Recovery after a hurricane takes time. Depending on the hurricane’s path and magnitude, it can take weeks, months, or even years before things return to normal. This affects pets too.
From the immediate aftermath to long-term health concerns, these are a few things pet owners should be aware of after the hurricane.
Environmental and health hazards to keep in mind
There are several environmental health hazards to keep in mind during and after a hurricane. Natural disasters increase the risk of injuries and disease outbreaks in humans and animals. If you are in a flooded region, contaminated water, downed power lines, wild animals, and floating debris are all very real threats.
Some of the infectious diseases pet owners should be most concerned about stem from excessive flooding. These include mosquito borne illnesses, bacterial disease like leptospirosis, and parasitic illness like giardia. All of these organisms thrive in wet or moist environments and can linger well after a storm.
Pets can also sustain traumatic injuries, develop hypothermia, and face toxic sewage-related stomach illnesses during and after a hurricane.
As the flood waters recede, don’t let your pet swim in or drink the water and try to limit their exposure to any flooded areas. Your pet should be disinfected as soon as possible after exposure to flood waters. Keep a first aid kit readily available and have your veterinarian’s contact information on hand in case of emergency or if you notice your pet acting strangely.
Finally, try to remain calm. Your pet knows if you are stressed, which may only increase their stress and susceptibility to disease.
Pet food safety after a flood
Immediately following a hurricane, you’ll want to take stock of your supplies. Make sure you have plenty of clean water and food for yourself and your pet. This will help them stay healthy and energized during a stressful time.
Ideally, you’ve set aside at least a week’s worth of pet food in a dry container. Any pet food that has been exposed to flood waters may have been contaminated by heavy metals and industrial chemicals and should be discarded. Canned foods may be disinfected prior to opening them, but you should dispose of any cans that show signs of damage.
Give your pet bottled water if possible. Purify any tap water by boiling for a few minutes. Chemical water treatments may not remove parasitic organisms like Giardia.
Moving forward with pets after a hurricane
Ideally, you have a list of contact information for your veterinarian, emergency resources, and family or friends who may be able to aid. After a disaster, you’ll still want to keep this information handy.
It may be a while before you are able to return home and clean-up and recovery can take even longer. If needed, family and friends may be able to help you set up accommodations for you and your pet during this time.
There are many resources to help you start to get your life back to normal. Many animal welfare organizations are donating time and supplies for pets displaced by the storms. Human-focused organizations like the Red Cross can provide immediate relief for families who need it most. Ready.gov also includes guidelines on returning home for the first time after a hurricane, and FEMA.gov offers additional resources.