Cronulla Veterinary Clinic provides medical care for pets in Sutherland Shire.
In Australia we have our fair share of natural disasters, ranging from storms, cyclones and tornados, to floods, heatwaves and bushfires. These implacable forces affect us as well as our pets, livestock, and wildlife.
In the Sutherland Shire, we are not immune to these disasters. Everyone still remembers the December 2015 storms that wreaked havoc in the area—especially in the Kurnell community. And we all remember the damage of the more recent storms in early June that combined with King Tides in our seaside community.
In light of the possibility—even certainty—that natural disasters will strike in the future, it is wise not to just have an Emergency Plan for ourselves, but to include our pets as well. Disasters can hit us quickly and without too much warning, so it is good to be prepared!
The first step is preparing for an emergency is usually gathering supplies. In addition to supplies for yourself, make sure you have a pet emergency kit prepared. Items included in the emergency kit can include:
- Food (ideally in waterproof containers) and bottled water
- Food and water dishes
- Medications (clearly labelled) and medical records (including up to date vaccination records)
- Collar or harness and lead, or pet carry cage
- Cat litter tray and litter
- Toys, blankets, and treats
- First aid kit (including bandages, swabs, cotton wool, betadine, tweezers, scissors, gloves, and even a muzzle or thick gloves in case your pet lashes out due to pain or panic)
- A current photo of your pet for identification purposes
Make sure your pet is properly identified. In the case of dogs and cats, microchipping is compulsory in NSW, which already saves a lot of pets the trauma of not being able to be reunited with their owners! Make sure your details are up to date, however.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a second identification in the form of a tag with your pet’s name, contact numbers and vet’s phone number, or your phone number written or stitched onto the collar, in case microchip scanning and accessing the database is not immediately possible.
Other pets such as birds, pocket pets (rats, mice, rabbits, guinea pigs), and reptiles are not often microchipped, so consider other options for ID. Have an appropriate and practical travel carrier available for these pets.
When Disaster Strikes
As soon as an emergency situation strikes, decide early whether you are going to evacuate or stay at home, so you can put your disaster plan in action.
If you choose to evacuate, do it early. Take your pets to friends, relatives, or a boarding facility in a safe area. Remember that for boarding you will need vaccination records.
If you must leave your pet behind, let the neighbours know and put a notice on your door with information what pets are in the house and where. But be aware this is the worst option as it may put your pets in great danger. Lock them in the safest enclosed room (for example, the bathroom), and provide food and plenty of water, as well as litter
If you decide to stay, bring your pets inside and confine them in a safe room. Do not leave them outside or tie them up as they can seriously hurt themselves, especially when unsupervised.
After Initial Incident
Look out for hazards at your pet’s level during and after a storm, such as fallen live power lines, debris, spilled chemicals, glass, polluted water, and so on.
Pets can be very anxious during and after severe weather conditions, and can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, just like us. Try to keep your pet calm and continue a routine. Feed, play, walk and groom at the usual times if at all possible. If you do notice behavioural changes such as loss of toilet training, barking or whining more than usual for no apparent reason, hiding or avoiding interactions, loss of appetite, or being more irritable or even showing signs of aggression, you may need to seek professional help from your veterinarian.
In case of bushfires, follow your local council and emergency services’ guidelines. Find out where the closest evacuation centre is and whether it allows pets.
In case of flood risks, check if your property is at risk, and consider early evacuation to higher ground. You may be cut off from assistance so have your emergency kit ready. Floodwater may contain harmful chemicals so make sure to clean your pet immediately if he/she falls into the water.
Thunderstorms can cause great anxiety in pets. Contact your veterinarian if you think your pet has thunderstorm anxiety, make sure pets are brought inside and kept in an area where they feel safe.
Hot weather conditions can be very risky, especially for very young and older pets, pets with heart or respiratory conditions as well as for obese and brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds.
For further information, visit our page on heat injury and heat stroke in pets.
For further information on these topics, as well as for information on how to support your horses and livestock, please visit the AVA page on pets and natural disasters, or contact the Cronulla Veterinary Clinic on 02 9527 2604 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.