Every summer we deal with the same threat: bushfires. They are just a fact of life. And if you have animals, being prepared for a bushfire involves extra planning. Remember, these fires can sweep through in a matter of minutes – when the threat is upon you it’s too late. Having a well-rehearsed plan and being prepared before they happen is the only way to ensure your entire family is safe, including the dog. Here are some tips to make sure your dog is safe during a bushfire.
Keeping your dog safe during a bushfire starts with pre-planning! Here are the things you need to have in place to evacuate quickly.
Have a pet emergency kit that includes first aid items, extra collar, leash, medicine your dog takes, enough food and water to last a few days at least, water and food bowls, towels/blanket, and any important vet records, including name and number of your vet.
Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with ID in case they run. Things can happen quick, and the sounds of sirens and helicopters can frighten some dogs enough that they run. Microchips are good as well, but not everyone knows to scan, so it’s good to have both to give your dog the best chance of getting home.
Having an extra crate that is ready to throw in the car is great too. This way, your dog will be secured and you don’t have to worry about them jumping out of the car and taking off out of fear when you open the door. During fire season, you may want to just keep the crate in the back of the car if you can, so it’s always ready to go.
Know where you can go. During an emergency, pet-friendly lodging may be hard to find. Know the places that are normally out of fire danger and keep the list in your pet emergency kit. Or, if you have family, make sure they are fine if you show up with your dog(s) in the case of an emergency.
If you are gone during the day, at work, etc. talk to neighbors about your pets – are they able to evacuate yours in case something happens while you are gone? They may not be able, but it’s good to check.
This type of pre-planning is good to have for any disaster, not just a bushfire. Being ready to leave with your pet and having the essentials on hand is always a good idea.
During Bushfire Season
Monitor the fires so you are ready to leave as soon as there is any danger. Leaving early helps you avoid the chaos of the firefighters, can be less stressful on your dog and helps ensures you find a pet-friendly place to stay before they fill up. You can hear updates on the radio or on your rural fire service website for your area.
Keep your dog close. They can sense danger before you can and may get agitated and frightened. Leaving them outside may cause them to run away or not come to you when it’s time to evacuate. Having them in the house near you will make it easier to have a quick departure. Providing a cover crate for them to retreat into, in a quiet and dark location, can help them relax.
Limit time outside. Even if your area has been deemed “safe,” the air quality can be significantly compromised during bushfire season. If authorities are warning about low air quality, limit how much time your dog spends outside. Short potty breaks and no long walks. Low air quality can cause coughing, sneezing, vomiting, loss of appetite, and inflammation of the eyes, mouth and airway. Puppies, sick and/or senior dogs, and brachycephalic dogs (pugs, bulldogs, etc.) are going to be more affected by low air quality.
Once evacuated and safe, check your dog for any signs that they may need vet attention: burns if they were outside, signs of air quality sickness or smoke inhalation.
Remember to practice your evacuation – you may be surprised at how long it takes you to pack up your family and your dog! Following these tips can help your entire family, including the dog, survive a bushfire or other emergency.