When starting on the path to being more prepared, regardless of the reason, most people often gravitate to the flashy and often most thought about things. Things that go bang, food, vehicles, gear, and maybe even a bug out property. Any plan when tested will often time show holes, it is for this reason that we test our plans and see what things we did not think about.
Pets are often one of the things that can slip through the cracks. We take for granted that there is always pet food at the grocery store. Or for those whose animals are on medications that they will be readily available. If things went bad today how long could you feed your animals for? Do you have supplies to treat any injuries that may come up? Have you taken their needs into account when you planned how much water you keep in hand?
For many people, myself included, our pets are like family members. It would take an awfully dire situation for me to turn my back on them. So, I consider them in the preparedness steps that I have taken to ensure that my family is taken care of in a number of situations that we may find ourselves in.
During the initial panic that we saw spreading throughout the world in the early part of the last year amidst the news of a global pandemic many people went into full on panic mode. Buying anything they could think of, with an extra side of toilet paper. One thing I noticed for several months from that point and into the summer was that many stores were lacking the typical variety and stock of pet foods, among many other items.
With so many things out of stock and grocery store shelves being almost empty for so long it was a complete shock to the typical American psyche. We hear about these things in other less modernized countries and in localized situations closer to home after a disaster, but never at our local grocery. People were worried about being able to put food on their tables, not necessarily thinking about what was going to go into the dog bowl.
If you have pets, they should be considered in your planning if you are able to do so. The good news on this is that animals are usually simple. They need their basic needs met (food, water, medical) and to have the love and attention of their family. Before you go out and buy a pallet of dog food it is important to plan out what your goals are in preparing for your pets. How much food do you need for a typical week or month? Where and how will you store it to make sure that rodents cannot get into it?
Once you determine how much food your animal goes through you need to work out a storage system. There are many products available for this and it can be as simple or as complicated as your want to make it. My personal preference is to use something that seals well for anything that is open. I use the pet food vaults that are available online or from most chain pet stores. They come in a variety of sizes and allow me to empty large bags of dog food into them and they stay sealed up to prevent ants or rodents and keep the food fresh. Since I have multiple dogs that eat different foods, I have one for each.
Once storage is worked out you need to get enough food for the amount of time you wish to be prepared for. Bagged dog food can be stored in empty coolers, plastic or metal totes, or even metal trash cans. The options for this are endless and can be customized to meet your individual needs. Starting this can be as easy as picking up some extra food each time you shop and storing it accordingly until you have enough to last for the time you are planning for. The good news is that if you are in a bind you can buy something different than what your pets normally eat, when it comes down to it, they will be happy to eat, just like anyone else would. Remember to rotate on a first in first out method to ensure that everything stays as fresh as can be. If you are storing a different brand this may not work for you so keep that in mind when stocking up on pet food. Other options exist such as donating it to a local animal shelter or rescue prior to it expiring.
Just like any human, your pets need water to survive. The bright side of this is that if you are working on being prepared you probably have already considered this. You may need to increase the amount of water you have on hand for an emergency and consider the additional water needs in whatever plans you have in place to resupply your water. Keep in mind that dogs and cats can be susceptible to the same parasites that humans can so whenever possible make sure to provide them with treated water.
Any medical issues that your pet is on medication for should be discussed with your veterinarian in detail. Obviously, one of the first things to do is to be up front with your veterinarian’s office and see if you are able to get a couple of months extra of any medication that your pet needs. This is where having a small family vet rather than a more corporate structure as they are often more willing and understanding to work with their clients on matters such as these. Other resources for some medications and supplies may be farm supply stores that allow for the purchase of many of these items over the counter.
I can tell you that this topic is of particular importance to me. My dog, my princess that is, is diabetic and requires insulin twice a day. We normally kept two bottles on hand. She is a small dog, so a bottle lasts her for six weeks, maybe even slightly longer in an emergency. To minimize our need to go anywhere and ensure that we were able to provide for her needs we upped our normal on hand to the open bottle and two extras, giving us 12-18 weeks at any given time. In additional to the medication there are other things that go along with her treatment. Test strips and machines, lancets, and syringes (as well as a disposal method for these) need to be on hand in sufficient quantities.
Outside of that, make sure that you understand the signs and symptoms of the conditions that your pet may have. Educate yourself on all potential means of treatment for the conditions and any alternative or potentially over the counter medications that could potentially be used. There are many resources available that provide great reference for addressing medical issues and how to treat them should the need arise. Make sure you research the over the counter medication that can be used on dogs and the appropriate dosages that should be used for them. While this may not be a normal go to solution for many issues in normal times, when there is no veterinarian to go to, it could save the life of your companion.
Basic first aid supplies are another consideration that needs to be covered. Most cats or dogs will not take well to simply putting a band aid on a wound of any size. While many of the materials that could be needed are probably already in existence in a home first aid kit it is worth to increase your supply of these things so that an injury to a pet does not deplete the stores that were intended for human use. Plenty of gauze, self-adhesive bandages, wraps, and antibiotic ointment should see you though the majority of issues. Just like any first aid scenario that you find yourself in concerning humans, when you think you have enough, you should probably buy more. Properly caring for injuries will deplete your gauze supplies quickly.
If bugging out is your plan, and that plan includes taking your pets make sure you consider their needs. Pet food, either wet or dry, is not light so take into account what your furry friend will be eating along the way. Do you need any special gear or equipment with you in your vehicle to account for animals? These things should be part of your bug out gear and available when needed. Even when thinking of natural disasters, having pet food and kennels set aside for emergency situations that would require you to leave your home.
Regardless of the type of pet you may have the same principles will apply. Think about their needs and start from there. Plan how you will be able to meet their needs in the immediate, short, and long term. For some more exotic type pets that may be a little more difficult than others. You may need to look at growing/raising your own food for them and go from there. This could potentially create more work than one realizes but these are the possibilities that must be weighed. For me, I know that having my animals around will be a huge comfort and morale boost for my family. However, not everyone’s situation is the same and you may find yourself in the position to have to make some tough choices. It is better to be prepared for these situations ahead of time than having to deal with them.