September is National Preparedness Month
September is National Preparedness Month. While often the best prevention is worth more than the cure or treatment, sometimes no emergency can be prevented.
As a vet, I spend many late nights on call seeing a lot of emergencies. And not every emergency can be prevented! Things happen, but here are some tips for how you can stay savvy and prepared for the worst.
1. Start a savings fund for your pet! Just like a college fund for your kid, but you do not necessarily need to save up as much.
If you start saving a dollar a day, or 20$ a month from the first day you get your puppy, it will help build that savings for an emergency.
2. Consider pet insurance. Pet insurance is a little different than your human medical insurance. You will still need to pay the price of the vet bill up front at the vet office. However, pet insurance works best if you get it when your pet is young. It won’t cover costs if your pet is aged, already has kidney disease or cancer.
Top Tip: I recommend an insurance plan for your farm and ranch, cattle, and equines. No matter how much they cost. I also recommend before you buy a horse, have a trusted vet check it out for you.
What do I have as back up plans?
Care Credit and ScratchPay are great resources and act as payment plans for large vet and medical bills.
How can I prevent common emergencies?
No one can stop a hurricane, control the weather, or prevent cancer. But some of the most common emergencies and problems I see are:
- Vomiting, diarrhea from poor diets
- Lameness, torn ACL, arthritis, and other ailments from obesity in dogs.
- Parvo, or other diseases from not vaccinating
- Intact male dogs that get out and get hit by a car because they are scouting for girlfriends
- Pyometra (infection in the uterus) of an intact female dog, unwanted pregnancy in a female dog and need for C-section
- Skin infection in an itchy dog/cat from fleas and mites
How can each be prevented?
- Feed your dog a quality diet and limit treats.
- Make sure you DO NOT OVERFEED your pet and encourage daily activity and exercise. Also, what my own doctor tells me!
- Many diseases are preventable with vaccines!
- Spay and neuter your pets! If you plan on breeding, make sure you have the funds for emergencies with your pregnant females and puppies. Not every pregnancy goes smoothly, and many things can go wrong for mama dog and puppy. So, if you are not prepared to pay for an emergency C-section (yes, even in your Great Dane!) or pay for deworming and vaccines in 8 puppies, then get your dogs fixed.
- Keep your dog and cat on monthly flea, tick, and heartworm prevention, and you’ll prevent the most common skin diseases and environmental allergies to dogs, cats, and humans!
How do I prepare for a hurricane/tornado/earthquake or other natural disaster?
While you can’t control the weather, there’s a lot you can do now to make sure you don't lose your pet, can track your pet or be re-united with your pet in the event of a natural disaster.
These are some things you can do now:
- Microchip your pet so he can be easily identified if you get separated. Make sure your microchip address and contact are up to date! Proper photos of your pet will aid in identification if you get separated.
- Have an evacuation plan, transportation and listen to local sources about when to evacuate.
- Build an emergency kit. Have a bag prepped with water bowls, extra food, bottled water, any extra medications your pet needs, and a first aid kit. Have your bag labeled with your pets ID, pictures at hand, and microchip, collar, ID tag and records. Have an extra slip lead or harness handy.
- Have a crate for safe travel or transport if needed. Crate and kennel training can come in handy when you must travel on short notice and leave in the event of an incoming storm. If your pet is not used to driving in the car or staying in a crate for longer periods, now is the time to start training. Cats can have a hard time adjusting to travel crates. Make sure it is a non-collapsible material, that is it roomy and that it has many windows for the cat to look outside or feel visible but secure. Again, keep this crate out in common areas, sprinkle in cat nip on a comfy bed, or a pheromone spray and even feed and offer treats in it. This will help get your cat accustomed to this object and be comfortable going in/out of it and it won’t feel foreign to them.
- Stay informed. Pay attention to wireless emergency alerts for local alerts and warnings sent by state and local public safety officials. Listen to local officials when told to evacuate or shelter in place. Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster.
What about my horses/cattle?
It may not always be possible to move your entire herd in the event of a hurricane. But when farmers had to, luck favored the prepared: ranchers were able to load up cattle to higher ground or safer pastures and hauled horses inland to larger farms for temporary stabling. Many Expo/rodeo arenas opened their stalls to evacuees.
If you cannot safely move your horse, what other option do you have? One thing is for sure, do not leave things up to chance or the last minute, as it will not go your way.
We have “trailer practice days” all the time at our barn. Where I check my truck and hook ups, make sure my lights work, move my trailer 5 feet, and load and unload my horse. Sometimes we drive around the block. That's it. We load multiple horses. We practice. Even the 30-year-old horse with lameness gets practice (he wears fancy sneakers for the ride).
If you have horses and cattle, have a plan. Have facilities, have a trailer, or have a backup plan: to phone a friend for a trailer or hauler. Have an extra stock of hay, whether it’s in bales or round bales, salt, and a way to warm water troughs. Make sure your herd has access to shelter in inclement weather. Make sure you have a way to get out and break ice in troughs and check on your herd, even in bad weather.
More Tips for Large Animals
If you have pets such as horses, goats, or pigs on your property, be sure to prepare before a disaster.
In addition to the tips above:
Ensure all animals have some form of identification. Evacuate animals earlier, whenever possible. Map out primary and secondary routes in advance. Make available vehicles and trailers needed for transporting and supporting each type of animal. Also make available experienced handlers and drivers. Ensure destinations have food, water, veterinary care, and handling equipment.
If evacuation is not possible, animal owners must decide whether to move large animals to a barn or turn them loose outside.
Natalie Lord, DVM