7 min read

How to Keep Your Pets Safe in a Natural Disaster



From wildfires and hurricanes to avalanches and flash floods, natural disasters have always been a part of life in the USA. But with the impact of climate change, the incidence of extreme weather events is only expected to increase.

So no matter where you live, it’s essential to have a plan to protect your pet when disaster strikes. Being prepared is the best way to ensure that your dog or cat stays safe in the face of whatever Mother Nature throws at you, so keep reading for tips and advice on pet safety in a range of natural disasters.

trees burning in a wildfire

How to keep your pets safe in a wildfire

Wildfires burned more than 2.5 million acres in California in 2021. These uncontrolled fires spread rapidly and pose a significant danger to life and property. Wildfire smoke can also cause serious health issues for pets, so it’s important to be prepared.

The good news is that there are plenty of simple steps you can take to protect your pet. Start by getting your pet microchipped and having an emergency disaster kit ready to go. Not only should this include things like fresh water, a first aid kit, and a flashlight, but also essential pet items like food, medications, and comfort items such as blankets.

It’s vital to keep track of any wildfires burning in your area. The US Forest Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Emergency Alert System offer useful resources to help you monitor any fires near you.

If you’re told to leave by authorities, do so straight away, and make sure not to leave your pet behind. Plan an evacuation route in advance, but be sure to monitor local alerts for details of any road closures or changes in the fire’s direction or speed.

Finally, it’s important to find a pet-friendly shelter where you can evacuate with your pet, and that you only return home once the authorities tell you it is safe to do so. 

Check out our guide to how to keep your pets safe in a wildfire for more information.

palm trees blowing sideways in the wind during a hurricane

How to keep your pets safe in a hurricane

Major hurricanes can produce wind speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour and cause catastrophic damage, so the risk these tropical storms pose to people and pets can never be underestimated.

The first step to preparing for a hurricane is to monitor local weather conditions. Use the FEMA app for real-time updates on storms near you and information on where to find emergency shelters.

Next, make sure your pet is microchipped and vaccinated, and have a special pet emergency kit ready in case disaster strikes. Include water, pet food, a leash, a pet first aid kit, and a few comfort items to ensure that you and your fur-baby are ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

Plan your evacuation route in advance, including working out how to access a pet-friendly shelter, and bring your pet safely inside well before the storm hits. Training your pets to swim can also provide peace of mind if you and your fur-baby become separated.

Last but not least, only return home after a hurricane when the authorities say it is safe to do so, and keep your pet leashed or in a carrier to protect them against any unexpected hazards.

You can find plenty of other useful tips in our guide to keeping your pets safe in a hurricane.

tornado touching down in a wilderness area

How to keep your pets safe in a tornado

There were over 1,300 tornadoes recorded in the USA in 2021, and these destructive weather events can produce wind speeds in excess of 250 miles per hour. So if you live in an area prone to tornadoes, developing an emergency plan for yourself and your pet is quite simply a must.

Start by making sure your pet is microchipped and has up-to-date ID tags. You’ll also need somewhere safe where you and your pets can shelter in the event of a tornado, such as a basement or a storm shelter. Have carriers ready for your pets if you need to evacuate in a hurry, and put together an emergency kit with items like first-aid supplies, a flashlight, batteries, and a radio.

Stay up to date with any Tornado Watches or Warnings for your area, and bring all your pets indoors well in advance of any danger. Try to keep your pet as calm as possible during the tornado, and stay safe inside your shelter until you’re sure the tornado threat has passed. 

And when you do venture out, be sure to keep your pet leashed or in a carrier as there could be all manner of hazards you need to avoid.

Check out our guide to keeping your pets safe in a tornado for more information.

snow tumbling down a mountain in an avalanche

How to keep your pets safe in an avalanche

If you live in avalanche territory or you’re vacationing in the snow, there are lots of simple things you can do to prepare for and protect your pet against avalanches.

First and foremost, take steps to ensure that you don’t get caught in an avalanche in the first place. Educate yourself about the different factors that contribute to avalanches, and check Avalanche.org before heading out to ensure that you avoid any high-risk areas.

There’s also a lot you can do to prepare your pets and yourself in case disaster strikes. For example, make sure your pup is microchipped and has mastered a range of basic obedience skills. Learn how to recognize avalanche conditions and how to administer first aid in an emergency. You’ll also need to make sure you have a host of essential supplies — flashlights, a portable shovel, first aid supplies, and more — before hitting the slopes.

If disaster strikes and an avalanche occurs, you’ll find plenty of useful tips on ensuring that rescuers reach you and helping others in our guide to keeping your pets safe in an avalanche.

richter scale marking the magnitude of an earthquake in a black graph on white paper

How to keep your pets safe in an earthquake

We’re able to predict many other types of natural disasters ahead of time, allowing us to stay prepared and put emergency plans into action. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with earthquakes.

There’s no way of accurately predicting earthquakes, and these frightening events can potentially cause huge destruction and lead to fires, landslides, and even tsunamis. So regardless of whether you live in an earthquake-prone area or not, it’s vital to have an earthquake emergency plan in place. 

Your plan should cover everything from where you and your pets can shelter in your home during an earthquake to the details of disaster relief shelters in your area. You should also designate a place where you’ll meet family members if you become separated. Take note that temporary disaster shelters may not allow pets, so it’s important to know where you can take your fur-babies ahead of time.

Next, put together an earthquake emergency kit with first aid supplies, food and water, and emergency contacts. It’s also important to have an emergency kit specifically for your pets — this can include things like pet food, first aid supplies, extra leashes and collars, and their medical records.

During an earthquake, move your pets to the safest area of your home. If you have to evacuate, the safest option is to take your pets with you (if it’s possible to do so). Finally, remember that the damage caused by an earthquake can leave highly dangerous debris, so keep your pet leashed or in a crate or carrier as you make your way to safety.

For detailed advice, check out our guide to keeping your pets safe in an earthquake.

crosswalk sign standing in flood waters

How to keep your pets safe in a flood

Preparation is the key to keeping your family and your pets safe during a major flood, so make sure you have a disaster preparedness plan in place. Before a flood occurs, sign up for weather alerts from reputable sources like the FEMA app.

You should also contact your local emergency management department to find out about evacuation procedures and the locations of disaster shelters. Don't forget to check whether those shelters welcome pets — many shelters only allow service animals.

Next, put together a detailed emergency plan and kit for your family. Plot an evacuation route ahead of time, put together a first aid kit that includes medical supplies for your pet, and include other essentials such as fresh water, a flashlight, toiletries, and food for your fur-baby. Make sure your pet is microchipped in case you become separated. It's also worth training your dog to swim for added peace of mind.

Monitor the weather and start taking action as soon as there is a flood warning for your area. Do what you can to keep calm, but get ready to evacuate if needed. If you are asked to leave, follow any directions from the authorities closely; if you’re staying put, keep your pets indoors and move to the highest ground available. 

After the flood, you should only return home or venture outdoors when it’s safe to do so. Just remember that the aftermath of a flood poses dangers ranging from displaced wildlife to unsanitary conditions, so keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier at all times.

Find out everything you need to protect your pet in our guide to keeping your pets safe in a flood.

How to stay prepared for a natural disaster

Even if you live in part of the country that isn’t especially prone to natural disasters, extreme weather events are becoming increasingly common. That’s why it’s important to remember these simple tips to ensure that you and your pet are prepared for a natural disaster:

  • Make sure your pet is microchipped (with up-to-date contact information) and has ID tags.

  • Have an emergency plan in place for your pet.

  • Ensure that you have a leash and/or pet carrier ready to go if you have to leave in a hurry.

  • Put together a Pet Disaster Kit for your fur-baby.

  • The CDC suggests setting up a "buddy system" with a neighbor who can look after your pet if you’re not home when a disaster occurs.

  • Research pet-friendly shelters, hotels, or other accommodation options where you will be able to take your dog or cat following a natural disaster

We all hope that a natural disaster will never seriously affect us. But rather than just burying your head in the sand and hoping for the best, taking simple steps to prepare for the unexpected is the best way to keep your pet safe when disaster strikes.

Natural disasters pose a serious risk of injury to pets, potentially leading to expensive vet bills. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.

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