Don’t be in the dark about pets and power outages

You’ve got flashlights, spare batteries, bottled water and canned goods.

But are you ready for a power outage from Hurricane Sandy?

If your preparations have excluded pets, local veterinarians would argue no. They recommend taking a few basic steps to ensure the comfort and safety of everyone in the family during the storm.

•  Dr. Fred Metzger, at Metzger Animal Hospital in Benner Township, said cat and dog owners should make sure their animals are wearing identification in case they escape through storm damage or bolt in fright. In lieu of microchips, the best option is to attach a collar with a tag.

It’s also a good idea to take a photo or two to assist with any searches.

“The biggest thing I would be worried about would be lost pets,” Metzger said.

•  For animals on medication or special diets, keep enough supplies for at least a week, and organize them in an accessible place before the lights go out.

Dr. Miguel Cruden, at Animal Medical Hospital in Patton Township, suggests preparing a cooler and ice packs to properly chill insulin for diabetic animals in the event of no power.

•  Have a crate or kennel ready for high-strung animals afraid of storm noises. It should have have bedding for warmth and soundproofing. Blankets or a warm water bottle, if possible, can provide more comfort for kittens, puppies or elderly animals if the temperature inside drops, Cruden said.

Don’t make the space too big, Cruden said — just enough for the animal to stand, turn and lie back down, but not so much they can pace or dig and possibly hurt themselves.

•  Reptiles, snakes and birds need to stay warm. Warm water bottles heated by gas stoves or wood fires and placed inside cages can generate enough radiant heat to accommodate cold-blooded pets for a few days, Cruden said.

For birds, immediately drape a blanket, sheet or towel over the cage, said Becky Horner, a technician assistant at All Creatures Veterinary Care in Centre Hall.

“Definitely cover their cage and reduce their stress as much as possible,” she said.

If using a warm water bottle or battery-powered heating pad, place it beneath the cage, not in it, to avoid harming the bird, she said.

•  Fish also need warmth. If you don’t have a generator to keep a heater going, try to insulate a tank with a blanket, sleeping bag or newspapers to keep water from getting too cold, advises the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Do not feed fish during an outage, the college said. They’ll probably be uninterested because of slowed metabolisms, and the uneaten food only will pollute the tank with extra nitrogen.

•  Candles, an old stand-by, may be dangerous with pets in the house. Leaping cats in particular can tip them over, or flames can injure them — as Metzger and Cruden have seen before.

“You have cats with furry tails,” Metzger said. “They get too close and that can be a problem.”

•  If flooding requires evacuation, take your pets and make sure they’re wearing collars, rabies tags and identification at all times, the American Kennel Club recommends. Keep copies of licenses and health records in waterproof containers.

Hotels may relax pet policies in an emergency, so call ahead to check, the AKC said.

No pets are allowed at the local American Red Cross shelters being set up at Bald Eagle Area and Philipsburg-Osceola high schools. Service animals are permitted.

As of Monday afternoon, local Red Cross officials were working with the Centre County Animal Response Team to set up a pet-friendly shelter. Call the Red Cross at 237-3162 for current information.