As I sit back and reflect on Hurricane Florence, I am happy to announce our region narrowly escaped this catastrophic storm. It breaks my heart that many millions of people did not. My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to them.
As I reflect back on our experience with this storm I want to share how these storms emotionally affect our pets and how you can prepare them as well.
Many times we get focused on preparing for the storm, myself included, that we do not take the time to see how this is affecting them. They do not understand what is going on, but they know in their animal world that something is not normal.
My cat and dog stopped eating a week ago, but I did not know why. They did finally eat again for the first time last night. The day before the storm was expected to arrive was unsettling. When I would take Shadow outside to go to the bathroom, he would look up to the sky, put his ears back, and look at me with concern in his eyes. He did this several times and it was unexpected to see at the time, but I suspected he understood something was going on. When I told him it was time to go inside, he ran off, grabbed his favorite ball to bring it in the house because he knew he was not leaving it outside.
The night the storm was to come in I was woken by our cat who was desperately crying, but I did not know why. I got up to check on him to be sure he was safe but found nothing was wrong. When I went back to bed he jumped onto the bed and snuggled with me, which he used to do before we adopted Shadow 2 years ago. Shadow sleeps in our room which disturbs Grady, until the other night. I am convinced he knew something was wrong, but may not have known what it was. In the end, he reached out to me for comfort.
It was not until last night when I realized they both were experiencing stress-induced diarrhea which was triggered by the storm. It breaks my heart as I now put various signs together to see how this storm affected them both.
I feel bad for Shadow because I was able to get him anxiety medication for if we were to evacuate, but never thought about how staying home would have affected him. Now I see all the signs as a whole and I wish I had given him this medicine to keep his anxiety under control even though we stayed at home.
To the people who find themselves in weather-related events or crisis, do not forget to add your pets into your planning phase. If you are able to reach out to your Veterinarian, ask them for medication to help with weather-induced anxiety.
If you do not have an accommodating veterinarian, go to your local pet store and invest in anxiety relief for your animals. They will need them, especially if your pets are smart or they are emotionally close to you. They feel those emotions and these conditions will contribute to their stress factors as the storm approaches.
My last advice to assist your pets through a storm is to “never” leave them behind. They look to you for help, protection, and love. They are scared and confused even if you do not see it or they do not display it. My very intelligent German Shepherd showed physical signs in the storm which I did not see as did my smart cat. We do not see their signs of distress for our own fear and concern (which they sense as well).
My friend, if you are ever faced with a voluntary or mandatory evacuation, be sure to include your pets in your plan. Pack a bag and include the following…
- Extra leash
- Muzzle (if you have one)
- Dog waste bags
- Travel water and food bowls
- Dog food in a plastic storage bag to keep dry and fresh (enough for a week), including one bag per pet.
- Water (enough for a week, per pet)
- Any medication your pet takes
- Anxiety medication your dog may have
- Dog or pet treats
- Pet first aid kit including triple antibiotic ointment in case of injuries
- Their favorite toy/s to allow them security while they are dislocated
- If they have a favorite chew bone, include that (the objective is the make them feel safe)
- Dog boots (I know this sounds silly, but it will protect them from getting something lodged in their foot and you not know it if they did not respond immediately to it. With the boot, you can check their feet to see if anything penetrated the boot. We decided to purchase these to protect our dog’s recent foot surgery incision from being infected by dirty contaminated water and possible debris.
- Pet crates to keep them safe and allow them to sleep in a safe environment. Be sure to pack a towel or blanket from home to line it with so they have that as a form of comfort.
- Note paper that includes your pet’s name/s (include their description if you have multiple pets), their age, if they are on medication, what are they on and when do they take it. Add your name with a phone number and address so if you get separated or you lose this bag and someone finds it, they know to be looking for your pet/s.
When you are evacuating be sure to call in advance of where you are going to be sure your family, friends, hotel, or shelter will accept pets. As I discovered during this storm, this is still a problem when being forced to evacuate with your animals. We discovered contrary to information put out, hotels still DO NOT have to allow pets.
Write your pet’s name, your name, and your phone number on your pet with a permanent marker. They may be chipped, but if the power goes out and the Internet is down, then pet shelters will not be able to read their chip information. This will assist in reuniting your pet back with you if they were to get away.
Lastly, I beg you to NEVER evacuate and leave your pets behind. If you are leaving your home because it is no longer safe for you, it is not safe for them. They are dependent on you to keep them safe, DO NOT FORGET THEM DURING A CRISIS.