During the January 3 snow storm, we lost power at 9:45 and it was off for just over 12 hours.
We were lucky. Much of my neighborhood is on a different grid and has been without power for over three days. Friends of mine elsewhere had no power for six days. Power outages are no fun and we need to be prepared. When it comes to pets, what can we do to prepare for future outages?
Know your species of pet and its breed/type within that species. Does your pet need tighter climate controls, such as reptiles, birds, amphibians, small “pocket pets” and certain fish? What a goldfish can tolerate can kill your tropical fish.
What about your pet’s coat? My Great Pyrenees is more adapted to the cold than my friend’s Xolos or even our Standard Schnauzers and senior Shetland Sheepdog. A rabbit may be able to handle a cooler house than a guinea pig.
Is your pet a senior? Older pets often don’t tolerate the cold as well as younger ones. Depending on your situation, you may want to consider a backup power source like a gas generator or a battery-powered power station. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
Gas generators should be run outdoors and away from air intake vents due to the dangers of carbon monoxide. If you lose power for long periods of time, will you be able to refill the tank?
Battery power stations are another option, but you can’t charge them without another power source. Some backup batteries have solar panels. Solar panels take time to recharge the power station and depend on the strength of the sun. If your pet doesn’t need strict climate controls, extra bedding, sweaters, battery-powered heaters (always be careful with heaters), and wrapping cages in towels can get them through winter blackouts.
Have at least a week’s worth of food for your pet before a storm hits. If your pet’s food needs to be refrigerated, in the winter it’s easy to put the food in coolers and stick the coolers outside. What if the power outage occurs during the warmer months? Prolonged power outages increase the risk of food spoilage if you cannot keep food cool.
If you are on a well, no current means no well pump. In addition to water for you, don’t forget your pets. Store water in clean, covered 5 gallon buckets. If your pet is on medication, have enough on hand to get you through a few days to a week or more in case you can’t get out of the house due to road conditions.
When the lights go out, people often resort to candles. Use candles with care. A curious cat or dog bouncing around and burning candles could spell disaster. I prefer to use candles in heavy, wide-based jars. They don’t tip over as easily as taller, tapered candles. Place candles on solid surfaces and out of your pet’s reach.
Remember that the chemicals used to ignite matches, including potassium chlorate, are toxic. The size of the animal and the number of matches consumed determine whether there is no reaction or more regarding problems such as tremors, vomiting and convulsions. Keep matches away from pets.
Power outages can occur at any time of the year. Consider what your pets will need if you lose power, especially for an extended period. Do what you can to prepare for this eventuality and try to make breakdowns safer and less stressful for your critters.
Karen Peak is the developer of the Safe Kids/Safe Dogs project and owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County.