To avoid such a situation, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind as wildfire season approaches. Such as always heeding the most current wildfire warnings in your local area. And evacuating BEFORE it becomes physically necessary.
In addition, the pet care experts at Vetted offer the following suggestions:
Be sure to keep an identifying collar on your pet at all times; this will be useful for leashing him in a hurry and/or for returning him to you, should you be separated.
If you live in an area with active fires, it’s a good idea to keep your pets in the room with you at night. Not only will they alert you of any pressing threats, this also makes it easier to grab your animal and go, should you need to get out of the house in a hurry. If your pets are prone to running or hiding, you may want to have them sleep in a carrier (if they’ll tolerate it).
It’s also a good idea to pack two bags – one for you and one for your pet – that contain all your animal’s most important items, in case you need to flee. Don’t forget medications, a few days’ worth of food, and some fresh water. (See related article, “Evacuation Preparedness: What About My Pets?”)
In your car, keep an extra “go-bag” for everyone in the family, including your pet. Also keep a well-stocked first aid kit, complete with smoke-inhibiting masks and burn gauze. If you should need to leave quickly in the middle of the night, these could be indispensable. Always be sure your car has plenty of gas.
If you have an outdoor dog or cat, bring them in if wildfires are burning anywhere in the vicinity. Fires can shift and change in an instant, and it’s easy for animals to get confused when their sense of smell is hindered. Poor air quality can also affect your pet’s overall health.
Which brings us to…
Smoke is, far and away, the biggest killer of animals in a fire event. When pets sense fire, they try to hide from it; this can trap them in hard-to-find places, where they eventually perish from smoke inhalation.
But air quality can affect your pets, even if the wildfire is not particularly close by. Smoke from fires burning up to 100 miles away can still carry CO2, fine particulates, and other toxic chemicals to your location.
You can check on the air quality in your immediate area by accessing AirNow, the government’s air quality website. (Check it often; conditions can change in just minutes!). Breathing and exertion can become labored whenever air quality is poor. If you suspect your pet is having trouble breathing, contact your vet about a nebulizer.
Just to be safe, you may wish to keep your pet indoors as much as possible during wildfire season.
Monitor your pets’ health closely to ensure they aren’t behaving oddly…this could be a sign of serious smoke inhalation. If you suspect your pets may have come in contact with fire or fire-related materials, carefully inspect their paw pads, skin, and fur to check for burns or blisters.
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Be sure your pets drink plenty of water, and do your best to keep them calm. Call a local veterinarian and have your animal seen as soon as possible following a wildfire event.
If you’ve escaped from a fire, your pet is likely disoriented. Be sure his collar contains your contact information and keep him on a leash or in a carrier at all times, until things get back to normal.
If you’re looking for a lost pet, there are many rescue services that post pet photos online. Unclaimed pets are considered to belong to the county animal services department, so start with the county where the pet was last seen.
Bear in mind, however, that it’s probably best to visit the animal shelter in person, rather than relying on a photo. Animals who’ve been through a wildfire experience may not look like themselves. Which is why the San Francisco SPCA posted the following on Facebook:
Taking extra precautions now can go a long way toward ensuring both you and your pet pass through this wildfire season unscathed.
Featured Image, National Park Service, Public Domain