Millions of people in Florida were forced to evacuate their homes before Hurricane Irma made landfall last weekend, and many brought their pets with them.

As people prepare to return to their homes, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is encouraging pet owners to take steps to ensure the health and well-being of their pets, in what could be potentially dangerous or stressful environments.

When returning home with pets following a disaster, the AVMA recommends the following:

  • Survey the area inside and outside your home to identify sharp objects, dangerous materials, dangerous wildlife, contaminated water, downed power lines or other hazards.
  • Do not allow pets to roam free outdoors until the area is safe for them to do so. They could encounter dangerous wildlife and debris if allowed outside unsupervised and unrestrained. In addition, familiar scents and landmarks may have changed, and this can confuse your pets.
  • Allow uninterrupted rest and sleep to allow your pets to recover from the trauma and stress of the evacuation and disaster.
  • The disruption of routine activities can be the biggest cause of stress for your pets, so try to re-establish a normal schedule as quickly as you can.
  • Comfort each other. The simple act of petting and snuggling can reduce anxiety for both people and pets.
  • If you notice any signs of stress, discomfort, or illness in your pets, contact your veterinarian to schedule a checkup.

For more information on pets and disasters, visit the AVMA website at avma.org/PetReady.