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Revisiting Emergency Pet Care Lists

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

by Ryan Jo Summers

Considering the global health crisis gripping our world, country, state, and local counties lately, shouldn’t we all take a moment to consider our pet’s care needs? These are unprecedented times, and nothing should be taken for granted.

Case in point: in December 2019, I had minor surgery requiring an overnight hospital stay. I lined up an assortment of pet care providers, armed them with typed care instructions and provided dry runs. I am once more having surgery and when I revisited my instructions, I found four changes in diet and medications in three of my pets. In just four months. So, when was the last time you completed or updated an emergency pet care list?

A good list encourages us to keep a supply of pet needs on hand for when we are facing a crisis, whether it be wildfire, train derailment, or COVID-19. We consider whether we will be quarantined home with our pet, or unable to be there for them. We look at short-term and long-term.

We should stock up on a minimum of a 30-day supply of our pets’ needed food, water, and medications, and two weeks of litter, potty pads, poop disposal items, small pet bedding, etc.… And don’t forget a can opener for the caregiver and calming aids if your pet needs them for thunder, anxiety, etc. I have read headline reports mail delivery might stop this summer. Since much of my pets’ foods and medications arrive via postal delivery, this could be problematic if the report becomes reality. Alternative resources need to be found.

Create a dossier for each pet. Include a recent photo, diet, behaviors, routines, favorite toys and treats. vet and other professional contacts. List where leashes, harnesses, cleanup bags, carriers, and extra toys, bedding and treats are kept. Keep this list readily available and updated. Include copies of vaccine records and rabies certificates. Take photos of records and pictures and store them on a back-up USB, iPhone, or cloud. Make sure your microchip information is current with the company you originally registered with. All cats and dogs should wear collars/harnesses with ID and multiple contact numbers.

When you select your back-up guardians, make sure they 1) are responsible and comfortable with your pets, 2) are willing and knowledgeable enough to care for, medicate, keep your pets in your absence, and 3) can access your house and know where to look for pets and their things. I have two cats that no visitor has seen in six years. They love me but distrust all people and hide at first hint of human visitors. While they are great “watch-cats”, they provide a special challenge for pet caretakers.

It’s a good practice to have a roster of possible guardians, especially if you have several pets. Family, friends, neighbors, someone from the vet’s office, boarding facility, pet sitter are all good possibilities. And don’t stop there. If an epidemic or natural disaster occurs, they might not be able to accommodate you. That is where having a roster is nice.

Provide first-aid kits including two months of heartworm and flea & tick preventions. If your pets are bathed regularly or require ear treatments, dental problem prevention, or any other routine procedures, list them in the dossier and include extra supplies in the kits.

Don’t forget any livestock you have. They’ll need a knowledgeable and willing caretaker, feed, water and instructions on how to clean their living area. The caretaker will also need all medical records and instructions for any routine medical care. If there is a herd or flock, how many are in it? The same applies to exotic pets and fish. Some could be transported if necessary, others are not so easily moved, but both require more specialized care and planning.

Plan for different scenarios. What if you are suddenly hospitalized? What if you are away and can’t get home for an unspecified period? Plan accordingly. And then plan some more.

Ryan Jo Summers is a local author and an animal advocate. She has worked in the professional pet care industry for more than thirty years in both business and non-profit sectors. Her home is a haven to a menagerie of rescued animals of various species. To find out more about Ryan, visit her website at or her Facebook pages and


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