary clinic. It is important for you to know where your vet is, how to contact them, and that they know your pet and his/her history. It is also important that you know your pet’s “normal” so that you can tell when something is wrong. Make sure you take a resting heart rate, respiration, and temperature so that you have a baseline. Know your pet’s typically eating and eliminating schedule so that you can tell when something is off.
  2. Check the scene and the pet. If you did not witness what happened make sure you look for any potential hazards to you or the pet or clues to what your pet ate or interacted with. Once it is safe to do so, observe your pet’s body, posture, and breathing to inform the vet of their status. If applicable check for a heart rate or pulse, temperature, and level of consciousness and perform necessary CPR or first aid to stabilize your pet. Watch your pet for signs of distress and fear and respect their body language.
  3. In the case of an actual emergency, always call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic or poison control immediately. Relay the necessary information to your veterinarian clearly. If you have taken any first aid steps be sure to tell your vet. Prepare your pet for transport and ensure they are stabilized and safely supported during your trip to the vet. Be prepared for your pet to go into shock if it is a severe injury. Have a blanket or two to wrap around your pet to help maintain body temperature.
  4. Stay calm. Your pet can and will pick up on your stress which could exacerbate their emergency. Keep your voice and movements quiet and steady and do your best to stay in control. This is a scary event but if you can retain a sense of calm then you are already helping your pet.

Common household injuries

  • Abrasions/Hot spots: scrapes to your pet’s skin can be shallow and heal easily or larger and more serious. Hot spots are created by excessive licking or scratching in a certain area and can also vary in severity. Carefully clip the hair around the area so you can see and work on the wound. Wash the wound with warm water or a saline solution first to remove dirt, debris, or clumps of hair. Apply triple antibiotic ointment and try to keep your pet from licking/chewing on the area. You can put a clean sock or a clean gauze pad on the area to prevent licking. If the wound is large, deep, or doesn’t begin to heal in 3-4 days contact your veterinarian.

  • Allergies/Allergic reactions: The most common causes of allergic reactions are insect bites or stings or skin allergies. If your pet has been stung, make sure the stinger isn’t still present (it would usually be small and black). Do not pick it out as that can release toxins. Use a hard surface like your nail or a credit card to scrape it off. You can apply a cold compress or ice pack to reduce any swelling. You may be able to administer an antihistamine diphenhydramine (Benadryl) but only with approval from your veterinarian. Be sure that the product only contains diphenhydramine as other allergy medicines can contain toxic ingredients and only give the dose recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Diarrhea: We’ve all experienced this with our pets at one point or another. Diarrhea can be caused by many things, both serious and not. If your pet’s diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours, your pet is very old or young, or if there is blood in the diarrhea they should be checked out by a veterinarian. Take away any potential culprit (new food, new treat, new toy) that could be the cause. Put your pet on a bland high-fiber low-fat diet, such as boiled meat with cooked white rice in a 1 part meat to 3 part grain ratio, for 2-3 days before slowly reintroducing the normal diet. As long as there is no vomiting you can give your pet as much water as they’d like but make sure they do not gulp down too much at a time. You can add an electrolyte solution to their water to help replace lost nutrients. Ask your doctor about medications such as Kaolin/pectin or Pepto Bismol.
  • Dehydration: Dehydration can occur anytime but is most common during the summer months if your pet does not get enough water or has too much heat exposure. Dehydration can be serious and should always be discussed with your veterinarian. Chances are your vet will want to examine your pet to determine how severe it is. If your pet is not vomiting you can give him/her an electrolyte replacement drink like Pedialyte. If you suspect heat exhaustion/exposure, try to keep your pet cool and place cold damp clothes around your pet’s neck and on the pads of the feet.
  • Nails/Pad wounds:If your pet gets a broken nail or if you clip a toenail too short apply styptic powder (or cornstarch) to the area. You can also apply direct pressure to the nail with clean gauze or cloth for 5 minutes to stop bleeding. If you successfully stop the bleeding wait 1 day (to ensure you do not disturb the clot) and then soak the paw in warm water and a saline solution to help healing. Monitor the site for infection, swelling, worsening of pain or continued bleeding. If your pet presents any of those signs take him/her to the veterinarian. For pad wounds be sure to remove any foreign objects and wash the area with a saline solution. Dry and bandage the foot. Pads have many blood vessels so all pad wounds will likely bleed a lot and will require at least a call to your veterinarian.

  • Urinary accidents: I’m not talking about your puppy having an accident during potty training (unless they are frequent and excessive). Accidents from dogs who have been potty trained or frequent urination could indicate a urinary tract infection or a weak bladder. Contact your veterinarian to determine the cause and prescribe medication. If your pet is straining to urinate or crying when urinating, if you see blood in the urine, or if your pet is frequently squatting to urinate with only nothing or small drops present take your pet to the vet immediately as this could be a life threatening urinary blockage!
  • Vomiting: Many of us pet owners have had to clean up vomit at one point or another. While it is not normal, most of the time vomiting is a temporary condition and your pet will be fine. Withhold food and water for 8-12 hours (do not do this for young, old, or otherwise ill animals). If vomiting has stopped while not eating or drinking you can offer small quantities of ice chips every few hours as long as vomiting doesn’t recur. Slowly reintroduce water and an electrolyte replacement to prevent dehydration. If vomiting still doesn’t occur add a bland diet in small increments over the next 12 hours. Then slowly reintroduce a larger amount of food and decreased frequency over 48 hours before transitioning your pet back to their normal diet. If vomiting continues after you have withheld food for more than 12-24 hours contact your veterinarian immediately.

Always wash your hands and wear non latex disposable gloves when coming into contact with your pet’s wound or bodily fluids.

Don’t forget about your pocket pets.

Many people in the world also own pocket pets, including guinea pigs, mice, gerbils, hamsters, or rats. When it comes to first aid for these little friends, make sure you know what is normal. If you know what their normal respiration and heart rate are, how much they should weigh, and what is the ideal body temperature, then you can more easily see any abnormalities as they arise. However, although they may be easy to diagnose, pocket pets are often difficult to treat so it is always a good idea to contact your veterinarian. According to Denise Fleck, The Pet Safety Crusader, often unless there is an external physical injury the first sign of any issue is a lack of eating or pooping. Keep your pet warm and supported with a warm towel wrap and contact your veterinarian. Make sure you bring a stool sample to your appointment to test for parasites or other causes. Visible external injuries, such as a limp leg, weakness or paralysis, head tilt, visible bleeding, or  inflammation, also require a trip to a species specific vet. For small cuts and scrapes apply pressure with a clean gauze pad. Once bleeding has stopped wash the area with betadine or hydrogen peroxide and dab on some triple antibiotic ointment.

If you are ever unsure or worried, please contact your veterinarian immediately!

For ASPCA’s poison control hotline click here or call 888-426-4435.

If you’d like more details check out

  • The Red Cross Pet First Aid courses
  • Pet Tech’s Pet First Aid class
  • The Pet Safety Crusader’s courses