Tips offered for preparing pets for emergencies

Veterinarian tells residents to plan ahead with extra food, water, medicine

By: Chris Jackett | Farmington Press | Published April 29, 2013

 Plaza Veterinary veterinarian Christian Ast speaks to pet owners April 24 at the Costick Center in Farmington Hills about how to care for pets in case of emergencies.

Plaza Veterinary veterinarian Christian Ast speaks to pet owners April 24 at the Costick Center in Farmington Hills about how to care for pets in case of emergencies.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

FARMINGTON HILLS — When disaster strikes, are you prepared to save not only yourself, but also your pets?

That was the question posed during an hour-long discussion April 24 at the Costick Center during an Emergency Preparedness Committee meeting featuring Christian Ast, a veterinarian from Plaza Veterinary Hospital in Farmington.

“It had been discussed at our EPC meetings for a little while,” said Tim Tutak, EPC co-chair. “Should a disaster ever hit here, pets usually get forgotten in the shuffle. But if you have to leave the house in 10-20 minutes, you should have a bag, and pets should be the same.”

After showing a video on how Hurricane Katrina victims were unprepared for evacuating with their pets, Ast provided attendees with a range of tips for being ready if a tornado, earthquake, hurricane or any sort of disaster were to strike.

“The general rule of thumb is three days of food and water. That is in addition to the food and water you set aside for yourself,” Ast said, noting that most pets need about 1 oz. of water per day for each pound they weigh.

He also said copies of paperwork — such as records of blood work, vaccine certificates, registrations, etc. — sealed in a plastic bag or stored digitally on a flash drive are also important to have.

“Even if it doesn’t mean anything to you, it’s important for you to have if you’re in Chicago,” Ast said. “You can just hand it over and say your cat has kidney disease.”

Many of the lessons expanded upon human-focused lessons several attendees had learned during a six-week Community Emergency Response Training, or CERT, class.

“After the first two sessions, they asked, ‘What about pets?’” Tutak said. “So we added a seventh week.”

With the hustle and bustle of an evacuation scenario, Ast said, getting your pet to go with you could be even tougher than normal because they may be scared. That, and the potentially unfamiliar territory you’d be traveling to, make it important to have a crate or carrier available for each pet so they don’t hop off your lap or run away while being transported. If possible, Ast said, plan for a pet-friendly place to go during an emergency.

“Many animals are going to run away in an emergency. Some are going to bite; others are going to hide,” Ast said. “Your pet is safer in the crate or in the carrier than in your lap. A picture of you with your pet (is also a good idea) in case you get separated.”

Ast also advocated micro-chipping; a small chip is implanted under the skin so a veterinarian or shelter can scan it to determine the pet’s name and the owner’s contact information if the pet is not wearing identification on a collar or if an ownership dispute arises.

“The microchip is not a GPS unit,” Ast said. “You cannot track it on your smartphone.”

Although an extra dosage of any pet medications is also important to have set aside, Ast said it should be cycled in and out of use so it does not expire.

“Don’t feel like that box needs to be sealed up and never looked at unless there’s a problem,” Ast said.

Ast also said American Red Cross offers pet First Aid and CPR clinics for those who may be interested.

For more detailed information on emergency preparedness, visit