A kitten cuddling with a stuffed bunny

As more California acreage burns every day, you likely worry about protecting your pet should the fire’s path lead to your door. Our team at Bayside Animal Hospital wants to provide tips to help keep your pet safe if flames get too close.

#1: Ensure your pet has appropriate identification

If you are forced to evacuate, the resulting commotion could cause your pet to panic and run away. Ensure they are wearing a snug fitting collar and current identification in case they get past your defences at a stressful moment. Microchipping is the best way to help ensure a reunion if your pet becomes lost, and this can be done at your pet’s next wellness visit. Then, remember to keep your information current at the microchip registry.

#2: Protect your pet from smoke

If smoke is causing poor air quality near your home, keep your pet indoors, and keep the doors and windows closed. Allow your pet outside for brief bathroom breaks, and avoid intense outdoor activities until the smoke settles. Birds are especially susceptible to smoke irritation and should be monitored closely for respiratory issues. If your pets are experiencing the following signs, contact our team at Bayside Animal Hospital.

  • Coughing or gagging
  • Open-mouth breathing or increased respiratory rate
  • Eye tearing and irritation
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Disorientation
  • Reduced appetite or water intake

#3: Plan ahead to protect your pet

You should plan ahead, to ensure you know where you can take your pet if you have to evacuate. Ask friends and family members outside the area if they would be willing to take in you and your pet. Research hotels outside the area to find pet-friendly locations. You can also research boarding facilities outside the area, in case you can find only accommodations that are not pet-friendly. If you are not at home when the fire encroaches, ensure you have a neighbor or friend willing to be responsible for your pet and rescue them from the house.

#4: Assemble a pet evacuation kit

Preparing a kit that has all the essentials for your pet in case evacuation is necessary will ensure you do not forget anything during a stressful time. Your kit should include:

  • Emergency contacts and medical records
  • Recent picture of your pet
  • Pet carrier for each pet
  • Food and water to last for two weeks
  • Medications to last for two weeks
  • Food and water bowls
  • Litter box and litter
  • Plastic bags for waste disposal
  • Leashes and collars
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Bedding
  • Toys and treats

#5: Keep your cool to decrease your pet’s anxiety

Evacuating is stressful, and you and your pet will be upset and anxious. Try to stay as calm as possible to help your pet through the evacuation process. They are sensitive to your mood, and if they sense you are upset, they may become panicked and run away, or refuse to cooperate at a crucial moment. Practicing your evacuation plan in advance may help your pet. Familiarizing them with being transported in a carrier and riding in a vehicle will help the situation be less stressful during the evacuation. Take familiar bedding and toys to comfort your pet, and put your recently worn clothing in their carrier to help ease their anxiety.

#6: Plan for your exotic pet

Exotic pets require special considerations during an evacuation. 

  • Birds — Birds should be transported in a secure, covered, travel cage, to help decrease their stress and anxiety. Once you arrive at your location, place their cage in the quietest, low-traffic area.
  • Snakes — You can transport your snake in a pillow case, but move them to an appropriate-sized aquarium when you reach your destination. You should also bring a heating pad and a large bowl for soaking.
  • Small rodents — Gerbils, hamsters, mice, and guinea pigs should be transported in a secure travel carrier. Bring enough food, water, and bedding for two weeks, and bring a salt lick and a small box for hiding.

#7: After you return home, inspect your property before releasing your pet

If your home escaped the flames, you will still need to inspect your home and yard to ensure no dangerous objects or wildlife are present. Wildlife may seek refuge from the fire near your home, and may become aggressive if they feel threatened. Check for open or damaged doors and fencing, ensure no power lines are down, and ensure the air quality is acceptable before releasing your pet.

#8: Allow your pet time to reacclimate to your home

Your pet may be extremely stressed from the experience, and will need time to normalize. Familiar scents and landmarks may have changed, which may confuse and upset them. Initially, keep your pet inside until they acclimate, and leash them when you take them out. Re-establish a normal schedule as soon as you can, to help your pet settle into a routine. If your pet continues to exhibit stress and anxiety, contact our team at Bayside Animal Hospital for advice.

Wildfires are scary, but being prepared for an evacuation will help put your mind at ease that you and your pet will stay safe. If your pet has been affected by smoke irritation, or you would like to have your pet microchipped, contact the team at Bayside Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment.