How to Build a Disaster Plan for Pets



Considering the recent earthquakes in California and the fact that it’s hurricane season on the east coast of the United States, now is the perfect time for pet retailers to start a conversation with customers about how they can make sure their furry family members are safe and sound during a natural disaster. In fact, this is a discussion that many pet owners are actually seeking out today, and for good reason—they understand that having the right plan in place for dealing with natural disasters has the power to save lives. 


“We’ve been seeing more people become aware of the need to have an emergency preparedness plan in place for their pets in the event of a natural disaster or other catastrophic event,” say Tony de Vos, president of Cardinal Pet Care. “One factor fueling this trend is the wave of major hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and wildfires that we’ve seen in recent years.  The year 2017 set a record for natural disasters—led by the 1-2-3 punch of Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma—with nearly eight percent of the U.S. population affected by such catastrophic events, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).” 


“While 2018 wasn’t as deadly, market research firm Mordor Intelligence reported that it was the fourth most costly year since 1980 in terms of insured losses, due to California’s record-setting wildfires and the onslaught of tropical storms.  This increase in natural disasters is driving more people to enact emergency plans for their families—and for their pets, by extension, since pets today are regarded as family members.”


Of course, says de Vos, there are certain regions of the country that are more prone to specific types of major natural and weather-related disasters—e.g., hurricanes in Florida and the Gulf Coast, wildfires and earthquakes in California, tornadoes in the Midwest, and so on. And while planning for these various emergency situations will require unique nuances, there are some common elements that should be included in every disaster plan. 


“First, [pet owners] should be able to pack at least a three-day supply of their pet’s food in an airtight, waterproof container, along with a three-day supply of water,” explains de Vos. noting that it’s also essential to have several weeks’ supply of any medications a pet is taking. He also recommends that pet parents should make sure they have copies of veterinary records to take along with them, since many hotels and boarding facilities require proof of vaccination before accepting animals.


Other items that are vital to emergency preparedness include:


• A sturdy crate or carrier for transporting and keeping the pet safe in the event of an evacuation. 


• A collar with an ID tag with current (and mobile) contact information, even if the animal is microchipped.  “A tag with current contact information increases the likelihood that the pet will be reunited with the owner if they get separated, since most people who find a lost animal do not have the means to read a microchip,” says de Vos. “It’s also a good idea to take along copies of a current photo of the pet and parent together, since these can be distributed to help find a lost animal and verify ownership.”


• Sanitation items such as waste bags, disposable wipes, paper towels, chlorine bleach, and litter/litter boxes for cats.  


• Familiar items such toys and bedding, which can help reduce stress for pets.


• A first-aid kit stocked with health and wound care products from a reputable vendor, like Cardinal Pet Care. “[Our] Remedy+Recovery brand offers a complete line of over-the-counter first-aid and health products for dogs that can be easily administered by pet parents to treat bites, rashes, cuts, scrapes and a variety of other injuries and irritations,” says de Vos, listing seven key items that should be in a first-aid kit for dogs:



1. Medicated Hot Spot Spray

Numbs and relieves minor pain and itching from hot spots, flea and bug bites, scrapes and scratches, and skin irritations caused by scratching. Reduces minor swelling and redness, and promotes healing.





2. Medicated Antiseptic Spray

Kills germs that can cause infection. Soothes itch and pain from minor cuts, scratches and bug bites.






3. Hydrocortisone Lotion

Used mainly to reduce inflammation and swelling from skin rashes, wet eczema and flea bite dermatitis, and in areas where scratching has cut the skin. Relieves itching and helps heal and soothe dry skin.





4. Wound & Infection Medication

An antimicrobial used on cuts, burns, bites, stitches and infections to clean and kill bacteria that cause infection and speed healing.






5. Liquid Bandage For Dogs

A spray that forms a waterproof, breathable film to protect injuries, keeping them clean and dry, and helping to heal them.






6. Ear Mite & Tick Control

An insecticide made with natural Pyrethrin that reduces itching and eliminates ear mites and ticks.





7. Professional Groomer’s Styptic Powder

Used to stop bleeding from minor superficial cuts, such as nicks that occur during nail clipping. Not for use on deep open wounds, punctures or burns.



For more ideas on what pet owners will need to prepare for a major emergency, de Vos suggests that good pet disaster kit checklists can be obtained from many animal welfare groups and emergency management government agencies, such as the website


While there are a variety of good disaster planning resources available on the internet, pet stores are uniquely suited to helping their customers in this crucial task.


“Pet supply retailers are in an excellent position to become a resource center on emergency preparedness for their local pet communities,” explains de Vos. 


That is why Remedy+Recovery is working with retailers to help them educate pet parents about the need to plan ahead of time, he says.  “One way retailers can do this is by hosting seminars on keeping pets safe in the event of an emergency and how to administer first aid using the various Remedy+Recovery products."


According to de Vos, retailers can also generate greater awareness of the need for emergency planning through merchandising displays. “They can create a Disaster Preparedness Center in their store showcasing items pets must have if the family is forced to evacuate its home,” he says. “Handing out checklists of items pet parents will need in the event of an emergency is another step retailers can take to promote preparedness.” 


Finally, retailers should invest in community outreach to proactively engage customers in the important conversation about disaster planning. “If a store is located in an area where potentially disastrous events tend to occur at a certain time of year, such as hurricanes and wildfires, the retailer can send out email blasts to customers and post on its social media pages at the beginning of the season, reminding pet parents to put an emergency plan in place for their pets,” says de Vos. 


“All of these steps will not only help the store establish itself as a resource center for emergency preparedness, but also build crucial and perhaps life-saving relationships with customers and their pets.”


For more information on Remedy+Recovery products, visit or call 1-800-433-7387.


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