P.E.I. animal owners learn about disaster preparedness

Veterinarians hosted a course this weekend on Prince Edward Island to teach pet owners about animal first-aid and how care for them during a disaster.

Veterinarians discuss first aid and what to do during an emergency

A dog mannequin named Casper was used to teach first aid during a disaster preparedness course for pet owners on Saturday. (CBC)

Veterinarians hosted a conference this weekend on Prince Edward Island to teach pet owners about animal first aid and how care for them during a disaster.

Managing pets during a major emergency can be just as important as managing people, according to veterinarian Carin Wittnich.

"We've learned through (Hurricane) Katrina and all these other disasters is that if the pets aren't cared for the people won't leave," she said. "And so the human animal bond is very tight."

The course included a session with Casper, a dog mannequin, which was used to teach pet CPR.

The conference is meant to prepare pet owners for emergencies and answer some common questions.

"What's a pet first aid kit? What's in a pet first aid kit?" said Laurel Hache, with St. John Ambulance. "What are some things you need to consider that you may not consider to be life-threatening or to be critical, but in a pet they can be very detrimental to their health."

One piece of advice is to have an identification microchip implanted in your dog. If the pet can't be evacuated during a disaster, a microchip will identify the animal and help reunite it with its owner.

It’s not just small animals that were discussed. Veterinarian Kathleen MacMillan taught a session on making a first aid kit for horses.

"Too often I think people just see a little cut and they think well, it's not such a big deal," she said. "But if you start to look a little deeper and you assess it properly, very often they're a little more extensive than perhaps they first thought."

Conference organizer Elizabeth Turner hopes owners will be better off for attending.

"I hope that they have a better understanding when they're at home and something goes wrong, that they don't have to panic — they do have the knowledge to do something until they're able to get to a veterinarian," she said.