By Matthew Kearns, DVM
Harvey, Irma, and now Jose still pose a threat. I recently read an article that referred to a study that documented 16 percent (mostly low income and elderly) of people interviewed would not evacuate without their pets, and 44 percent of those who refused to evacuate during Hurricane Katrina did so in part because they did not want to leave their pets behind.
I started thinking of what I would do with my own animals should there be a disaster or simple emergency at home. Although we haven’t had devastation on Long Island since Hurricane Irene or Hurricane Sandy, I think a checklist to be adequately prepared for emergencies or evacuations (especially on short notice) for our pets should be a priority.
Have an evacuation plan. This includes a “safe haven.” Find out ahead of time if there are any shelters that take animals during a disaster, pet-friendly hotels to go to or an out-of -own relative or friend that will take both you and your pet during a disaster.
Put together a first aid kit. A basic first aid kit for your pet should include: blanket, thermometer, penlight, sterile 4×4 gauze pads, sterile dressing (small, medium, large), roll gauze, 1- and 2-inch white tape, nonstick (Telfa) bandages, triangular bandage and safety pin, cloth strips, Betadine or triple antibiotics, scissors, tweezers, instant cold pack, hydrogen peroxide, splint, veterinarian’s phone number, local emergency clinic’s number, poison control telephone number, glucose concentrate (e.g., Karo Syrup or other syrup), canned dog or cat food and bottled water.
Once you have your first aid kit prepared, you will be ready for most emergencies. Here are some tips on handling most general emergencies:
• If an animal is frightened or in pain, it may bite (even friendly dogs or cats). If you find an injured animal, consider using something to muzzle (small piece of rope, a tie, etc.) or throw a large thick blanket over the pet to pick it up. Please do not get yourself hurt trying to help a scared, injured, potentially dangerous animal.
• Anything makes a good stretcher (flat piece of board, old door, etc.). If your pet has a bite wound or penetrating wound, try to keep the wound clean and moist until your pet can be transported to your regular veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital. Moistened clean cloths, gauze, etc. can be used. If there is excessive bleeding, direct pressure should be applied (consider an ACE bandage, other). Do not try to remove anything that is impaled into the pet.
• Bone fractures can be immobilized with a splint. A splint can be made up of rolled up magazines or newspapers, cardboard, a metal hanger or wood. If it is an open/compound fracture, cover it with a clean moistened dressing. If the animal cannot or will not allow a splint, just try to keep it confined until you can transport it to either your regular veterinarian’s office or an emergency veterinary hospital. Hopefully none of this will be necessary. However, in order to reduce stress and trauma to both you and your pet both during and after a disaster, it is important to plan ahead.
Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.