We are being asked to “hunker down” for about 15 days and hopefully flatten the steepness of the infection curve for COVID-19.
So, what does that mean, especially when it comes to pets?
First, let’s ask about the origin of the word hunker. Linguists say the likely origin is the Old Norse word, “huka,” meaning to crouch. The Germans used the word “hocken,” meaning, “to sit one’s hams.” Fact is, no one really knows exactly the origin of the word. The word itself did not appear in print in the U.S. until 1902. But the Scots had us beat by 180 years, having first printed it in 1720.
So, what do you need to do to shelter in place with pets for two weeks? There is no need to plan for evacuation as in some natural disasters.
Most people know enough to lay in two weeks’ worth of food. I won’t belabor the point but for those who make their own pets’ food or depend on fresh chilled or frozen pet food being shipped or available locally, you might reconsider. Also, know it’s best to rotate the fresher food to the rear of the line and feed the food nearest the product expiration deadline first.
Next, think physical security. Where are your pet’s leashes (plural) and crates? Where are their vaccination, microchip verification and medical records? For records, always make hard copies too, since snapshots on your phone can be lost. Is all this handy? If not, make it so.
After that, a pet needs to be identifiable. The best permanent identification is a hypodermal microchip that pings back a designated serial number identifying your dog in a database. Tattoos are probably the next best, done usually on the inside of the ear. Tags and collars work, too. But pets lose tags and collars, so redundancy with the other two methods above is the absolute best.
Along these same lines, try to get pictures of both sides of your pet, a bird’s-eye view, and one shot of their belly. And pay close attention to getting closeup pictures of any distinctive markings they may have.
Pets that react violently with strangers or when afraid need to have muzzles handy. A quick glance online can show you how to make an effective muzzle for most dogs with a strip of cloth or a common bandana.
Right now, water is not a concern. There is no expectation that municipal water supplies will go down. If you are concerned that might happen and you “need” to do something to set your mind at ease, don’t go buying bottled water. Instead, refill food grade, well-rinsed plastic water bottles for pets.
If your pet takes medication, place two weeks’ worth aside and make sure the prescriptions can be refilled and you don’t have to wait for a veterinarian to write a new prescription.
Next, think comfort. Make sure a pet’s bedding is clean and keep a couple of their favorite toys around.
For cats, think about their litter supply. Do you have enough? And keep plenty of used plastic bags around to place the scoopings into for disposal. Those also come in handy for picking up dog waste and disposing of it.
Plan for who will care for your pets if you become ill enough to require hospitalization, especially if you live alone. For each of my pets over the years, I’ve written a comical but practical primer for anyone who watches them. You might try it, since you’ll have plenty of time over the next couple of weeks.
Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email firstname.lastname@example.org.