Nutritious pet food can help dogs, cats and other animals after surviving disasters like Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Veterinarians warned that the stress of fleeing a storm or living through its fury can make pets more vulnerable physically and emotionally. When animals do become sick, therapeutic pet foods may help their traumatized digestive systems.
“The act of experiencing a disaster, disruption in normal routine, or geographic relocation can result in stress-induced gastrointestinal conditions such as diarrhea,” Kurt Venator, chief veterinarian officer at Nestlé Purina PetCare, told Petfood Industry. “If pet owners observe stress-induced gastrointestinal signs in their pets they should consult their veterinarian and discuss the potential benefits of feeding a highly digestible therapeutic diet and/or the use of clinically proven probiotics.”
Pet nutrition after natural disasters
Even before pets show signs of illness, pet parents need to pay special attention to their dogs and cats food and water after a disaster like Hurricane Harvey. Changes in eating patterns can be signs of coming problems.
“Many pets for instance actually eat less when they are stressed,” Denise Bashi, director of special projects for the Pet Leadership Council, said. “Pet parents and other care givers should try to monitor intake of water and food carefully to ensure that the pet does not become seriously dehydrated or malnourished. It is easy to miss when pet parents themselves are effected by a disaster.”
“Providing good nutrition is paramount to keeping pets healthy at any time, but more so when they are recovering from trauma or experiencing stress. Hydration is key to keeping pets healthy in disaster situations. If not properly hydrated pets are more at risk for illness.”
Pets’ needs after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma
Pets and people react similarly to natural disasters like Hurricane Irma, said David Haworth, DVM, PhD, president of PetSmart Charities.
“Dogs will usually mirror their owners’ emotions and responses – calm when their owners are calm, anxious when their owners are anxious – and cats will typically need a dry, dark place like a secure, covered crate to hide in during the chaos which storms like these create.”
After a disaster, supplies of nutritious pet food and clean water can be hard to find for pet parents struggling to feed even themselves. Being prepared can reduce the stress pets feel during the actual crisis.
“We recommend that families create a pet disaster kit that includes basic pet essentials, including bottled water and cans of wet food,” said Venator. “A one-to-two-week supply of food that your pet usually eats is an ideal amount to include in your disaster kit.”
In the case of severe storms, Haworth recommends that pet owners get pets into crates before the storm hits, so they can be moved easily.
“Pack extra food and fresh water for your pets if you need to evacuate, and bring along a blanket or toy that they will associate with home, and make sure all pets have identification tags and that microchip information is up to date,” Haworth said.
“In the recovery phase, pets may need a little more TLC than usual, but one of the most impactful ways that pets impact owners’ health is the emotional support and unconditional love they give us during times of crisis,” he said. “While they need us, we might need them a little more.”