Preparing Pets for When Disaster Strikes

Two students examine a dog

Disaster can strike anywhere at any time, and the best way to survive is to be prepared early, for both yourself and your pets.

“Hurricane season begins June 1 and is a great time to review your personal preparedness plan,” said Dr. Wesley Bissett, director of the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team. “While you make sure all of your family members are covered in the event of a disaster, make sure the four-legged members of your family are included in the planning process.”

It’s important to remember that if you have to evacuate your home, you will often have to do so very quickly. Know ahead of time the route you will take, and identify potential shelter locations along the route. Make sure you know which shelters will accommodate pets, or if there are designated shelters for evacuated animals nearby.

“Plan to carry enough food, water, and medications for your family and your pet for at least three to five days, make sure you have veterinary records and photos of you and your pets, and check that your pet’s tags are up to date and securely fastened on the collar,” Bissett said. “These documents will help ensure your pet is cared for in the best way possible during a stay at the shelter and will also make the reunification process much easier. If you have time, microchips are a great way to make sure your pet stays safe and sound until you are able to return to the shelter.”

Pets can’t communicate the anxiety and fear they feel during a disaster, so it’s important to watch your pets for signs of anxiety. When evacuating with your pets, have a secure carrier, leash, or harness to keep them from running off in panic.

“Bringing a few items from home, such as a blanket or special toy, will help make your pet comfortable.” said Bissett, “and will help to reduce their stress during the evacuation.”

Some people have livestock or exotic pets that can be problematic to plan for. For this reason, it is necessary to plan early.

“If there is no shelter location designated for livestock, feed and water should be left in place on the highest ground on your property,” said Bissett. “Gates between pastures and doors to stalls and barns should be left open so these animals can get to safety.”

For smaller exotic pets, such as pocket pets, reptiles, or amphibians, it is necessary to call the shelters along your route ahead of time to verify they are able to accommodate exotic species.

Most importantly, don’t leave your pets behind. They most likely will not be able to survive on their own, and the likelihood that you will be able to find them when you return is not great. To make evacuating with your pet easier, checklists and informational brochures may be found at, or ask your local veterinarian for suggestions.

Communities in different locations face different types of disasters, so in developing your plan, be sure to assess the risks around you and prepare your plan accordingly. Being prepared for disasters saves people, pets, and property.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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