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Emergency Preparedness for Pets

Currently it is estimated that amongst the 200,000 residents displaced by the fires there are thousands of animals, both pets and wildlife, in need of shelter. This led me to think what I have done to ensure my cat’s safety in the event of an unforeseen emergency. I was motivated to write down some tips for anyone who needs a little help planning for the unexpected.


While Chicago may not be at risk for widespread city fires there is no accounting for localized home fires. Whether you reside in a single-family home or multi-unit building, here are a few things you can do today to keep your pet safe during a fire emergency.

Rescue Alert Stickers: Fire response stickers are official adhesives that alert first responders to any pets inside your home. These can be acquired either directly from local precincts or participating pet stores. Apply a sticker to any main point of entry into your home. Rescue alert stickers will note the type of pet in the home, the number of pets and provides a space for an official contact number. If you can evacuate the home with your dog or cat, and time allows, amend the sticker with an “EVACUATED” notation so that emergency responders know not to search for remaining pets in the home. Order your free pet emergency sticker from the ASPCA here:

Safe Haven: If you are unable to re-enter your home it is recommended that you locate designated ‘safe haven’ facilities in your area. These include hotels or motels that are pet-friendly as well as local shelters that can provide emergency housing for displaced dogs and cats.

Designated Caregiver: This is a friend or family member who you’ve appointed to care for your pet if you are unable. This arrangement should be agreed upon well before any incident. Communicate any medical or behavioral alerts that are pertinent to your pet. When selecting a designated caregiver chose someone who you trust to be the best advocate for your dog or cat if you are not able.

Evac Pack: An ‘Evac-Pack’ is a prepared bag for your dog or cat. Your pet’s evac pack should take their medical needs into consideration. If you have a pet on medication you will want to have some set aside in your pack. Other useful pack items include extra harness or leash, food, garbage bag, collapsible bowls and a few days’ worth of food.


One of the most common anxieties amongst pet owners is the notion of losing their pet. It is a horrible ordeal that most of us don’t fancy to think about. However, if the worst arises, there are steps that can be taken to reunite you and your pet.

Microchip: There is no overstressing the importance of microchipping your pet. Whether you own a dog or an indoor cat, there is no guarantee that your pet will not somehow find itself away from home. Microchipping involves the vet placing a small ‘microchip’ between your pet’s shoulder blades. The process is akin to getting a vaccination. It is commonly combined with a spay or neuter procedures but can be scheduled as a separate appointment. Once the microchip is placed our client care coordinators will register your information to the account. It is important to maintain an open account. Check with your microchip provider once a year to ensure the information is up to date and the account is valid. Call My Vet to check if your cat or dog has a microchip and ask our client care coordinators about more information in scheduling an appointment for microchipping.

Checking Local Shelters: Veterinary facilities cannot keep holds on stray pets and most canine rescues are not authorized to intake directly. The most common places we find stray pets are at city shelters. City shelters, such as Chicago Animal Care & Control, will intake strays and place them on a ‘stray hold’. This is a period of 72 hours to 10 days. It is important to visit any city shelter within the first 24-48 hours. Continue to check with the local shelter every day. If your pet has found its way to a shelter you will need to provide proof of ownership.

Social Media: Today, the most effective way to spread a message is to utilize social media platforms. Quickly post a flyer with an up to date photo of your pet. Include a short description of any unique physical traits as well as their color. Note where your pet was last seen so those specific areas can be on the lookout. Provide an email address or phone number so that you can be directly reached with any sightings or inquires.


ER: In a true medical emergency time is of the essence. Rather than waiting to call your primary vet and trying to schedule an appointment, it is strongly recommended that you take your pet directly to an animal emergency center. There are two major ERs in the city of Chicago. Medvet Chicago located at 3123 N. Clybourn Ave and Premier Vet at 3927 W. Belmont Ave. Both are 24-hour facilities open 365 days a year. Neither require appointments and both will triage your pet as soon as you arrive. While emergency rooms may be a daunting experience at the best of times, we strongly urge that you utilize these clinics whenever necessary. The doctors and staff are trained in all forms of emergency medicine and the facilities are capable of 24-hour, round the clock care for your pet.

ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: If you suspect that your dog or cat has gotten into something they should not have and are unsure whether you need veterinary care the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline is your best resource. The hotline is manned by veterinarians who will be able to determine whether your pet is at risk. They will ask you for some basic information regarding your pet’s species/breed as well as their current weight. Then, they will take down the information of the substance ingested. It is best to have a general idea of how much was eaten as that will help determine whether clinical symptoms are anticipated. The ASPCA vet will compile a report and give you medical advice in real time. This includes sending you to a veterinarian’s office with a pre-planned medical treatment for your pet. This allows ERs and primary care facilities to immediately administer aid to your cat or dog. The ASPCA Poison Control Hotline can be reached at 888-426-4435. Be aware that there is a $65 consultation fee.

I work for a vet’s office and even I don’t enjoy thinking about contingency plans for my cat. Here at My Vet, we understand that unforeseen circumstances can be overwhelming and that’s why we aim to help you prepare for whatever the future holds. If you have any further questions about emergency preparations please call us at 773.235.8387!

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