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Disaster Planning for Your Pets

flood resizedNo one likes to think about emergencies or disasters. As this is the season for hurricanes, severe storms, and fires, as well as other natural and manmade emergency events, we need to plan for ourselves and our pets. Let’s focus this discussion on planning for your pet(s) in a disaster requiring your evacuation. If it is unsafe for you to stay home, it is unsafe for your pet as well.

FEMA guidelines restrict pets from Emergency Shelters. Service, guide and hearing dogs may be allowed. Local emergency management officials can be consulted to see if such a pet is eligible. Evacuating becomes much easier if you plan ahead on where you and your pet(s) will go. Local shelters and veterinary hospitals can be consulted on their ability to take in pets. Hotels and motels, out of the area, can be contacted about their pet policies and whether these would be waived in an evacuation. Create a list of places and phone numbers you and your pets can go in an emergency. Make sure you know the restrictions on the number of pets, size, and species allowed. Keep this list with your emergency phone numbers. Make reservations early if an evacuation is likely.

If you need to evacuate with your pet(s), be prepared by making a Go Bag for each pet. All pets will need a minimum of 3 days of food and water and appropriate bowls and/or water bottles.

Items need to be placed in a waterproof container and need to include:

  • medications and medical records
  • pictures of your pet with you
  • microchip, tattoo and identifying marks and scar information
  • collar or harness, including ID Tag, Rabies Tag, and leash
  • first aid kit
  • crate or pet carrier of sufficient size for your pet to stand and turn around
  • a litter box for cats
  • familiar items such as toys, treats or bedding to reduce your pet’s stress
  • sanitation items such as trash bags, paper towels, and cleaning agents

What about our more exotic pets?

Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier. Provide fruits or vegetables with high water content during transport. Take medical records and any medications. Have photos of the bird along with band or microchip information. Do not let the bird out of the cage or carrier.

Pocket pets need to travel in secure carriers. Take bedding, water bottles and food.

Transport reptiles in a carrier or pillowcase. Transfer to a secure carrier when you reach your destination. Carry necessary food, soaking bowls, and heating pads.

What is Heartworm Disease and How to Prevent It

by Rhonda Pierce, DVM

Anopheles mosquito - dangerous vehicle of infection - isolatedDirofilariasis (heartworm disease) is caused by a parasitic roundworm called Dirofilaria immitis. This parasite is spread by mosquitoes. Female mosquitoes ingest the first stage larvae (L1) which are called microfilariae from an infected host (usually domestic dogs or wild canids such a coyotes, foxes and wolves). The first stage larvae will then mature in two stages to the third stage infective larvae (L3) in 10-18 days. The mosquito will then inject the L3 larvae during a blood meal into a susceptible host (dogs, cats, ferrets and other canids). The larvae then will develop in multiple stages over about 5-7 months into adult worms that produce microfilariae (the first stage larvae).

Heartworms primarily like to live in the pulmonary arteries; which carry deoxygenated blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs; but can also be found in other locations such as the eyes, systemic vasculature, peritoneal cavity and intramuscular or subcutaneous cysts/abscesses.

In our pets, the physical exam will usually be normal unless there is severe disease. Dogs with severe disease usually have weight loss, increased respiratory rates, and/or difficulty breathing. Cats with heartworm disease can vary from acting normally to having an asthma-like attack, periodic vomiting, decreased to no appetite, and/or weight loss.

Diagnosis of heartworm disease is usually via lab work and/or chest x-rays. At Ridge Lake Animal Hospital we utilize in-house and outside laboratories to test for heartworm disease. We will gently draw a blood sample from your pets and we may also need to collect a urine sample. We also have a digital x-ray unit for chest radiographs. Electrocardiograms (ECG) can be helpful and we have this diagnostic tool at our hospital as well.

Heartworm disease is characterized and treated based on the severity of the infection. Treating heartworm disease is a painful and potentially dangerous process. Therefore, as pet owners, preventing an infection in the first place is the best option. At Ridge Lake Animal Hospital we have multiple options to prevent Dirofilaria from ever infecting your pet. Please see one of our veterinarians to discuss which preventative is the best option for your dog or cat.

A great website for more detailed information is from the American Heartworm Society. See