Speaking of Pets: Disaster Preparedness: Planning
It’s happening in California: disastrous wildfires. It will, inevitably happen here in Colorado, according to Vail Fire Chief Mark Novak.
Speaking of Pets
I talked about wildfire safety last year, but thought it was time to revisit the subject.
Have a Plan
Make sure you have an advance strategy for gathering important items and your animals, knowing how to get out of your house, identifying roadway escape routes, and designating someone to act as contact in case you get separated from your family.
Having both a human and canine “go bag” that you can grab instantly is critical. Your dog’s bag should include five days’ worth of food and water, medications or medication list, first-aid kit, your veterinarian’s contact information, a recent photo of your dog, and a familiar toy or blanket that will help your dog feel safe in a strange location.
Safeguarding Your Dog
Be sure your dog is wearing a collar with up-to-date ID tags, including the dog’s name and your cell and landline phone number. Just as importantly, get your dog microchipped: it’s inexpensive and painless, and will help reunite you if your dog ends up in a shelter.
Make paper or digital copies of your dog’s vaccination records—especially rabies—and include details of any acute medical conditions and prescription medications.
Put a “Save my Pet” sticker near the front door so that firefighters know there’s a pet inside. (I carry a similar card in my wallet telling emergency personnel that I have animals at home, in case I’m injured or unable to communicate.)
Remember that smoke from wildfires can be just as toxic to your dog as to you. Once you start smelling smoke, get your dog indoors and shut all the windows and doors. Avoid walks or extended time outdoors. Keep in mind that older dogs or those with cardiovascular or respiratory issues are at high risk of smoke irritation. If you notice continuous coughing or wheezing, difficulty breathing, nasal discharge, or eye irritation in your dog due to poor air quality, contact your veterinarian.
Next time, I’ll talk more about dealing with a disaster like a wildfire.
Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her golden retriever Joey and Maine coon cat Indy. She emphasizes that she’s not a veterinarian or animal behaviorist — just an animal lover who’s been writing about pets since 2012. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.