With the ubiquitous wildfires on the West Coast, pet parents need to be aware of not only the dangers of smoke inhalation, and also the proper procedures for pet evacuation. But fire smoke is not the only threat to your pet’s health. Second-hand smoke is also a silent danger to your pet’s health at home.
The National Fire Protection Association stresses that “every disaster plan must include your pets.” Make sure you choose a designated escape route and have a prepared emergency supply kit for your pet with medicine, IDs, water, food, baggies, and favorite toys. Make sure to check all their favorite sleeping and hiding places, and have their kennel or pen opened so they are able to escape on their own. Owners should also have a Pet Rescue Sticker on their door. The stickers are available online at no cost at ASPCA.org and alert firefighters of the animals inside.
In the event that your pet is exposed to smoke, take them to the vet immediately. Signs of smoke inhalation can range from increased breathing, bluish tongue or lips, smell of smoke on coat, singed whiskers, or soot on the coat or face. The vet may treat your pet with oxygen therapy, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and require rest for a prompt recovery. Without treatment your pet can develop a chronic cough, phenomena or bronchitis due to bacteria in the lungs. Thankfully more and more pets are being aided on-site due to the work of Best Friends Pet Care, who has donated over 2,500 pet oxygen masks to firehouses across the country. The masks come in three sizes and are designed to fit dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs and birds.
But what about controlled smoke, such as cigarette fumes. There is ample scientific evidence to suggest that second-hand cigarette smoke can cause cancer in companion animals. John Reid an epidemiology professor at CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital headed two studies, the “first of their kind” showing that a dog exposed to smoke is 1.6 times more likely to develop cancer. Effects in cats are even worse. A study done by Tufts University found that cats exposed to second-hand smoke have more than a doubled risk of developing lymphoma, a common cancer in domestic cats. If you do smoke, do it away from the pets as you would children, and take your pet to the vet for frequent smoke related check-ups.
Animal Fair’s Wild Fire Evacuation Tips
• Stay calm! The smell of smoke will already agitate your pet, don’t make the situation worse.
• Plan ahead and know your destination. Shelters fill quickly, and some hotels may take in animals in case of emergency.
• Put small animals in a carrier.
• Bring all of your pet’s supplies: food, water, toys, dish, leash, and vaccination records.
• Make sure your pets have proper identification in case you get separated.
• Never leave your pet inside a car. The heat can be deadly, even if they are left with water.