Two dogs kitted up for emergency preparedness and response for pets against NZ natural disasters

How to Prepare for Weather Emergencies with Pets


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Emergency preparedness and response for pets is exactly what it sounds like. It’s planning how to safeguard your pets before an emergency because when you’re actually in one there simply isn’t the time. With Auckland flooding, South Island heatwaves and the ever present possibility of an earthquake in NZ, pets need our protection.

How can we give them the soft landing they deserve?

In this article PD unpacks several tips for how to respond with common pet emergencies. We all know prevention is better than cure and while you can’t prevent an emergency, planning for it can be the cure.

pet owner holds pet

New Zealand natural disasters and animals

Us Kiwis have ample experience with natural disasters. Whether it’s the ground shaking beneath our feet, or endless rains falling from the sky we see some hair-raising situations up close.

During a natural disaster like the current Auckland floods, most of the news covers people being evacuated or facing danger. But of course, everything we face our pets do too.

This is why emergency preparedness and response for furkids during New Zealand natural disasters is nothing less than crucial. Pets face other common emergencies too that require quick response. Like toxic ingestion and choking for example – but more on that further down.

Fight, flight or freeze response

A number one emergency preparedness and response tip is preventing your pet from getting lost. One of the first things to happen to pets during a New Zealand natural disaster is that they often flee. Like humans, pets have a fight, flight or freeze response that kicks into action when facing danger (or perceived danger).

In an environmental disaster like the Auckland flooding, a dog or cat can’t fight because the enemy is the weather. Unless they’re old, ill or injured they’re also unlikely to freeze although they might do so and become trapped. What they can and usually do however, is run, even if it means getting lost.

This means pets are often separated from their families, which can add to the devastation. There are several safeguards to have in place for preventing this from happening and for helping you find them if it does.

cat goes missing during New Zealand natural disaster

Emergency preparedness and response for furkids

Here’s a list of emergency preparedness and response tips for safeguarding Kiwi pets:

Don’t drop, cover and hold

You might be surprised to find this rule of thumb for earthquakes doesn’t always apply to pets. Unless they’re already close enough to hold and comfort, let them find their own safety point. They’re incredibly adept at doing so and might bite or scratch if you try holding them still.

Microchip pets

Microchips carry all your pet’s personal information on a central pet registry that links that pet to you as the owner. When a shelter or vet receives a lost pet they check for a microchip and then they can contact you to have your pet returned.

PD did an interview in 2023 about keeping dogs and cats from wandering with Dr Imogen Bassett, Principal Advisor for Biosecurity at Auckland Council, who told us that “microchipping of domestic cats in New Zealand has increased from 12% in 2011 to 49% in 2020.”

It’s very telling that after the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, “85% of microchipped pets were reunited with their owners, compared with only 15% of non-chipped pets.” Read about cat microchips and dog microchips then get to it if you haven’t already…

Pet collar and tag

In addition to a pet microchip, make sure your pet wears a collar and tag. This will speed up identification if a good Samaritan finds your pet. Be sure to use a safety breakaway collar for cats too.

Keep a cloudy pet pic

If you’ve had to evacuate you might not have access to your own computer or phone. Keep a recent photo of your pet in online storage so if your pet goes missing you can post it to lost pet sites or prove you’re its owner if it’s handed in to a shelter or vet.

emergency preparedness for ethical dog breeders involves a water bowl, like the one behind this puppy Golden Retriever
Leave food and water

If you need to evacuate without pets then leave food and water where they’ll be able to access it.

Pet kit on hand

Have an emergency pet kit ready and packed to go at any time with basic first aid supplies. In addition to food, water and bowls (collapsible ones are great), pack a blanket or towel to help keep them calm them in stressful situations. Consider including poop bags, leashes and your pet carrier, and be sure to pack a copy of your pet’s medical records with a recent snapshot.

Vaccinate up to date

Pets can be exposed to a myriad of rotting and decayed debris after natural disasters. Keeping pet vaccinations schedules up to date helps mitigate unwanted illness from this.

Pet door sign

Many people have a pet sign on their door saying “I live here” with a picture of a cat, dog or other pet. During a situation as severe as the Auckland flooding or an earthquake in NZ this type of door sign can help first responders note that a pet lives there and be on the lookout in case it’s lost.

Also be sure to read PD’s guide to help and/or find a lost pet in a fire or flood and what to do if you find an injured animal.

mum and daughter take emergency preparedness and response steps for dog during the onset of Auckland flooding

Common pet emergencies and how to respond

Besides understanding what’s best practice in emergency preparedness and response for New Zealand natural disasters, what about other risks to pets?

There are several common pet emergencies you might one day need to respond to outside of fire, flood and earthquake. For example, some of our top claims include infections, injuries, allergies and illnesses. Depending on the situation there may be temporary steps you can make to treat your pets at home but generally pets will need an unplanned visit to the vet.

Understanding common risks pets face helps in your emergency preparedness and response planning. Here’s a list of several common health risks for pets – click through for what to do if they arise:

Remember to read through our blog to find more tips for common pet emergencies and how to respond. Our list of topics is always expanding so you’ll always find something new there.

Thankfully many pet health conditions can be remedied or mitigated if you catch early warning signs. It’s one of the reasons pets need regular vet check-ups. As pet parents we’re not always clued up as to what exactly a vet is doing and checking for, that’s why PD and Dr Cath made this video to explain:

Emergency preparedness with pet insurance

Pet insurance is a key part of emergency preparedness and response. In a pet emergency you want to think about what your pet needs and not what the costs are going to be. In a lot of cases, pet insurance helps you do this by paying towards unexpected visits, helping cover diagnosis and treatment costs. This can include hefty bills like hospitalisation and surgery too.

PD gives you one or more months of award winning pet insurance for FREE when you buy your plan online. Simply click below to get a quote today.

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