Westbury Animal Hospital
713.723.3666 · 4917 S. Willow Dr. Houston, Texas 77035 

By Kathleen Gressot, DVM

We never like to think about things going wrong in our lives – but as Ben Franklin said “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. There are several emergency situations involving your pets that every owner should think about:

1)   Medical emergencies

Here at Westbury Animal Hospital, we are open 24/7 and see a large number of emergencies during regular hours and after hours. We have an ICU and often keep animals hospitalized, sometimes for many days. One of the hardest things about working emergency is not the case itself, but the finances involved. There are many emergencies that can cost over a thousand dollars to treat - a dog that’s eaten a toy that needs to be surgically removed, a cat with a urethral blockage, an animal hit by a car, treating severe wounds from a dog attack, a dog with heatstroke – the list goes on. “Emergency” by definition means unplanned, so many owners are blindsided by the situation at hand. Strategies to cope with medical emergencies:

  • The first way to deal with emergencies is to prevent them in the first place!
  • Spay/neuter your pets. Dogs who are intact are more likely to try to escape the house and run into trouble on their quest for love. These pets get hit by cars, attacked by animals they run into, get into toxic plants, are bitten by snakes.
  • Avoid toxicities: Research plants in your yard and in your house - make sure they are not toxic to animals. Make sure to keep all medications far out of pets’ reach. Know what foods you should not be using as treats.
  • Be mindful of animals outside when it is hot outside (see previous articles about heatstroke prevention)
    • Start an emergency fund in case the unpreventable happens. Whether you keep it in a cookie jar or open a no-fee savings account, putting some money aside for an unexpected emergency surgery or multi-day hospitalization will help your pet get the best care for what ails them.

2)   Disaster preparedness

Being Houstonians, we know that we are more likely to have certain natural disasters like flooding, hurricanes, occasionally tornados. There are other emergencies that can happen regardless of location, like house fires, gas leaks, etc. We are helpless against the elements, but there are steps we can take to make things a bit easier:

  • Make sure your pets have updated ID tags and have microchips. Word of wisdom: microchips are useless unless you REGISTER them and keep your information updated with the company
  • You can get Rescue Alert Stickers to place on a window near your front door. On it you can alert rescue workers to how many people and pets are in the house.
  • Make sure to have evacuation route planned ahead of time. Research pet-friendly hotels along that route, make sure your possible hosts are willing to take your pets as well.
  • Pack evacuation kits, making sure to think about what your pets might need. Every household should have a large bin with everything needed for a quick get-away. Everything you might need for at least 2-3 days if you don’t have time to pack. Things such as copies of important documents, changes of clothes, water and non-perishable food, first aid kits, blankets, flashlights, an emergency radio, etc.
  • All pets: Veterinary records. Photos of pets in case you get separated and need to make lost posters. Several days of food (make sure you have a can opener)
  • Cats: pillowcase can be used for transportation if you don’t have time to dig out the carrier. Trays and litter.
  • Dogs: Toys. Extra leashes/collars.

Please visit www.ready.gov for FEMA’s recommendations on what else should go into your household’s emergency preparedness plan, detailed lists of what should be included in evacuation kits.

3)   Designated caretakers

If anything should happen to you, do you have a plan for your pets? Thinking about who could take in your pets and asking your choice if they are willing gives everyone peace of mind that the pets will be well cared for. Make sure the person you’ve chosen is aware of your pets’ medical history and keep an updated copy of vet records for them.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – and a little preparedness goes a long way as well. When an emergency strikes, the stress and emotion are already running high. Make sure you don’t have to worry about your pets should the worse occur.

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