ANIMAL BYTES: Emergency Pet Smarts

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By STEPHANIE OBA, DVM

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(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on April 29, 2010)

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On Easter Sunday, we rolled with a 7.2 magnitude temblor that hit Baja Calif., close to the Mexicali area. That was a serious wake-up call to those of us living in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona! We’ve been pretty lucky to go two decades without a sizable earthquake. It’s time to regroup.

Are you prepared? With April designated Earthquake Preparedness Month, we all need to do advanced preparations to be ready. Start off with a family plan—everyone should know what to do, where to go, who to call. Next, ready an emergency kit inside of a sturdy backpack or duffle bag equipped with the right tools, medicine, food and water in a convenient spot—for home, work, school and also in your car.

What about your pets? Tufts University educated, Alhambra veterinarian, Stephanie Oba, provides answers to emergency pet care in a new column offering animal answers and advice.

Email pet questions and your answer could appear in a future column.

Welcome to my inaugural column for the Rafu Shimpo. I hope to provide information that will improve the bond with your dog, cat, or other furry/feathered/scaled friend. As a small animal veterinarian working in Alhambra, I work mainly with dogs and cats, but also see some small mammals. This column will be geared mainly towards these species, since this is where I could help the most.

In light of all the recent earthquakes around the world, disaster preparedness is much needed info. We humans should know what to do, but there is very little guidance for our pets.

What are the essentials needed for a pet emergency kit?

For cats and small mammals, you’ll need a carrier to safely transport your pet. Ideally, one carrier is needed for each pet. In stressful situations, even best friends will fight in tight quarters. The last thing you need is emergency veterinary wound care.

For dogs, a leash is essential. Small dogs can do well in carriers as well. You will also need three to five days of food and water for each pet as well as bowls or other eating surfaces. If you feed canned food, you may want to invest in small quantities that can be eaten in one serving and include a hand operated can opener.

Don’t forget to rotate the food supply in the emergency kit to avoid stale food. If your pet is on chronic medications, have at least a week’s worth of medication on hand. Depending on the severity of the situation, your vet may not be available.
You will also want to keep a pet first aid kit nearby. There are many great commercial kits available. Be advised, many human medications are toxic to animals, so having a species specific kit is essential for their safety.

If your pet has a medical condition, have your vet’s phone number and a local emergency phone number handy. Place all the items in a bag with similar items that is easy to grab and go. Some of my clients keep their packs near a door for easy access.
Can I prepare my pet for a disaster?

Yes, you can. A collar or microchip will help keep your pet identified if you get separated. Train dogs to obey basic commands so that it is easier to handle them in crowds. Cats and small mammals can be acclimated to carriers so that they are easier to transport. Training cats to get in a carrier can be accomplished.

Where can I safely house my pet in case of evacuation?

Many shelters open their doors for victims of Mother Nature. It’s good to know where your neighborhood animal control shelter is located—this is where you’ll most likely be directed to go. Many veterinary offices and boarding facilities offer shelter for victims as well. Listen to local news stations for listings of area shelters that are set up to house displaced pets.
A little planning and researching can help you go a long way. I know it’s easier said than done, but try not to panic and remain calm.

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Stephanie Oba is a contributing writer and physician for animals in  Alhambra. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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