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by Dr. Rachel Addleman, DVM, DiplABVP, CVA
Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, Dr. Addleman has advanced training and Board Certification in feline medicine. She practices in Houston, Texas and can be found at AnimalFixer.com

Hurricane IkeIn 2008 hurricane Ike left our cat hospital without power or water for a week. Some veterinary clinics were forced to close down, but we stayed open and operated as a MASH unit for cats who needed us. We learned lessons about operating under difficult circumstances. We also experienced first hand how important it is for pet owners to have their animals prepared for similar disasters.

The first hours back in the clinic were disorienting. Where were the flashlights and the extra batteries? How can we see to work?

First we needed a reasonable place to examine patients, so the tables were moved into the front lobby where the windows were the largest. Then we rigged IV stands with flashlights and brought what diagnostic equipment we could use without electricity up to the front. The doctor’s office had windows, and I examined and treated more than a few patients as they were scrambling across my desk!

Items we could salvage in the refrigerators were packed into coolers but our ice supply was limited. We ran the phone through the fax machine line, because fancy phone systems don’t operate without electricity. Without computers, printers or photocopiers, we had to hand copy vaccine and health records onto letterhead for clients who urgently needed pet records for travel out of the city, or in order to board them in kennels, or take them to hotels.

Clients panicked when they realized they needed a refill of their pet’s medication or that medication had gone bad in the refrigerator. We hand filled out prescription labels and continued to dispense medications until our supply had run out.

ExaminationWe treated cats with cancer, cats in heart failure, and cats that were lost and then found in the storm. We vaccinated cats for rabies until our vaccine supply went bad without enough ice. We placed IV catheters and administered fluids, treated skin abscesses, asthmatics, and were thankful when other veterinary clinics with electricity stepped in to help our patients when we couldn’t.

Disaster preparedness is an important part of being a responsible pet owner. Your family veterinarian may not be so fortunate as to be able to help you get your animals records in order. You may not have time to refill medications as you head out of town. Take some time to prepare the entire family (pets included) for disasters.

Pet Disaster Preparedness

  • 2013 Hurrican Pet Preparedness Dr Rachel Addleman Houston Animal Acupuncture and HerbsVaccine and Medical Records - Prepare a file with current vaccine and medical records. Include feeding and medication instructions, and recent pictures of your animals in case they are lost.

  • Current Identification - Make sure your pet’s identification is up to date. Is their collar tag current? Does the microchip company have your current information? Many pets survive a natural disaster but are not able to be reunited with their owners.

  • Medication Supply -  Make sure to always have a week or two of medication on hand. Don’t wait until it is close to running out. Remember to have an available ice pack and cooler for refrigerated medication.

  • Sedation - Does your pet require a sedative for travel? This often requested medication is often the first to run out during a crisis.

  • Flea and Heartworm Treatments - Have extra flea and heartworm medication. Your house may not have fleas, but where you’re going might.

  • Secure Kennel – Make sure to have a secure kennel to house your pet. Replace your kennel if the screws are not sturdy or the door doesn’t close properly. During the last hurricane, pet stores ran out of kennels. Some hotels are not willing to house pets without a kennel.

  • Bottled Water and Extra Food - Don’t forget a can opener and spoons if your pet eats canned food. Rotate the food stock as needed.

  • Plastic Bags - Keep extra plastic bags available to clean up and pack away pet waste. For cats, keep an extra bag of litter and a small litter pan available.

  • Update Information - Yearly and make sure your supplies are fresh.