If you are in the pathway of Hurricane Sandy and you are a dog owner, here are some quick tips to keeping your furry friend safe.
If you are home and your dog is stressed out by the storm
The noises of the hurricane and the changes in barometric pressure can cause your dog to freak out. Add in the fact that he is probably picking up on your nervousness, and it might net you a very unhappy pup. Whether or not your dog is panicking, here are some measures you can take to make him comfortable:
Play calming music
Download the Through A Dog's Ear simplified classical music tracks, which can have an amazingly soothing effect on dogs. (It works on people, too). If the power goes out, a classical station will be a fine substitute.
Put your dog in a tight shirt
Constant pressure over the mid-section of the body has been found to be extremely calming to many anxious dogs. If you have a Thundershirt — a garment specifically designed to relax stressed dogs — get it out. If not, you can fashion something similar by either tying a regular T-Shirt so that it is very snug on your dog, or wrapping an Ace bandage around his shoulders and chest.
If you need to evacuate
Do not leave your dog behind!
Click here for a list of shelters that are accepting dogs in the Tri-State area. If you cannot bring your dog with you, you can leave him at the Brooklyn or Manhattan branches of Animal Care and Control, both of which are open and operating. However, this should really be a last resort, as resources at both of these public animal shelters are limited, and you will very likely compromise your dog's health and sanity. Unfortunately, most of the dog daycares we reached out to this afternoon are not currently taking in dogs, with the possible exception of animals who have already been kenneled at the facility before.
Most of New York City evacuation shelters are accepting pets that are properly contained, muzzled, and you have proof that they are up to date on their shots. There are also a number of New York City hotels that still have vacancies and are taking dogs. See here for a list of several dozen pet-friendly hotels located in safe zones.
CHECKLIST: Before you head out
• First, pack all medications your dog takes.
• Bring whatever licensing or medical records you can find.
• Have on hand at least one good photo of you and your dog—ideally a printed one, so that you can still show it if your phone or computer were to lose power. Often, a photo is the best way to prove ownership over a dog, and in an emergency situation, do you really want someone questioning who your dog belongs to?
• Bring a crate if you have it. If you can stuff your dog's bed into it, all the better. In a new environment, it'll be helpful to have a comfortable and protected place for him to stay. A sheet that can be used to cover the crate is also a good idea, as this is a way to cut off some of the visual chaos that might make a dog stressed out.
• Muzzle your dog. Your dog has never bitten anyone? I don't care. Muzzle muzzle muzzle. If a dog has teeth, he can bite, and in a situation where he is stressed, the chances of a bite are significantly raised. When others are anxious, they're not going to be so mindful of your pet's comfort and space. Everyone is safer if bite opportunities can be avoided. If you have a muzzle but your dog is not used to it, try to have someone else feed him treats as you put it on. Continue to feed treats while he has it on — you want to create a positive association. Oh, I like this muzzle! I get treats when it's on me! If you don't have a commercial muzzle, you can make on out of a strip of fabric, nylon leash or shoelace.
• Pack hydrogen peroxide. If you don't already have a good pet emergency kit on hand, this is the one item you should try to grab. You can use it both to clean wounds, or you can dilute it with water and put it down your dog's throat if he eats something he needs to throw up.
If you are low on provisions
Remember that your dog can eat human food. In fact, to him, everything is dog food. While a disruption in your dog's regular diet should be avoided during times of stress, do what you need to do to keep him hydrated and sated. If you are feeding them your own food, try to stay away from things that are highly processed or include more than three ingredients. Meat may be fed cooked or just par-boiled. Things that you may have in your pantry that can be safely fed to your dog: rice, peanut butter, eggs, canned pineapple, canned pumpkin, and canned vegetables in small amounts. Avoid feeding nuts, avocado, onions, garlic, chocolate, grapes, raisins and anything containing xylitol, caffeine, or excess salt. See here for a full list of foods that may be poisonous to dogs.
Anna Jane Grossman is a dog expert and trainer in New York City. You can read her articles in The Dogs.