We got an email from Petplan pet insurance on how severe flooding poses health risks to our pets. We thought it would be useful to repost the useful information here for those who are suffering from Hurricane Harvey and to prepare the rest of us for flooding disasters.
It is heartening to see so many pet owners in Texas evacuating with their pets, determined not to leave them behind. It is also inspiring to see how organisations and individuals are coming together to not only save human lives but pets’ as well.
Our condolences go out to the families of lives that were lost during this disaster. And we hope that those trapped would soon be rescued.
The text below is from Petplan with quotes from Dr. Kim Smyth, vet and pet health writer at Petplan.
Flooding: What health risks are pets exposed to and what can you do?
“In the aftermath of a natural disaster, both physical and mental health hazards abound.
Overcrowding in pet shelters or pet-approved human shelters increases stress, which in turn decreases immunity. Your pet may be exposed to infectious diseases, both in flood waters and on dry land in crowded shelter environments.
Pay close attention to your pet’s health as you navigate the long journey to recovery from a natural disaster. Post traumatic phobias in pets are common following natural disasters. Any changes in behaviour, appetite, or appearance should be addressed by a vet as soon as possible.”
1. Water Woes
While the flooding that follows a significant storm poses immediate risks to the safety of our pets, the standing water that stays for weeks or months is just as dangerous.
Diseases and parasites
Floodwaters can be tainted with toxic chemicals, as well as wildlife-borne diseases, such as Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that is particularly problematic in wet conditions.
“Pathogenic fungi are often displaced from their natural habitat during flooding. These fungi pose a health risk to those who may come into contact with it while wading or swimming through flood waters.”
Standing water also attracts mosquitoes, which can transmit diseases and parasites, like heartworms to unprotected pets. Keep pets away from floodwaters. It’s also handy to stock a few months’ worth of heartworm preventative in case flooding strikes.
Flooding can also alter landscapes and obliterate scent trails, which can confuse your pet and cause her to become disoriented. Don’t let pets roam outside off-leash. Be sure to keep contact information current on their microchips in case they get lost.
Water in lungs
“Pets who have near-drowning accidents can succumb to fluid buildup in the lungs for as long as 48 hours after the event. If your pet struggled to evacuate through flood waters, please keep a close eye on his condition for at least 48 hours, even if he seems normal.”
2. Dangerous Debris
Depending on the severity of the storm, debris from destroyed structures, fallen trees, and trash can hang around long after floodwaters recede.
Never let pets climb on debris or nose through trash. They can suffer lacerations, abrasions, or broken bones from falls.
Additionally, curious canines could find unsavory snacks that can lead to intestinal obstruction, bowel perforation, or poisoning.
3. Stress Test
Noise phobias can affect pets during storms. But there are plenty of stressors that can make the aftermath just as upsetting.
Cats, in particular, are vulnerable to anxiety caused by changes to their environment. Even a usually plucky pup can find himself frazzled in unfamiliar situations – if you are displaced, or if you foster displaced animals for friends, family, or neighbors.
Fostering displaced animals
If you do take in additional animals, keep non-household members separate from each other. That is so that you can minimise the potential for negative interactions.
Take note of common canine stress signals, such as:
- licking or chewing when no food is present
- excessive shaking as if to dry off
- freezing when touched
Cats signal stress through:
- excessive vocalisation
- inappropriate elimination
Exercise and play can help alleviate anxiety. It is also a good idea to keep your vet’s number on hand to discuss any concerns that crop up.
“Remember that you comfort your pet as much as he comforts you in stressful times. Do your best to stay together after evacuation. But if you must separate, make sure she is wearing up-to-date contact information or in a pet carrier that is clearly labeled. If your pet is microchipped, make sure the microchip company has your latest contact information.”
4. Spores of Trouble
Although toxic black mold poisoning has not been widely documented in pets, two cats that survived Superstorm Sandy succumbed to the toxin.
Mold spores in the lungs can cause long-term respiratory damage and other health issues to both humans and pets. Hence, it is absolutely critical to have your house checked if you’ve sustained flood damage.
Long-term effects/symptoms of black mold exposure:
- scratching or chewing on their extremities or at their skin
- extreme lethargy
- wheezing or coughing
- struggling to aspirate
- bleeding from the nose
- disruption in regular eating habits
Prepare for natural disasters
“Waiting until a natural disaster strikes to think about evacuation plans puts your entire family at risk, especially your four legged family members.
Have a disaster preparedness plan that includes pets in place, so if the worst happens, you know where you’re going and what you need to take with you. Areas that have been damaged by natural disasters may not be accessible for weeks. Never evacuate without your pets.”