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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a particularly worrying time for everyone at the moment. Although our human loved ones are obviously the priority, COVID-19 – and other natural disasters – can also pose a risk to our beloved furry friends, so it’s only natural that we’re worried about how to protect them, too. So what can we do to keep our pets as safe as possible from whatever the world throws at them? Read on to find out more.
Although there are a range of disasters, let’s deal with the one that’s most pressing and topical for all of us right now. How do we protect our pets from the COVID-19 pandemic that’s sweeping the world?
Although there is a potential risk to pets, they are less likely to catch it than humans, and also less likely to experience serious illness because of it. As with humans, though, if you’re at all worried about their potential vulnerability then you can limit their outside exposure. If your dog is elderly or infirm, then it may be an option to take them on walks at quieter times of the day to put your mind at rest.
Cats are more prone to catching COVID-19 than dogs, but it’s a trickier proposition to limit their outside exposure – especially if they’re used to roaming the neighbourhood at all hours of the day and night. One option would be to let them out for fewer hours than usual, and tempting them back in with food and treats.
Some cat flaps have in-built timers, or different settings that allow your cat to enter the house but not leave, for example. A balance needs to be struck, however: keeping your cat cooped up for too long indoors may do more harm than good; damaging their mental health for the sake of reduced exposure to an illness that is only likely to affect them mildly, if they catch it at all.
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It’s worth stressing again, that the risk of your pet catching or experiencing serious illness due to COVID-19 is small. There is also currently no evidence that they are able to directly transmit the virus to humans – though regular hand washing should still be observed, as there is the small but theoretically possible risk that their fur can act as a vector.
Other natural disasters
Although COVID-19 is clearly the most pressing issue at the moment, that doesn’t mean the risk from other natural disasters has disappeared. According to research, the US has the second highest number of people affected by natural disasters in the world, with 85 million. Due to the dramatically different conditions and landscapes present across all 50 states, the variety of disasters is huge – from wildfires and hurricanes to floods and earthquakes.
Each kind of natural disaster poses a different kind of danger to pets, and so specific recommendations should be researched for each one, but there are a few general principles to keep in mind:
Secure the perimeter
If there’s a natural disaster of any kind – whether it’s a flood, hurricane or earthquake – then this is likely to spook your dog. The last thing you need during an emergency is your dog running off into harm’s way, so it’s best to ensure that your property’s perimeter is as secure as possible.
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If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, make sure there are no gaps in your fence for your dog to escape through, and that it’s high enough to keep in even the most energetic jumpers. Cats are their own masters, of course, and no fence – no matter how tall – will be able to keep them in.
To minimise the chance of your dog running away in the first place, it’s also a good idea to train them. The more obediently your dog follows your commands, the more likely they are to stay with you – or obey your call to return if they do run off.
Make sure they’re microchipped
If you do become separated from your pet due to a natural disaster, a microchip is your best chance of finding them again. If they’re microchipped, and found by an organization such as a veterinary surgery, a rescue center, or the police, then they will be able to contact you and reunite you with your pet. The microchipping procedure is quick and easy, and your pet won’t even know it’s there.
It may sound obvious, but to protect yourself from a disaster it’s necessary to give yourself as much warning as possible that it’s coming – and this means paying attention to the news. Don’t do this more than necessary, though – it’s all about striking the right balance. If you’re constantly checking the news, your anxiety levels will be increased more than they have to be – and that doesn’t help anyone!
There are many more considerations that need to be taken into account, of course – this list has only scratched the surface of how to protect your pet during a natural disaster. For further reading, the CDC has put together a detailed guide.