Preparing for Extreme Weather and Emergencies

As we head into the 2023/24 Australian summer, the long-range forecast from the Bureau of Meteorology is for warmer and drier conditions for much of the country. Reduced rainfall is likely with maximum temperatures at least three times as likely for most of Australia.

With this outlook, heatwave conditions are expected this summer season. There is also an increased likelihood of severe storms and cyclones. This means that pet owners from all around the country, including those in the cities and surrounds, should consider their risk for heat stress, bushfire as well as flood, and plan accordingly.

In hot environments, pets can rapidly feel the effects of rising temperatures. All dogs and cats can be affected by heat stress, but brachycephalic breeds who have a relatively broad, short skull and/or pets that are young, elderly or overweight are particularly susceptible. Brachycephalic dog breeds include the English and French Bulldog, Boxer, and Pug. Some cat breeds are also considered brachycephalic, such as the Persian and Himalayan.

Keep pets cool by providing shade, cool surfaces to lie on, fans or air conditioning and always ensure free access to a plentiful and fresh water supply. If you have the space for a dog pool, many dogs love lying in a paddling pool during the heat, just remember to position it in the shade. You might also consider increasing the wet food portion of your pet’s diet as this provides additional dietary moisture to help keep them hydrated. If you do, ensure you balance out the rest of their diet to avoid over feeding. Also consider the temperature before heading out on walks; it’s usually best to limit walking to morning and evening. A pet can get burnt paw pads from walking on a hot pavement or flat surface, so be cautious on hot days. Test the heat of the ground with your hand before venturing out. If you suspect your pet may be suffering from the effects of the heat, seek veterinary advice.

Pet emergencies can be activated by bushfires, floods, serious road trauma or other situations that require evacuation, so having a plan is an essential part of ensuring you’re prepared. Your plan should include the ability to provide fresh drinking water and nutrition to your pets. A dog or cat needs around 60ml of water per kg of bodyweight each day, so plan out how much water you’ll need to pack.

A pet also requires a complete and balanced pet food, and enough to last for 3-7 days. Ensuring that you have enough food to last, as well as a plan to restock, is particularly important for pets who are on a specifically formulated diet such as to help manage a medical condition. Consider if the retailer you usually purchase your pet’s food from will be open. Dry kibble is a concentrated source of nutrition, so is very convenient to store. Keep it sealed in a cool, airtight container. Canned pet food has a high moisture content, so this will help reduce the amount of water a pet will need to drink (and you need to store) in an emergency. Canned pet food is also safer to use if flood waters impact your emergency supply kit due to their robust packaging.

The following websites provide information to assist you in developing an emergency plan:

National – RSPCA Emergency Planning:

Planning for Emergencies | RSPCA Victoria

The preparedness and evacuation behaviour of pet owners in emergencies and natural disasters

Australian Journal of Emergency Management, Volume 30 Number 2, April 2015 (aidr.org.au)

 

 

VIC – Pets and Bushfires:

https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/pets-and-bushfires

 

Pets in an Emergency:

Planning for pets in emergencies | Pets and emergencies | Animal Welfare Victoria | Livestock and animals | Agriculture Victoria

 

QLD – Pet Emergency Plan:

https://www.qld.gov.au/emergency/dealing-disasters/prepare-for-disasters/prepare-pets

 

SA – Pets in Emergencies, Emergency Management Australia Action Guide:

https://safecom-files-v8.s3.amazonaws.com/current/docs/pets_in_emergencies_ema_action_guides.pdf

 

NSW – Fire safety for Your Pets:

https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/9429/Fire-Safety-for-your-Pets-Factsheet.pdf

 

WA – Hazard Information:

Hazard Information – Department of Fire and Emergency Services (dfes.wa.gov.au)

 

WA – Pets in crisis

Pets in crisis | RSPCA WA

 

TAS – RSPCA TAS, Ready, pet, go

READY, PET, GO! ⋆ RSPCA Tasmania – Prevent Animal Cruelty | Educate & Advocate

 

NT – Pets

Pets | Secure NT

 

In sustained disasters such as the 2019 / 2020 bushfires, relief agencies offered emergency pet food and supplies to people in need, which were provided by several of the PFIAA’s members. Knowing which agencies provide products may also form a useful part of the emergency plan for your pet.