Protect your pup in a winter storm, hurricane,or disaster situation. Critical advice
1. Pack water and dry food. Have them at the ready in case of an evacuation.
2. Make sure she's drinking safe water. Give her the same water you're drinking.
3. Mind your dog's feet! Pads are soft and easily damaged by debris.
4. Keep your dog dry. When wet, get her dried off as soon as you can.
5. Heat kills. Dogs don't do well with direct sunlight or extended heat. Find shade!
The Dog Rules: Safety information you MUST know
"Owning a dog is the biggest commitments you’ll ever undertake. You never get a day off. So planning ahead is critical. When it comes to a disaster situation, that planning is even more important."
So says Jeff Franklin, a dog expert among dog experts. He's spent more than 20 years as the preeminent dog trainer for the U.S. Special Forces, handling elite canines in Iraq and Afghanistan, and training dogs for SWAT and police teams. He also helps owners and pets — and is as true a dog lover as you're likely to ever meet. (Check out the book about his dog-training career, Franklin: The man behind the United States Commando Dogs.)
If anyone knows how to keep your dog safe in a critical situation like a hurricane, blackout, storm, or earthquake, it's Franklin. Here are his expert tips.
1. WATER AND FOOD COME FIRST. MAKE A DOGGY GO BAG.
You've heard of a go bag, right? You should have a go bag for your dog, too. The most critical items are simple: Dry food and water.
Says Franklin: "Always have dry food ready. I put a week's worth of food in Ziploc bag, and leave it in my garage. I don’t want wet or canned dog food, which are heavy." But, more than anything else: “Water is a big deal. If nothing else, take the water.”
Action items: Put together a doggy go bag with a week's worth of dry food. Place the food in your own go bag, which should already include water, water filter, and a med kit. (For information on human go bags, see here.)
Extra credit: Consider a doggy backpack of Fido's own, like this hiking pack from Ruffwear, shown here in orange. There are several bag sizes, and there's also a slimmer hydration pack option, shown below in gray-and-green. "My dog carries her own food and water," says Franklin. "Even when we're just hiking, Abigail carries her own gear." NOTE: Acclimatize your pet to carrying a bag way BEFORE any emergency situation. Start with her wearing it for only 2 minutes a day for a week, and then 5 minutes a day for a week, slowly building up tolerance and confidence with the bag over time.
Also keep a separate doggy go bag in your vehicle. If you want to get fancy (and keep messes down), store the dry food in the Kibble Kaddie Portable Dog Food Carrier and include a collapsible bowl, too. This bowl is made of tough nylon, rather than plastic, so it won't break.
2. MAKE SURE YOUR DOG IS DRINKING SAFE WATER.
Water sources are often tainted in emergency situations, especially during flooding conditions. Share the same water that you're drinking.
Says Franklin: "I never let my dogs drink water that I'm not sure about. People say, 'It's a dog, they'll be fine.' That's not true. There's a whole list of harmful stuff that can get in water sources, whether its giardia, antifreeze, or even gasoline. Dogs get the same GI tract problems we do and it can stay in there systems for a long time."
Action items: Store as much clean water away as you can. If you know of an impending emergency (like a storm), fill up every container in the house, including the tub, and buy as many gallons of water as you can. But think long term — disasters sneak up on you, so you need ways to store water indefinitely. If you live in an apartment or smaller house, consider buying the WaterBrick system (see the first photo below). The bricks stack on top of each other, and each stores 3.5 gallons of water. For bigger spaces, invest in at least one 55 gallon water barrel, which can be stored outside or in a garage.
If you have to leave your home, you can only carry so much with you, so it is critical to invest in a water filter, which will allow you to make dirty water into clean water. The LifeStraw Flex Water Filter (the second item below) works as a straw or fits in a water bottle or hydration pack, and filters out everything from giardia and bacteria to some heavy metals. It is both a human and canine saver. The LifeStraw Mission Water Purification System is an even more capacious system.
3. MIND YOUR DOG'S FEET!
Pads are easily damaged by debris. It is probably the most fragile part of a dog's body, and the most likely to be affected in an emergency.
Says Franklin: "After an event like a hurricane, a dog may find itself walking over sharp things or through water. They have pads on their feet. And while it's a thick pad, it’s not a pair of boots. We see a lot of dogs with pretty severe injuries on their feet. Sometimes you won't even notice a scrape until it gets infected. This is quite common in a storm scenario, where they have cuts on their pads that get infected by walking in bad water."
Action items: Try to steer clear of debris and sharp items, obviously. But go carefully over your dog's feet and pads every day, looking for scrapes and cuts. Flush minor wounds with clean water and apply an antibiotic ointment. The same travel-sized medical kit you use for humans should also work for animals, says Franklin. For your go bag and vehicle kit, we like the Adventure Medical Kits Daytripper First-Aid Kit. However, the same company offers a combo human/dog medical kit, called the Adventure Medical Kits Adventure Dog Series, which includes items like a special bandage to muzzle the animal, and a bandage that doesn't stick to fur.
Extra credit: When Franklin is out in the field, he outfits his dogs with booties, like the Ruffwear Grip Tex, pictured here. "The ones with Vibram soles are the best," he says. However, similar to the doggy hiking pack, you MUST get your dog used to wearing booties regularly first. "The first time you put the booties on, your dog will act weird," says Franklin. "With dogs, consistency is everything. And they have a short attention span. So start with those two minutes a day and work up to five minutes the next week. Then ten, and so on. Eventually you will only have to put the booties on once a month to remind the dog what they feel like."
4. DRY YOUR PUP OFF.
Dog's skin gets overly soft when it's wet for extended periods — a potential issue in many emergency situations. This makes the skin prone to tearing.
Says Franklin: "Getting a dog wet is good to cool them down temporarily. Getting wet for a few hours is fine, but not 24-7. Dogs aren't designed to be in the water for long periods. When you get to a dry place, a hotel, a shelter, or back to your house, dry off the dog right away. It's also a good opportunity to check your dog all over, going over every inch and looking for bruises and scrapes, or something hidden like a tick."
5. BE MINDFUL OF TEMPERATURES.
Get your dog out of extreme heat and cold. Heat, especially, is a killer. Dogs do not do well in direct sunlight. Whenever possible, keep them out of direct sunlight. Find shade! Travel during cooler periods or the evening.
Says Franklin: "Dogs get hot and cold just like us, and it stresses them. Many dogs are used to the AC being set at 70 degrees, and then they're suddenly outside in 100-percent humidity with a fur coat that they can’t get rid of. Even the most considerate of owners often forget this."
On heat: "Heat is my number one fear for all dogs. Dogs are just not designed to be out in 90 degree heat with the sun beaming down. They naturally go to shade. If you have to travel, try to do it when its dark or cloudy. During the heat of the day, go to shade. Make a shade tent out of a tarp if you need to, or a lean-to."
Another option to help counteract the effects of heat (but not a solution), is a "cooling" vest for dogs. Douse the Swamp Cooler Cooling Vest (pictured) in cool or cold water and then fasten it around the body of your pup. As the water evaporates, it works like human sweat to bring down a dog's temperatore. (Dogs don't sweat — that's why they pant instead.) The material also reflects sun away from the skin.
On cold: Dogs are less susceptible to cold — credit the fur — but some breeds are less tolerant than others. Consider a doggy sweater and blanket. "If you have a dog that was bred for hot climates, like a 30-pound Whippet with no hair, they will freeze," says Franklin. "A German Shepard, though, will probably do better than most humans."
OTHER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR DOG & EMERGENCIES
Leashing your pup: You probably already know this, but you want the best leash sold on the market to help control your canine, and keep her comfortable. The Front Range Adventure Harness, shown here in orange, gets high marks for tough construction, including all aluminum attachment rings and tear-proof webbing, and an eye to a perfect fit.
On smaller dogs: "If you have a small dog, a lap dog, do be aware they are more fragile than, say, a 70 pound dog. They need much more care in an emergency scenario. You should have a carrier for them, for sure. And you might consider practicing having them in a backpack, or even a baby-type carrier where they ride on your chest. This will keep them out of the water in a flood, or having to get over debris." While it looks kind of crazy, the K9 Sports Sack has a system where the dog is loaded onto the back. It fits canines up to 30 pounds and owners swear by them. Again, get your pup used to being carried like this before using in an emergency situation.
On vaccines: "Get your vaccines now, when everything is normal and okay. You don't want to get stuck in a hurricane and have your dog walking around in crappy water, and realize your vaccines are out of date."
On emergency shelters & your dog: If you end up in an emergency shelter, I tell my clients to keep their dogs to themselves. Don't let him or her play with strangers' dogs. I've heard horror stories of shelter dog fights where the dog needs stitches. There's no benefit to letting your dog socialize in a shelter situation.
Pet carriers and evacuation: Be darn sure you have a pet carrier which fits your dog, at the ready. Especially one suited for airline travel. If you've got to evacuate by air — and why wouldn't you simply want to fly someplace nicer/warmer/happier? — you don't want to find yourself looking for a pet store in the middle of a hurricane. For bullet-proof construction that works in both cars and airlines, we suggest the Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier. It has three critical functions: It fits under airline seats; it is specifically made to be secured by a car seat belt, and it has actually been crash tested, using the same methods as those used to test child seats.
On evacuating with your dog: "I don’t think I can name a scenario where I would leave my dog, Abigail, behind. She's been with me since the day she was born, I think of her as my best friend. If you get your family in a car or hike down the road, there's room for your dog, even if she's on your lap."
If a disaster strikes when you're not at home: If you're at work, and can't get home because of a sudden emergency, have a contingency plan set up with a neighbor, who should also have a key, and know where your doggy go bag is located. Don't count on phone communication — cell coverage could go down. The neighbor should know to collect your pet right away if you're at work and unable to get home quickly.
For more information about Jeff Franklin and his incredible career working with dogs around the world, check out the book, Franklin: The man behind the United States Commando Dogs.) He is also the owner of Cobra Canine, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
About us: Preparation Concierge is devoted to emergency planning and disaster preparation. We offer users level 101 information and advice , and a smartly curated list of gear, food, and water solutions . We take a particular interest in urban and suburban areas — these populations are especially fragile and susceptible to disasters, and are often the most unprepared.