Petplan Warns that Storm Flooding Can Pose Greatest Health Risks to Pets

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Stress, exposure to disease and post-trauma phobias among biggest threats. Petplan opens 24/7 helpline for policy holders impacted by Harvey.

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Pets in the path of Hurricane Harvey could face ongoing health risks for weeks or even months after the storm clouds clear, according to Petplan pet insurance. The pet insurance provider says widespread flooding poses perils many pet parents may be unaware of, so they set up a 24/7 Disaster Helpline at 800.240.1868 for policyholders who were impacted by Harvey and have questions about their pet’s health and well being or have policy or account concerns.

“We are estimating that thousands of our policyholders may be impacted by Harvey before it’s all said and done,” says Natasha Ashton, co-founder and co-CEO of Petplan. “We want to make sure they know we are here for them to answer any questions about their pet’s well being. Pet parents should also be aware of the hazards that still may lay ahead and be cautious with pets over the next few months.”

To help raise awareness about post-storm pet health dangers, Petplan is warning pet parents to be vigilant about the following:

An animal struggling against a rising flood can easily aspirate water. This inhaled water can cause pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), resulting in respiratory distress or cardiac arrest. This is what veterinarians call dry-drowning.

“Pets who have near-drowning accidents can succumb to fluid buildup in the lungs as much as 48 hours after the event,” warns Petplan Staff Veterinarian Dr. Kim Smyth. “If your pet struggled to evacuate through flood waters, keep a close eye on his condition for the next few days, even if he seems normal.”

Debris from destroyed structures, downed trees and trash can hang around long after floodwaters recede. Never let pets climb on debris or nose through trash, as they can suffer lacerations, abrasions or broken bones from falls. Additionally, curious canines could find unsavory snacks that can lead to intestinal obstruction, bowel perforation or poisoning.

Disease-carrying fungi pose a health risk to people and pets wading through floodwater. The water can also be tainted with toxic chemicals and wildlife-borne diseases like Leptospirosis, a bacterial illness that is particularly problematic in wet conditions.

Standing water also attracts mosquitoes, which can transmit disease and parasites like heartworms to unprotected pets. “Limit your pet’s exposure to floodwaters as much as possible and keep furry friends on heartworm preventives at all times—whether it’s hurricane season or not,” says Smyth.

Because mold spores can cause long-term respiratory damage and other health issues, it is critical to have houses that have sustained flood damage checked. Dr. Smyth says that pets scratching at or chewing on themselves, or those exhibiting extreme lethargy, wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, nosebleeds or disruption in eating habits may be suffering the effects of black mold exposure. Although black mold poisoning has not been widely documented in pets, two cats who survived Superstorm Sandy succumbed to the toxin.

“In the aftermath of a natural disaster, both mental and physical health hazards abound,” says Smyth. “The increase in stress and trauma-induced phobias decreases immunity, which makes pets vulnerable to infectious disease — especially in crowded shelter environments or if exposed to new pets.”

Common canine stress signals include yawning, licking or chewing when no food is present, excessive shaking and freezing when touched. Cats signal stress through excessive vocalization, inappropriate elimination and even vomiting.

Dr. Smyth says pet parents who take in displaced animals should keep foster pets separate from household animals to minimize the potential for both spreading infections and possible negative interactions due to stress.

“Pay close attention to your pet's health as you navigate the recovery from a natural disaster,” says Smyth. “Changes in behavior, appetite, or appearance should all be addressed by a veterinarian as soon as possible.”

Petplan has built an industry-leading pet insurance policy for pet parents who demand a higher pedigree of care for their best friends. We’ve leveraged 40 years of global experience to create completely customizable coverage pet parents can feel confident in, and world-class claims service — 24 hours a day, every day.

Petplan’s innovative approach to pet insurance has been recognized by Forbes, Financial Times, Bloomberg, Inc. magazine, Smart CEO, the Communicator Awards, Ernst & Young and many others.

Petplan policies are underwritten in the U.S. by AGCS Marine Insurance Company, a member of the Allianz Group (rated A+ A.M. Best), and XL Specialty Insurance Company; and in Canada by XL Specialty Insurance Company-Canadian Branch. XL Specialty Insurance Company is rated A+ by S&P as of 2017. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions. For more information about Petplan pet insurance, visit or call 1-866-467-3875.

A 2004 graduate of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Kim Smyth, DVM, first began practicing veterinary medicine in a small animal clinic close to Philadelphia, PA. In addition to a passion for practicing veterinary medicine, Dr. Smyth has authored thousands of veterinary pet health pieces, including essays, breed profiles and blogs and is a regular contributor to fetch! magazine.

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Greg Wiley
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