Helpful Advice for You and Your Pet After an Earthquake or Other Disaster

People scared in Washington, D.C., after East Coast Earthquake on August 23, 2011
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“Did you feel it?”

That’s the first thing anyone wants to know after an earthquake like the one the East Coast felt today.

Many of the people in my Facebook community (and on our brand-new Vetstreet Facebook page as well) asked me if pets can predict earthquakes.

And then they asked what they could do to help their pets now.

Animals and Earthquakes

I strongly suspect animals can, and do, predict changes in our environment. Although the science on that isn’t definitive.

What we do know is that animals have a different sense of the world for the simple reason that they have difference senses: Cats can see clearly in low-light conditions, for example, and dogs can pick out the scent of a fingerprint in a multistory building. Sensing an earthquake? Is that really so far-fetched? Not as far as I'm concerned.

We’ll be debating that one for a long time yet, though. In the meantime, let's focus on what you need to do for your pet right after a major earthquake.

Now, I’m no expert on earthquakes. I was in Japan two decades ago when one hit there, and it wasn’t that powerful. But I do know that pets don’t like change, and they really don’t like it when the people they count on to stay calm aren’t able to do so.

As we say in emergency medicine: "Take your own pulse first." That means that as long as your pet is physically safe and secure (use a crate if you need to), you need to make sure you’re not making matters worse for you and your entire family by being in a panic. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths — that’s clinically proven to settle you down. Now, if you can, shift your focus to your pets.

First Steps

Here are several things you'll want to do if the situation is serious.

Find your pet. If your animal is outside, get him inside and away from windows. Earthquakes mean aftershocks, and you want your pet safely inside so he won’t run away. If there is room, take him to where you are and get to the safest place in the house. 

Check your pet for injuries. Be gentle and be aware of any sign of internal damage, such as a limb that hurts when it is moved, or your animal crying out when you press gently at her abdomen. Call your veterinarian’s office for advice if you suspect your pet is injured. You may not be able to be seen immediately, but they can talk you through anything you need to do before you can bring your pet in.

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