How to create a pet emergency plan, just in case.

No one plans on getting sick. Nobody wants to get sick. But the fact is, regardless of the precautions you take, you don't know. It's just like a car accident - you can't plan for it, but you can prepare for it.

That's what this blog is all about. If for some reason - an illness, car crash, delayed flight, etc. happens, who will take care of your dog?

You need a Pet Emergency Plan.

Not too long ago, I rolled my eyes at the word "plan." Now, I embrace it.

Funny thing is, I thought that creating a Pet Emergency Plan was going to add on to my anxiety about the Coronavirus, when in fact, it ALLEVIATED it. Having a plan means I know exactly what will happen to my dog, where she will end up, and the care she will get. It means that if I get sick, my dog will have a place to go and she will be just fine.

The anxiety wrapped up around "what about my dog" has now found a place on the shelf in my brain, out of the way of all the other commotion going on. You need a plan too.

I asked myself some really hard questions, and the result was peace of mind that my dog is going to be okay. Here's a 5 part process to creating your Pet Emergency Plan.

Ready? Let's brave this together.

Creating Your Pet Emergency Plan

1) The easy stuff: the basics!

Download this Pet Emergency Plan template, or create your own.

Click here to get the Pet Emergency Plan Template

Start with general information about your dog. Name, breed, gender, vet, etc. Be sure to add a picture of you and your dog. It's important that you have a picture of you both together, which proves ownership.

This is one of the things that is taught in Pet First Aid class. Print out the picture and put it in your Pet Emergency Plan. Put a copy on your phone too. Get a hold of the vaccination records, and make sure your dog is up to date on all of his/her shots.

2) The details.

The good stuff! Who is your dog? Describe his/her personality. What is important for a stranger to know? Imagine if a friend dropped your dog off at a boarding facility who has never met your dog before. What do they absolutely need to know right now, before your dog enters?

Be sure to include:

  • Diet: What does your dog eat, and how much? Does he/she eat out of a bowl or food dispensing toy? Are there any special preparations?

  • Allergies (food and/or environmental): How severe is the allergy? Is your dog on medication for it? Are there certain restrictions, or food your dog must avoid?

  • Health concerns: Does your dog have arthritis and need to take it easy? Or maybe has diabetes so the amount of treats and food has to be strictly monitored? Make sure you're clear with this, and attach medical records as needed.

  • Medications and supplements: Plan for a month of supplies here. List out how much and how often this should be given.

  • Behavioral concerns: Is your dog anxious? Does he/she guard toys and food? Is your dog reactive? List it ALL, and in detail. This is not the space to be vague. You don't want your dog to end up biting someone or get in a fight with another dog. In order to prevent that from happening, you need to be completely transparent about your dog's behavior. No sugarcoating! Just because your dog has behavioral concerns doesn't make him/her any less great. It just means that people have to use different strategies with your furbaby, and that's okay.

  • How does your dog ride in the car?: Does your dog have a safety restraint for the car? Will the person know how to use the safety restraint? How can he/she find out? If your dog doesn't have a seatbelt, will your dog lay in the backseat, or try to jump into the front? The driver is going to need to know what to expect and how to manage your dog in the car if transportation is necessary.

  • Other specific info: What else does someone need to know about your dog? Does your dog get along with other animals? Is he/she scared of certain things? Will your dog run after squirrels or kids? What does someone need to be able to handle?

3) Emergency Contacts.

This is the hard part. In case you cannot care for your dog, who will?

Think of the top 5 people or places that could accommodate for your furbaby at their location, or come to you. Be sure to contact them.

Make sure that they are willing to care for your dog in all situations - especially now. Will this person or place take your dog if you get the Coronavirus? Will this person come to your house to walk your dog? Some might be too scared to, but some might have no problem. You need to check, because of they are not comfortable, there is no point of having that person or place on the list right now, at least during this uncertain time.

If possible, print out a picture of each contact or place, so that the person using the Pet Emergency Plan knows exactly who or what to look for.

4) The Last Resort.

This is the unlikely, un-preferred, but acceptable version. If for some reason all 5 of your emergency contacts are unreachable or cannot take your dog, where does your dog go now? This is not a "will you take my dog" but a "my dog needs to come to you" scenario, likely a boarding facility, rescue or shelter.

This might take a little research. But the information is good to have.

5) The "Go-Bag."

Time to put your emergency kit together.

Chances are, if your emergency plan is activated, you won't have time or energy to pack up items for your dog. Get one together now. Grab a big duffel bag, and fill it up! Here are some recommended items:

  • Food (if you feed raw, put a note in your plan to grab it out of the freezer).

  • Water bottle

  • Treats and chews

  • Water bowl

  • Food bowl or food dispensing toys

  • Toys

  • Leash

  • Harness and tags

  • Vaccination records

  • Blanket

  • Towels

  • Paw wipes

  • Poop bags

  • Shampoo

  • Toothbrush & toothpaste

  • Prescription medicine

  • Heartworm medicine

  • Flea and tick medicine

  • Travel crate

  • Pet first aid kit

You may want to go through and rotate perishable items out of your emergency kit. Don't let it be something thrown into the corner of the room until needed.

When you buy a new bag of food, rotate a fresh bag into the kit and use the old one. If your dog gets a new vaccination, add that to the records in the kit.

And of course, if you use something from the kit, be sure to replace it ASAP so that it's always available if needed.

Coronavirus-Specific Thinking Points:

This Pet Emergency Plan will cover your basis if you get sick and need someone to care for your dog. Even if you live as part of a household, this is good to have. Are you the primary caretaker of your dog? Do the other people in the home know what to do in case you can't do it? And if they get sick, you will definitely need outside help.

Something that really stood out was an article about New York's quarantine.

"Quarantine means no one goes out — and that includes your pup, unless you have a private outdoor space for them."

IF that were to happen here, and you don't have access to a yard, would your dog be ready? Make a plan for this today if needed.

Final Tips

Just like with dog seatbelts and pet first aid kits, a Pet Emergency Plan is something that you hope you will never use, but just having it gives you peace of mind that your dog will be safe.

Having a plan gives you structure among the ever-changing, uncertain world today.

If you've been avoiding a plan because you're afraid of the questions you'll have to answer, I want you to know that making a plan will help put some of that anxiety aside. The only way to do so is to tackle it, one step at a time.

I believe you can do this, because above all, great pet parents want their dogs to be safe and loved. Your love for your dog is the focus and motivation to getting it done.

Time is precious, so instead of creating from scratch, just download your Pet Emergency Plan Template here. Half of the work, done! Fill in the blanks and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with it. Put that worry on the shelf and look for joy in the rest of your day!


Piper's Walk is a socially-conscious small business dedicated to the safety and well-being of all dogs.

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