Distress continues for pets after flooding

Moose, Violet Retmerr's dog, who classmate Sydney volunteered to help take care of while Retmerr is in need. (Courtesy photo by Violet Retmerr)

Monday’s flood displaced not only residents, but also their pets. Like humans, pets become stressed during situations like these and it is important to monitor their health, attitudes and activity.

The Manhattan Fire Department helped rescue 152 residents and 24 pets from flooded areas in Manhattan; 16 were residents of the Highland Ridge apartments. Of the 16, Violet Rettmer, first-year veterinary medicine student, was rescued along with her 9-month-old dog, Moose.

“I first realized my apartment was affected while we were all sitting on the third floor watching the flood and my dog was freaking out,” Retmerr said. “It took about 15 minutes after I posted on Facebook for Sydney Bigger, from my vet school class, to respond saying she would take Moose for at least that day and possibly more. Moose eventually went home with my mom, who lives in Kansas City. I don’t think I’ll see him again for at least a week.”

Moose_VRetmerr (courtesy photo)
Moose, Violet Retmerr's dog, who classmate Sydney volunteered to help take care of while Retmerr is in need. (Courtesy photo by Violet Retmerr)

Local efforts

The Manhattan PetSmart staff members immediately took action when they realized that along with local residents, pets would also be in danger.

“Our general store manager worked with the American Red Cross yesterday after the flooding occurred,” said Laura Tarr, manager at PetSmart. “As a result, we gave 50 percent off dog crates to anyone who came in and told us they had been displaced.”

PetSmart online lists tips for pet safety when flooding occurs: have a pet first-aid kit available including bottle water, wet food, ThunderShirt (calming apparel) and a collar with all updated pet information. The site also states to be sure to know what locations do and don’t accept pets in their shelter.

While some shelters have not accepted pets, Pottorf Hall in CiCo Park is designated to shelter victims with pets. Other options for pet housing include pet friendly hotels and PetSmart PetsHotels, which include boarding for multiple days, 24/7 care and on-call veterinarians.

Susan Clasen, founder and director of Purple Power Animal Welfare Society (aka Purple PAWS) said they will accept donations and distribute them according to need. This will be coordinated online at purple-paws.org.

Purple PAWS cannot assist with boarding, however, as some people who foster pets for Purple PAWS were displaced in the flooding. The group’s efforts need to be focused internally there at this time.

Red Cross vehicles sit in front of Pottorf Hall, the shelter accepting flood victims with pets. (Sarah Moyer | Collegian Media Group) Photo credit: Sarah Moyer

Vet advice

Trisha Kvasnica, veterinarian at Blue Hills Animal Hospital, said animals affected by the flooding would likely be stressed due to a change in routine.

“They are more in tune to routine than we are, so whenever that changes, it does tend to throw off their internal balance,” Kvasnica said. “Most animals carry stress in their gut, so you will see vomiting or diarrhea. Cats can carry stress in their bladder so they can get bloody urine.”

Kvasnica also advises victims to consult their veterinarian if symptoms persist, because animals are best treated on a case-by-case basis. Signals of highly stressed animals normally start as excessive panting or pacing and can lead to destructive behavior before or during a storm.

“Sometimes they can detect a storm long before we do because of the barometric pressure changes,” the veterinarian said. “Usually it’s the noise of the thunder that sets off animals more than anything else.

This can occur during a seasonal thunderstorm as well, and pets should be consulted for severe levels of stress and anxiety.

“Nobody wants to live with that level of stress,” she said. “So definitely if you’re seeing that, address it. Don’t just let them suffer through.”

She lists natural remedies, the ThunderShirt and a couple commonly prescribed medications.

“I’d say it’s about a 50/50,” Kvasnica said of the ThunderShirt. “Either animals respond to it, or they don’t.”