Planning for the worst is what’s best for your pet

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Although it can prove challenging, planning for unforeseen circumstances is in the best interest of your four-legged friends.
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By Kim Gilliam

Responsible owners focus on the day-to-day needs of their pets: ensuring they are happy and healthy with the right food, exercise, medical care, grooming and attention. But it can be hard to plan for future situations that we hope never arise, from small accidents around the home to natural disasters to being unable to care for them ourselves. But these require our attention too. Here are tips for getting started. 

First, you can create a pet first aid kit to have on-hand if they become sick or injured at home or while you are on a trip together containing:

HYDROGEN PEROXIDE: If your pet ingests something toxic you may need this to induce vomiting; a poison control professional or your vet can provide proper instruction.

TRIPLE ANTIBIOTIC OINTMENT: A must if your pet is outdoorsy. Use on cuts or scrapes to help prevent infection, relieve pain and provide a barrier from bacteria and germs.

GAUZE, BANDAGES, SCISSORS AND TAPE: In an emergency, these items help control bleeding, make a temporary brace for suspected fractures and can serve as a makeshift muzzle.

ALCOHOL WIPES: Use to clean and sterilize wounds and tools. You can also address heat stroke by wiping their paw pads, where the evaporating alcohol pulls away heat to cool the overheated animal.

STYPTIC POWDER: This antiseptic clotting agent helps stop bleeding and prevents bacteria from entering the blood stream. Use on claws trimmed too short and external injuries.

SALINE EYE SOLUTION/ ARTIFICIAL TEARS: Saline flushes out irritated eyes, then artificial tears soothe irritation.

BENADRYL: Used for allergic reactions. Confirm the appropriate dose with your vet.

MEDICATIONS: Ask your vet for a backup supply of prescribed medications. It’s also good to have anti-diarrhea pills, flea/tick meds and approved sedatives if traveling.

In preparing for a natural disaster, you will want to add some other emergency items. This includes ownership papers and proof of vaccinations in an airtight container, a week’s worth of food and water, a list of helpful neighbors/ emergency boarding facilities/pet friendly hotels you can turn to in a time of need, spare collar with ID tags/leash/carrier for transporting your pet safely and a clean blanket/towel that could serve as a bed.

Take this chance to ensure your pet’s ID tags and microchip have your current information including cell phone number or have them microchipped. And make specific arrangements in case you are away during a disaster or evacuation order — identify someone you trust to pick up your pets and meet you at a specified location. Give them a key to your home and show them where your pets are likely to be (especially if they hide when they’re
nervous) and where your disaster supplies are kept. A dog walker or pet-sitter may be
able to help. Discuss the possibility well in advance.

Now comes the hardest part: what happens if you die, become ill or face a personal tragedy where you are unable to care for your pet? While you may hope that a family member or friend would take them in, sadly it can happen that no one steps forward.

The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria offers great advice on creating “A Plan for Your Pets” as follows:

INSTRUCTIONS: Specify who should be contacted to care for your pet(s), their vet info, any medical conditions that require treatment, what food they eat and even a description of their personality, likes and dislikes in the event they need to be rehomed to expedite finding the right family. The Welfare League provides a form you can complete. Print one for home and give a copy to your vet to store in the animal’s record.

IDENTIFICATION: In stressful situations, it is not uncommon for an animal to run away from home so it is critical that the animal’s ID and microchip are current.

SELECT A CAREGIVER: Identify who could care for your pet in an emergency or if you die. Talk with them now to make sure they are willing to play this role and consider having several alternative caregivers just in case.

LONG-TERM CARE: Consider including instructions about the care of your pet(s) in your durable power of attorney, which allows someone to care for your pet while you’re living. Set aside funds to cover the cost of your pet’s care if something happens to you. Trusts range from the simple to the complex – estate planning attorneys can help set up the right type for your situation.

While no one likes to think about illness or emergencies, what is happening in Texas and Florida due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is a poignant reminder that many things are outside of our control. Prepare now so that you can have peace of mind that your pets will be taken care of in any unforeseen situation.

Kim Gilliam owns Alexandria’s Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym, with her husband, Kevin Gilliam.

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