Creating an Emergency “Go-Bag” for Your Pets

Disasters come in many different forms. Whether you have to suddenly leave your home due to a gas leak, a fire, a flood or natural disaster; it’s important that you and your family are prepared. Having a “go bag” for your pets falls under the category of emergency planning, but it’s really just good life planning.

A go-bag is a backpack and/or kennel that contains everything your pets will need for 3 days. Go-Bags are simple to create and each member of your family should have one.

Contents of Go-Bag

Your “Go-bag” should include a 3-day supply of each of the following:

  • Kennel or carrier: Store the contents of your go-bag in your carrier for easy “grab-and-go” access.
  • Water: Plan on carrying ½–1 oz of water per pound of body weight, each day. For example, if your dog is 15 lbs, you should plan on 10–15 oz of water (about 1 pint) per day.
  • Bowls: Collapsible bowls take up very little room and are the best way to make sure your pets are drinking.
  • Food: Keep a high-quality canned food or dehydrated food in your go-bag. This will also encourage stressed pet to obtain extra fluids in case they stop drinking. Be sure you rotate foods out regularly.
  • Medication: Keep a 3-day supply of any pet medication in your go-bag. Remember to rotate the medication each month so they stay up-to-date.
  • Leash/Harness: Keep an emergency leash and harness in your box — these should be brightly colored and/or contain a strip that glows in the dark.
  • Collar: Keep an extra collar with ID tags attached in your carrier.
  • Identification: The most important thing you can do for your pets is to make sure they are microchipped and wearing ID at all times. Place a copy of their tag and microchip numbers, as well as a current photo showing any unusual markings, into their go-bag. You should also include a second photo that shows you and your pets together — photographic evidence will help you prove ownership in the event you become separated.
  • Treats: A small bag of your pet’s favorite treats can go a long way towards encouraging them to behave while you’re in a shelter environment. Most companies offer sample bags of their products — contact them and ask if they would send you treat samples.
  • Disposable litter box and litter: Don’t forget your cat’s needs while you’re traveling! There are lots of litter trays pre-filled with litter that are easy to transport.
    Tip: If you’re unable to carry the extra weight of litter, consider a paper disposable box and fill with sand while you’re sheltering.
  • Muzzle: Many shelters require your pet to be muzzled while staying. A basket muzzle is much less stressful to a dog and will allow them to eat and drink while they are confined.
  • Hygiene: Keep a roll of “doggy bags” for potty trips and it’s also a good idea to have a small packet of sanitary wipes placed in your go-bag.
  • Blanket/Comfort items: It’s up to you to keep your pets safe in a shelter environment. Comfort items, such as a familiar blanket, can help. Not only does a blanket offer warmth and a place to hide, it also gives you the ability to expand your kennel for easy access to litterboxes and playtime.

Large Dogs Can Carry Their Own Go-Bag

Larger dogs may be able to carry their own go-bag. There are a number of wonderfully designed dog packs available and if you have both large and small pets, your bigger dogs can help share the weight. There are many advantages to your dog carrying their own bag as it gives them a job to focus on (which can help alleviate anxiety).


Most dogs can easily handle 10% — 12% of their body weight (about 5–6 pounds for a 50-pound dog). Help your dog acclimate this weight by encouraging them to wear it on walks. Once your dog is accustomed to wearing a pack, you will get a feel for how much weight they can handle.

It can’t be said often enough that you should be prepared for an emergency — not just yourself, but your pets. Emergencies don’t give you notice and they’re difficult to anticipate. Play it safe by having a go-bag ready for you and your pets.