A week ago, my husband was in a car accident. We are very grateful that he was not seriously hurt—he has a broken arm and a very broken car.

In addition to teaching us gratitude, the accident taught us another lesson: the importance of having an “in case of emergency” plan for our pets.

My husband is the first one home at the end of the day, so even as he was being loaded into the ambulance, he was thinking of the dog waiting at home for his afternoon pee break and walk.

As soon as I got the call, I left work and headed home. I fed the cat her dinner, let Bax out for a quick pee, then loaded him, his leash and his bed into my car. I called my in-laws from the road and 20 minutes later I was handing Bax over to them, so that I could head to the hospital.

We are fortunate that both of our parents live relatively close to us. We also bring Baxter to their houses very often, so they know each other well. My father-in-law is one of Bax’s favourite people. Baxter has stayed with my in-laws when we’re on vacation, so they understand his routines, are comfortable taking him for walks and don’t mind taking care of him.

However, vacations typically involve planning and preparation (and, let’s be honest, pages of detailed written instructions). Dealing with an emergency is a different situation.

Here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about since our emergency:

1. Identify a person, or a few people, who can step in and take care of your animals. If family isn’t available, consider a friend, co-worker, neighbour, anyone who can be there quickly.

2. Consider that your caregiver may need to access your house. Make sure they have a key or can get a key. Don’t forget to share the alarm code if you have one.

3. Think of what your pet needs to be comfortable if you’re handing your pet off to a caregiver. For Bax, he always does better if he has his own bed with him, so I took the time to toss it in the car before we left for my in-laws.

4. Beyond comfort, make sure your caregiver has the basic equipment to take care of your pet—a leash and food are at the top of my list. Food and water bowls, poop bags can be improvised if necessary.

5. Have instructions on standby. The detailed instructions I write for vacations are about making both Bax and his caregivers as comfortable as possible. Having them saved on my phone so that I can easily send them to my caregiver, or even taping them inside the cupboard with Baxter’s food may come in handy someday.

But hopefully not any time soon.

Our emergency was relatively minor and brief. Later that evening, we picked Baxter up on our way home from the hospital.

However, you may need help that extends over several days. It may be necessary to have a rotation of dog walkers, or a professional pet sitter, or even board your pet for a little while.

Having a plan arranged in advance can alleviate some of the worry in a stressful situation and ensure your pet is well cared for.

What are your tips for dealing with an emergency? What does your pet need to be comfortable?

Julia Thomson is a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and DIY renovating. She and her husband live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario, Canada.