Wednesday, October 23, 2013

NSW Bushfires - Caring for your pets during the fires

Picture: Wolter Peeters. Source
Smoke Inhalation:
Exposure to hot air and smoke will cause dehydration and will often damage your pets airways. If your pet is wheezing, coughing, or having difficulty breathing there is a high risk of developing pneumonia so if any of these signs are present owners should always have their pet examined by a veterinarian. Owners can minimise the risk by removing their pet from the smoky environment into fresh air where this is possible. Make sure your pet has access to cool water to drink as this will rehydrate them and will ease any irritation in the mouth or throat. Ice cubes are useful to cool the water. You pet should be kept in a calm and comfortable environment - confining your pet in a safe enclosed room of the house (for example a laundry or bathroom) is advised.

Transporting fire affected pets:
You pet should be confined preferably in a pet carrier. Air conditioning should be on as this will aid breathing. Make sure you have a supply of drinking water and a bowl in case you are held up along the way.

If you need to evacuate, take your animals to prearranged kennels or animal shelters outside the danger zone, or to family friends. If possible let your neighbours know about your evacuation plans and provide them with contact details.

If you need to leave your pet in the home for any reason ensure there is plenty of non-perishable food (for example dry food) and water in a spill proof container available. Make sure that your pet can access these easily. Put a notice in an obvious place saying that your pet is in the property.

If you are unable to leave (e.g. because of road blocks) a humidifier and/or fan can be used to provide moist, cool air to soothe your pet airways. If your pet is suffering from heat stress draping a loose, moist towel around the neck and across the back of your pet may also help. Be aware some animals will not tolerate this and if so do not do it as it will distress them further.

After the emergency:
Check your pets for any injuries and keep them indoors until you are satisfied the areas outside are safe. Dogs should be on a lead when they are allowed out to urinate or defecate.  Remove any hazards such as sharp objects, dangerous materials, live wires and contaminated water from around your house and yard prior to allowing pets outside off lead. Be aware that familiar areas and scents have changed which may confuse your pet causing some changes in its behaviour. Keep a close watch on your pet’s health and behaviour for the next few days and take them to your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

If your pet is lost:
Have the contact details for your local shelters, pound and veterinary practices handy and contact them daily.

For up to date information, please visit:

NSW Rural Fire Service:
RSPCA Animal Evacuation Points:
WIRES Wildlife Information:
Department of Primary Industries:

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