How to keep your animal companions safe in an emergency


By Stephanie Heckman, Red Cross Public Relations Intern

April was Pet First Aid Awareness Month but it’s never too late to prepare!

Animal companions are especially prone to injuries and sickness during the hot months of late spring and summer. The American Red Cross advises pet parents to watch out for heat stroke, a common ailment that can quickly kill humans and animals. Never leave children or pets alone in a parked car. During hot weather, the inside of a car can easily reach 120 degrees in only minutes.

The signs of heat stroke in animals include heavy panting, the inability to lie down or get up, brick-red gums or an unusually high pulse. If you suspect an animal may have heat stroke, quickly cool him or her off with cold water, such as through a hose or water bottle. Rush the pet to a veterinary office immediately, as heat stroke can lead to organ damage and death.

Other hazards include open doors and windows, which can lead to an easy escape to danger, and poisonious materials. For example, chocolate, alcohol, grapes, antifreeze, lilies and poinsettia can all be deadly to pets. Visit the ASPCA Poison Control Center to find out what substances can be dangerous to animals. If you suspect that your dog or cat has eaten a poisonous substance, call your veterinary or animal poison control hotline immediately.

Pet First Aid is an important skill for any animal caretaker to know. Pets can choke, break limbs or have seizures, just like people can. Many Red Cross chapters offer Pet First Aid courses, which you can find here or through online videos such as this one by the Louiville Chapter.  You can also purchase a cat First Aid or dog First Aid book through the Red Cross.

Keep your animals safe through basic preventive measures. Aside from ensuring that each pet has a collar with an identification tag, ask your veterinarian to microship your animal. This procedure is affordable, painless, lasts a lifetime and can save your pet from being euthanized at a shelter. In the case of your animal escaping or becoming lost in a disaster, shelters can scan the animal for an ID chip that contains your phone number. Spay and neuter your pet to prevent the urge to wander and always keep him or her in the home, on a leash or in a securly fenched yard.

When natural disasters or other catastrophies strike, many animals become lost or die, due to lack of preparation. Make future plans with friends or family, in the case of evacuation. Contact hotels and boarding facilities to find out which ones will take your animals in the event of a disaster. Always make sure that your disaster preparation kit includes a leash and harness or carrier, dry and canned food, bottled water, a bowl and can opener, medical records, essential medications and an up-to-date photo of each pet.

For more information, check out the Red Cross Pet and Disaster Safety Checklist.

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