What’s the Plan? How to Make an Emergency Plan for Your Pets

In the midst of this uncertain time, pet lovers like us have one more scary thought to wrestle with: What would happen to my beloved pet if I became too sick to care for them?

As scary as this thought is, the good news is that a little planning now can help lend peace of mind for the “just in case it happens.” A few things to know about your pets and their care during COVID-19:

  • According to the CDC, there is no evidence that our companion animals can spread COVID-19 to people. While there are a few documented cases of pets outside of the U.S. contracting COVID-19 from sick humans, these rare instances are still being studied. See more on the CDC’s If You Have Animals page.
  • Since we are still learning about the risk of pets contracting COVID-19 from sick owners, it IS recommended that if you become ill, you limit your contact with your pets just like you would with other people. This means limiting snuggling, cuddling, kisses or licks or sharing food while you are ill. You can ask another member of your household to be the primary caretaker while you recover. Talk with household members now to ensure everyone is familiar with this plan.
  • If you cannot do that and must care for your pets if you become mildly ill, simply take extra precautions, including washing your hands before and after interactions.
  • Right now, the very best plan for pets whose family become ill with mild COVID-19 infections is to stay in their own homes.

However, it is also a good idea to create an emergency care plan for your pet, in case you and others in your family become unable to care for your pet due to more severe illness.

Why do it? The very best reasons to actually sit down and write out an emergency plan for your pets are:

  1. It helps keep your pets out of shelters should you become ill. And that helps everyone: It is less stressful for your pets, and it puts less strain on the sheltering system. You are helping do your part to ensure that kennel space and human power is there to care for the pets of those who cannot otherwise get help, or for the homeless pets who still need a safe space to go.
  2. It helps provide comfort in your life. These times are uncertain, unpredictable and scary. What is happening now is putting us all under incredible emotional stress. And one way to help ourselves carry this load is to practice control in the areas where we still can. Coming up with your emergency plan, checking off the boxes of your check list, helps provide a sense of control over at least this one pocket of your life. It’s a worthwhile mental-health practice.

How to do it? Use the below check boxes to create your basic pet emergency plan to put into action should you become ill and unable to care for your pets.

Identify an individual who is able and willing to come get or care for your pets should you become ill.

  • This individual could be a friend, family member or neighbor. It is wise to choose an individual outside your own home, in case illness affects multiple individuals within your family.
  • Contact this individual and discuss your plan with them. If they are able to help, collect their contact information to add to your Contact & Care Instructions outlined below.
  • Want to help your neighbors know you might be able to be their emergency pet assistant? Use this template from Best Friends Animal Society to reach out (while respecting social distancing) to communicate this.

Identify a second option.

  • It is always a good idea to have a back-up to your back-up. This could be another individual or could be an option such as a boarding facility, veterinary clinic, groomer or shelter that you have confirmed might be able to take your pet.
  • Add these details to your Contact & Care Instructions outlined below.

Contact your pet’s microchip company. Ensure that your most current information is associated with your pet’s chip. If you do not already have them recorded, add your identified caregiver as an emergency contact for your pet’s chip.

  • Here are some frequently used microchip companies: HomeAgain, AVID, AKC Reunit, PetLink.
  • If your pet is not microchipped, ensure he or she has a tag with your contact information on it. These can often be ordered online from many manufactures. If desired, you can add your emergency contact’s information to the tag, as well.

Prepare your pet’s supply kit. For each of your pets, ensure you have the following:

  • Your Contact & Care Instructions (outlined below).
  • Food for each pet for approximately 14 days in portable, airtight containers.
  • Bowls for both water and food.
  • Medications your pet might need over the next month. (Talk with your veterinarian about how. to access needed medications during this time. Many veterinary clinics can connect you with online pharmacy options.)
  • Important documents including vaccination records, other medical records (proof of spay/neuter, items related to pet’s overall health, etc.), microchip documents, adoption or purchase documents.
  • Collar or harness with ID tags, rabies tag.
  • Leashes for dogs and carriers for cats.
  • Crates, exercise pens or baby gates if regularly used in the home.
  • Sanitation supplies such as poop bags, litter, litter pans and scoops.
  • A picture of you and your pet together.
  • Familiar items such as blankets, toys and treats to help reduce stress.

Write out your Contact & Care Instructions. These instructions should include several items (listed below) and be printed out and ready to go along with your supplies.

  • Your basic details: phone numbers, address and any other emergency contacts for yourself.
  • Name and contact information for the person who will care for your pets.
  • Name and contact information for your back-up.
  • Basic details about each pet: name, identifying markers, age, breed and medical details.
  • Feeding instructions for each pet.
  • Name, clinic and contact information for your pet’s usual veterinarian.
  • Other care instructions for each pet, including details such as their usual exercise/play routines, favorite games, items they can or cannot have and any specifics on their unique personalities and behavior that will help a caretaker do their best for them

Take a little time now to create your pet emergency plan, and you will feel a little safer knowing your wonderful furry-family members will be in good hands no matter what challenges come your way.