TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) —  When it comes to popular places to raise your four-legged family members, the Tampa Bay area is one of the best spots in the country.

In fact, according to WalletHub, Tampa and St. Petersburg are ranked near the top of an elite list when it comes to pet friendly cities. It seems that Fido loves the sun, sand and surf.

But, with the sweet comes the sour. Alas, the lovely, sunny lifestyle of Tampa Bay brings with it fierce storms and yearly possibilities of catastrophic hurricanes.

The warm Gulf waters are blissful when relaxing on the weekends, but can be deceiving and downright menacing during hurricane season, creating perfect conditions for a churning, destructive storm.

So, as you’re checking off items on your hurricane to-do list – have you prepped for your pet? Do you have everything you need?

According to experts, if you want to keep your pet safe during the storm, there is one crucial thing you need to do right now. It’s a simple step, but one that may have slipped your mind.

Veterinarians like Dr Holly O’Hara are advising pet owners – one of the most important things you can do for your four-legged family members is update their microchipping information online. It is a key step to ensuring your pets’ safety if they go missing, run off or you become separated from them during the storm.

You should check if the data on your pets’ microchip is, indeed, accurate with current information.

Dr. O’Hara from Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa tells us she sees success stories time and time again with microchipping. “It’s the first thing I look for when I treat an animal. I get so excited when I see that they’re microchipped,” she told WFLA.

So, does microchipping really work when it comes to reuniting a lost pet with a frantic, heartbroken owner?

Absolutely. “All the time. I’ve seen it happen,” said Dr. O’Hara. “All the time.”

However, she points out that the national database only works to identify lost pets if the information is truly up-to-date. So, if you know the information has not been updated recently, this is an important step to take right now, ahead of Irma’s arrival.

If your animal is not microchipped, this is certainly a good time to do it, says Dr. O’Hara.  The procedure is quick, easy and usually cheap. It could save your pet’s life.

Blue Pearl in Tampa is planning to stay open during the storm, as staff numbers care for critical pet patients in-house. Blue Pearl in Houston remained open during Hurricane Harvey and the Tampa teams are hoping for the same operational status during Irma.

Dr. O’Hara also points out the need for a brief checklist for pet owners, one they should have in place as families prepare for the storm.

As Irma approaches – make sure you have your pet’s vaccination records, their medicines, any past veterinary documentation of procedures and extra pet food, along with a safe and secure carrier in which to transport them.

And, don’t forget – their favorite blanket or chew toy. It will make them even more comfortable as they are by your side, safe and sound, while you and your family ride out the storm together.HURRICANE IRMA COVERAGE –