How to Protect Your Pets During a Wildfire
21 November, 2016
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With all the wildfires that have been occurring, we all worry about our own health and safety as well as our pets.  It is important to always have a plan ready for you and your pets to escape if necessary.  Even if you don’t evacuate, there are other health concerns for you and your pets while the fires are burning.

Have an evacuation plan for you your pets

Many shelters and hotels don’t allow pets, although some will accept them during times of emergency. But call your planned destination in advance to find out where you and your animals can head if you have to leave your home.   Place your smaller animals in a carrier and leash dogs and other large animals with harnesses.

Keep an eye on your pets at all times

During a wildfire, your pets’ will be more anxious and more likely to bolt outside.  Be much more mindful of where your pets are on a daily basis to watch that they are inside and to check how they are feeling.

Health Dangers Associated with Wildfires

The charred air from wildfires has irritants that can impact you and your pets’ health.  The airborne particles can irritate a pets’ eyes, respiratory tracts, skin, and other body systems. Additionally, inhalation of toxic chemicals from burning fuels, metal, plastics, and even plant material (alkaloids) can cause mild to severe toxic effects to internal organs.

Winds can blow the smoke, ash and fire-hot embers from wildfires into your neighborhood. Smoke contains gases that can irritate your pet’s eyes, causing them to squint, swell or become red.  Inhaled smoke can cause your pet to cough, wheeze, develop nasal discharge and have shortness of breath. They are at risk for thermal burns to their coat, skin and respiratory tract by the floating embers that fall on the ground.

Below are some of the clinical signs your pet may show from irritants released by wildfires including:

  • Squinting of the eyelids
  • Conjunctivitis – redness to the whites of the eyes or tissue lining the eyelids
  • Pawing at the eyes or rubbing the eyes/face on environmental surfaces
  • Eye discharge
  • Coughing, wheezing, and other breathing difficulties
  • Sneezing and nasal discharge
  • Licking, chewing, or scratching at affected skin
  • Lethargy

Limit your pets’ outdoor time during wildfire conditions

Not surprisingly, the key to keeping your pets healthy and safe during wildfire conditions is keeping them indoors whenever possible. You can check the air quality for you and your pets at: Airnow  to see if it the air is clean enough to be outside.   Keeping your pets indoors will reduce the chances of air quality related illness and some of their anxiety as well.  Further, wildlife is rampant during wildfires and can be much closer to your home than in normal times.

If you see any of the above symptoms for your pets, take them to your veterinarian.

Wildfires can expose your dogs or cats to smoke, fire, or other noxious substances, causing life-threatening damage to vital organs (brain, heart, lungs).  As always, if you are concerned that your pet has incurred wildfire-associated trauma or toxicity, make sure to take your pet to your veterinarian immediately.

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