Top Tips for Pet Owners During Hurricane Season

Wet Dog Days of Summer

I smell like a wet dog these days. It isn’t surprising really. It’s been wet out there. Hurricane season here in the tropics is from June to November and where there’s hurricanes, there’s rain. Lots and lots of rain. Can you imagine how stinky it would be if it really did rain cats and dogs? Just a pile of wet cats and dogs sitting in your garden. Now, that’s a thought.

Long periods of rain, stormy weather, flooding, tropical storms and hurricanes can impact pet owners and us pets in many ways, some expected and some not so much. My humans have been through a lot of hurricane seasons with pets and quite a few hurricanes too, so they suggested that I could help other pet owners and their pets, by sharing some top tips on preparing for the kind of very wet and sometimes extreme weather conditions you may encounter during hurricane season. 

I’m going to start with some of the things you may not have thought about if you haven’t lived with pets through a rainy season in the tropics.

You may not realise it, but it’s super important to get your dog used to going out in the rain. If you don’t, you may start to experience housetraining problems in bad weather because your dog doesn’t feel comfortable toileting outside. This does mean that you’ll need to make being in the rain something fun for your dogs. If you’re not from England, like my humans, you may find this a very novel concept. In England, they have to walk their dog in the rain every single day, I’ve been told. Sometimes for miles, barefoot, shivering and starving. Ok. I made that last bit up for drama, but still. They aren’t very used to sunshine there.

It’s likely that you will spend more time inside when it’s raining, so your dogs may get bored. Humans can be very boring rain companions, so spend time playing games and practicing training with your dog in the house daily. You can find a ton of fun ways to do that on YouTube. Sit down with your best furry friend, use Google, and discover new ways to have fun. If your dogs get bored and you don’t give them fun things to do. They’ll find things to do that may not be fun for you. You’ve been warned. 

Rainy season brings mosquitoes. If you haven’t already started your dog on monthly heartworm medication, you really should consider doing it soon because mosquitoes are the culprits that will give us heartworm.  You know that is a deadly disease, right? You don’t want us to die, so get a move on. Speaking of insects, heavy rain may drive many more insects and arachnids into your home. While things like scorpions and tarantulas may be frightening to you humans, to dogs and cats, they are prey and playthings. We might get bitten or stung. If we do, don’t panic unless it is in our airways and affecting our breathing. Make sure you are aware of the insects of medical importance in your region and if you are worried about your pet’s well being after they have interacted with a venomous biting creature, hurry straight down to the vet. If you can, take a photo of the bitey creature with you.

One of the things about rainy season that causes a lot of problems for pets and their humans is thunder and lightning and that rhymes with frightening for a good reason. It can be scary. So, start teaching your dog and cat to associate loud noises with positive experiences long before rainy season starts (or firework season). There are a lot of helpful sound desensitisation programmes for this available online. If you feel you need extra help, contact a professional dog trainer with experience with this issue. If it’s too late and there are already scary noises, close curtains, turn up some relaxing music, give your dog something enriching to do like a toy stuffed with food, and spend time with them. Some people find that something called a Thunder Shirt helps. If your dog is so anxious that it is affecting their wellbeing, discuss medical options with your vet. Don’t ignore them or leave them alone in a room. Can you imagine how horrible it would be if the people you loved and trusted abandoned you when you were terrified?

“Raining Cats and Dogs” by David Blackwell. is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Your Prep List for Hurricanes

Now I’m going to get to the nitty gritty. I’m going to give you a useful list of things you might want to do to prepare for a hurricane if you have a pet. I won’t be including the basic things that you need to do for yourself and your other humans as there are plenty of those lists other places. Since this is a pet friendly article, this is to help you with your pets. 

  • Make sure your pet wears an appropriate collar (not a slip or choke collar – for cats a break away collar) and identification tags throughout hurricane season. Pets are often lost during storms and it is important that rescuers can identify them to get them home to you as quickly as possible. Flooding, tree damage, lightning, doors, or windows being damaged, fences coming down are just some of the things that can result in a pet being lost. Don’t take any chances.
  • Keep your pet’s veterinary records/vaccination records in something waterproof and keep them in your ‘go bag’ should you need to evacuate. 
  • Have recent photographs of your pet easily accessible so that you can prove ownership. Ideally have photos of yourself with your pet.
  • Stock up on pet food, meds, kitty litter, and drinking water for your pets and have a bag with a week’s worth of these items ready to take should you need to evacuate.
  • Have a list of emergency contacts with all the important information about your pet including their diet, medication, emergency vet numbers, relatives or friends who can take care of them. If anything happens to you, you want to make it easy for your pets to be cared for quickly. Make sure you have arranged with someone who can care for them in an emergency.
  • Keep your leashes, collars, harnesses, muzzles, travel crates, kitty litter tray, food bowls, and everything else you need in an easy to grab location. Label everything with your name, your pet’s name, and your number.
  • If you know you’re going to be locked in the house due to flooding or extreme weather, plan to create a toilet area for your dogs. You can do this by using litter trays, pee pads, or even bring in sand or turf. 
  • Talk to your vet before the storm. Find out if they will be available if you need help. If not, find the closest emergency vet available in case you need their help.
  • If you know that evacuation is likely, start researching where you can stay with your pet that will be pet friendly. Make reservations early. 
  • During flooding, make sure your pets are safe from stepping on sharp debris, pointy nails etc. 
  • Put together a pet first aid kit in case of emergencies. 
  • Even though I’m in Yucatan and there is not a microchip registry here yet, if there is a microchip registry where you live, having your pet microchipped is an important extra layer of identification which can’t be lost. Add their registry documents to your go bag. 

If you’re reading this, I probably don’t need to tell you this, but don’t leave your dog in your home while you evacuate and definitely do not tie them up outside and leave them. If you and your pets are safe after a storm but you know that some pets in your community are not, work with local rescues to ensure the safety of those animals. If you can, buy some extra pet food and donate it to local animal welfare organisations as they will be struggling to help pets left behind. If you know your home is safe and you are able, offer to foster some of their animals before the storm. This will be a huge help to them.

If you have any other tips you think I should add to this list, please let me know. I want you and your pets to be safe this and every hurricane season. 

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