Top 10 Emergency Planning Tips when Traveling with a Dog

I am actually surprised it has taken us this long to write this post. Not because we have a tendency to travel to dangerous destinations with (for example) unpredictable weather, but because Mom is an Emergency Management and Business Continuity Planning professional.  As a result, this line of thinking is actually a part of our day-to-day thought process.  Not everyone has these “dark” thoughts on their mind when going on vacation but when traveling with your dog, you do have the additional responsibility of ensuring your companions safety and there are certain things one should keep in mind when visiting destinations prone to floods, fire, tornados, hurricanes, or other disasters.

Top 10 Emergency Planning Tips when Traveling with a Dog

Emergency Kit Content

Early preparation and awareness are important in mitigating the negative impact of a crisis and guaranteeing (as much as possible) the protection of your pet.

Here are the top 10 things to consider in an emergency situation:


  1. Make sure you ask a member of the hotel staff for a quick demonstration or explanation of their “with pet” evacuation policies and read the sign often found behind your hotel room door that indicates the fire exits and walk them.  Having taken the time to walk the path with your dog will give both of you that added benefit of familiarity if you do need to evacuate.  Note: Make sure you do not set-off any emergency exit alarms – do ask staff first.
  2. If you are renting lodgings make sure you know the evacuation routes.  Know your neighborhood and find optional routes if possible. In almost every country, evacuation orders are issued for the safety of the area residents, make sure you know how this is done. It could be radio, TV, sirens or even word of mouth.
  3. Be sure your pet wears proper identification at all times.  This could mean a collar with tags and a tattoo, and/or microchip (tags can fall off). You may also want to consider signing up with a national and local pet registry. Note: Many countries require microshipping to allow your pet into the country.
  4. Keep your pet’s documentation organized and in an easy-to-access place. Know where it is so that you can quickly grab it on your way out the door (mine are kept with the bipeds passports). Include a photo of your pet in your documents should you sadly need to create a search poster. You shoudl also have any documentation that was required for entry into the country you are visiting and anything needed to return home (If European this would mean you pet Passport).
  5. Pack an emergency kit for yourself and include your pets. Include pet food and water for at least several days, medication, leashes/harnesses, carrier, bedding, toys, and a pet first aid kit. Note: Keep all these items with your own emergency kit so that you only have one thing to grab.
  6. If renting, make arrangements with a trusted neighbor or friend just in case you’re not home when the emergency occurs (If staying at a hotel, arrange for a member of the hotel to do the same if possible). This person should be comfortable with your pet and vice versa. Arrange for them to retrieve your pet and meet you at a specified location. Because cell phones may not be functioning you may want to have more than one location to meet at. Usually it a progressive outward radius.  Ex: If only your street is impacted go to location A. If your entire area is impacted go to Location B. If the entire city is impacted meet at location C.
Emergency Kit for dog

Keep an eye on expiry dates!

During An Event

  1. Do not wait for a mandatory evacuation order or you may be told to leave your pet behind. Leave early if possible.
  2. Keep your dog on its leash (and cats in carriers) to prevent them from bolting in panic or confusion. A sling carrier with built in harness clip is ideal for this.
  3. Pets left behind may be injured, lost, or could even die from starvation, exposure, predators, or accidents. Do not assume that you can later return for your pet, because “later” may be too late; you never know how long you’ll have to stay out of the area. Take your pet with you!
  4. Find a safe place to stay ahead of time in case of a quick relocation. Ask friends, family, another hotel, animal shelter, pet grooming salons and veterinary clinics outside of your immediate area if they would be willing to house your pet in case of an emergency. Make a list of pet friendly accommodations in surrounding communities and ask them about their pet policies ahead of time. As soon as you think you will be evacuating, call to make arrangements.

A few extra resources

Note: Updated from a 2012 post. 

43 Comments on “Top 10 Emergency Planning Tips when Traveling with a Dog

  1. Great info to share! Thanks! I just tweeted your post! I’m sure others will appreciate it too!

  2. Great info.Looks like you covered everything really well!

    • Thanks Marlene!! I just want people to know what they should look into … even when not traveling this info is useful!

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  8. Great tips for emergency planning for people and their pets. We were just discussing this if something was to happen and how we would react and what we would do with a dog and two cats. It’s important to think ahead and plan for situations like this.

  9. So very important!! A few I haven’t thought of. At home I keep an emergency leash near the front door but hadn’t thought of that for traveling.

    • leash, food, water … grab and go bag. Always a good idea. We have one by the door, in the car and when we travel it’s part of my “backpack/purse”. Also … I include a sweater because my little one gets cold easily.

  10. This is such important information. I’m going to email it to myself and follow these steps. We do experience hurricanes here on the coast. So far we haven’t had a mandatory evacuation, but there was a large number of missing animals as a result of Hurricane Sandy years ago. Gonzo was a puppy and slipped his collar in the storm, and I thought he was lost forever. Going forward I would definitely use a harness or something a little stronger if my dogs were to panic. Luckily the power of bully sticks compelled him back before he could get lost or hurt.

  11. I never would have thought about asking the hotel staff about evacuation, or walking the route. That is such a great idea! Emergency kits are so important and is something I need to be better at.

  12. I like your list, it’s comprehensive. People often forget things in a panic but with a step by step you have the makings of a plan that could save your life!

    You should make it into a pdf (and add a bit of cute branding!) and people would take you everywhere!!

    • Ooooh that’s a good idea. Although I think there is a Part 2 to this so – maybe my PDF will be a combo of the two. 🙂 Thanks for the idea.

  13. What kind of emergency food do you pack for Monte? Mr. N is super picky and he doesn’t like most of the shelf-stable foods and freeze-dried is expensive! He will eat some canned food but he typically doesn’t need a whole can so it seems like a waste especially when we won’t have refrigeration.

    • We use freeze dried … 😉 He’s so small that it’s really just one bag and then once we are settled and looking for food for ourselves then he shares in that and the freeze dried becomes a supplement.

  14. Fortunately, we have some friends in remote enough locations that either they could come and “hide out” with us or vice versa. That, I think, is ideal.

    • The problem is getting there … and back. What do you do if all the roads are closed? No car? No bus…? Evacuations are never streamlined.

  15. It is always a good idea to be prepared for the worst (and hope for the best!) I recently stayed a hotel and asked 3 staff members where the stairs to the guest rooms were and none knew the answer. I ended up finding them by looking at a map in my room, but it concerned me that the staff didn’t know where they were. (Although only one of them worked the front desk, the other two were on multiple floors for their job.)

    • They should know – it’s suppose to be a par of THEIR security training. I’d write the hotel and share your concern.

  16. Great tips. Ruby doesn’t travel with us much. But I usually worry about things happening when I am traveling and we are apart. I have a mini-plan in place but really need to give this some more thought.

  17. I never thought about a possible different evacuation route for pets. I’ve never traveled with pets, so I hadn’t thought about a lot of these issues. When we took my mom’s dog to Myrtle Beach for the day, I became more aware of the issues of traveling with a pet.

  18. Great tips for an emergency. You also covered one thing I haven’t seen from others and that is have an escape plan/route. Great point! You can have all the gear but you also need a plan on where to go! Nice post.

  19. Great info! I wrote about something similar, too–having a disaster preparedness plan for pets. With the warmer weather arriving, storms and natural disasters are definitely on our minds. Such an important topic. And if traveling, a real concern. You have great hotel tips, too, for travelers! We hope no one ever has to initiate an emergency plan, but if they do, it’s so important to have a plan.

  20. Wow, I never thought about a lot of this. I especially like the information on how to handle a situation in my apartment if I’m not home in an emergency. It’s always important to know the evacuation route too, especially during an event or when traveling.

  21. Thanks so much for the insightful tips! I must confess planning for me ends with making sure his blankie and snacks are packed

  22. Thank you for sharing this very important information with us. Definitely going to share this link with my friend who is going to travel with her dog next week

  23. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. One of our readers recently helped us out with a post about traveling with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel I totally hadn’t thought about “with pet” evacuation policies. The logistics of just getting to your destination with Dog can seem a little daunting, never mind all the helpful additional safety tips you’ve mentioned when you arrive. You’ve made it seem so simple.

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  25. I think equally important is being able to recognize a dog emergency so educating ourselves is indeed priority as too often we can misdiagnose an emergency. This post is well detailed and as always not a bad idea having your vet’s number handy to reach out when unsure.

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