At the time of typing this, Hurricane Idalia is a Category 3 storm, is pummeling the west coast of Florida, and is expected to reach our state of South Carolina later tonight. With natural events such as this being relatively common for us and surrounding states, we figured now is as good a time as any to give our top tips for being ready for the wrath of mother nature when you are a pet parent.
Even if your pet is not necessarily prone to heightened anxiety during thunderstorms, a hurricane if a horse of a different color that could trigger an anxiety event in even the most confident canine. Prescription medications like Trazodone (tablets) and Sileo (oral gel) are the two that we would recommend the most (you can find a bit more information on them both here). There may be over-the-counter options as well, such as various CBD products, though we cannot speak to the efficacy of such products. If you feel that you may need any of the prescription anxiety medications, pick them up in advance. We strongly recommend calling us at least 5 days ahead of a major storm to place a pick-up order for one of these, just in case your pet may need to be seen first (prescriptions can not be released to a client if the patient has not been seen by us within the last 12 months, per federal law).
Many pets are on prescription diets. If this pertains to your pet, we strongly encourage you to purchase extra food leading up to a major storm in case the severity inhibits timely food deliveries the week of the storm's approach. It is worth considering that even deliveries from online pharmacies often experience increased delays due to natural events so you may want to consider getting twice what you would normally need. For example, if you typically purchase a case of 12 cans per week, we recommend purchasing an extra case the week prior to the event.
Water quality is often negatively impacted by severe storms. Stock up on a reasonable amount of water prior to a severe storm, which can be as simple as filling up any clean and empty jugs you may have around the house with tap water. If you opt to purchase water from the store leading up to a storm, take only what you think you'll need and not more. Either way, jugs of water should be stored in a dark place to prevent algae from developing in them, because some types of algae can be toxic. We recommend storing them in a pantry, closet, or even simply in a cardboard box that can be closed.
If you live in an area that might require evacuation (this is common for communities that surround rivers) you may want to arrange for a pet friendly hotel as soon as it seems the storm could cause flooding. As flooding can be difficult to predict, we suggest practicing an abundance of caution and making arrangements as soon as it is apparent a storm will likely make landfall and approach our state. Do not assume you will be able to rely on a boarding facility, because most boarding facilities do not allow pets to stay if there is a severe hurricane approaching. And if you need to make arrangements with friends or family who are in a less risky area, be sure to be polite and confirm that nobody has pet allergies so you know whether or not to bring any over-the-counter allergy medications with you.
Many people board up their windows, but many other people can't afford the wood to do so! If this applies to you, your best option may be to try to prevent the amount of scattered glass in the home if a window does happen to unfortunately break. You can do this by taking a sheet and using push pins or nails to securely fasten the sheet to the window frame on the sides and top, and leaving the bottom of the sheet unfastened. This allows any broken glass to fall to the floor directly below the window rather than flying into the room, and gives rushing wind a place to go (down) rather than blowing the sheet off of the window frame.
In the event that an evacuation may be necessary for you, you will want to be ready. Part of that preparation is making sure your pets are fully up to date on vaccinations and having the updated vaccine records with you and ready to go. Furthermore, standing water after the storm can harbor nasty illnesses such as Leptospirosis, and our DHLPP vaccine can protect your dogs against this! You may not be able to get into your vet's office at the last minute, so at least 5-7 days in advance is our recommendation. However, if you stay on top of keeping your pet's vaccines updated each year when they are due, this shouldn't be an issue because you'll already be prepared!
Further considerations of things to stock up on might be: pee pads (even if your dog does not use them, they may need to during the storm), a good short leash and collar in case evacuation is necessary, Pill Pockets in case your pet needs their medications hidden in a tasty treat in order to take them, and a couple of new toys that might make things a bit more fun to distract from the potential chaos outdoors.
Please feel free to share this with friends and family to help them prepare as well. Stay safe out there!