Many people who have pets understand that they quickly become part of the family. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand the importance of fire pet safety, in fact, it is mistakenly believed that pets will simply follow us out the door if there is danger. It is far more common for a pet to have a safe place within the home and go to that place when he or she is afraid. This means that, if there is a fire, an animal is more likely to stay in the house than to leave through an open door or window. Firefighters often find family pets in a burned home, frozen in their final moments. It’s important to make sure this does not happen to your pets.
1. Use a Pet Sticker on Your Home
Veterinary offices or fire departments often offer pet stickers for a home with pets. This is a simple sticker that simply says, “Save My Pet”, with an area to fill in the number of pets, type of pet, and pet name. The main reason pets die in fires is because they are missed by firefighters who don’t know the pet exists. If a homeowner is away and a fire happens, the firefighters will look for the pet when they arrive at the scene. It’s also a good idea to list your pet’s “safe place” so the firefighters know where to look for the animal. If there is not room on the sticker for all the information, add information on a separate sticker. Typically, a family can receive as many stickers as needed for the home, especially from the animal’s veterinarian.
2. Learn How to Pet Proof a Home
Just as a child must have a safe environment, so must an animal. Make sure all open flames are extinguished before leaving. An animal can easily knock over a candle and cause a fire to spread quickly. Train the pet to sleep in one specific area, such as a pet bed, so the animal can be picked up if you must leave quickly in a fire. Watch your pet when he or she gets scared of situations, and allow him or her to hide. This will reveal the pet’s “safe place”, and it will help you find him or her in an emergency. It will also help you tell the firefighters where to look. When the family practices fire drills, include the pet. Designate a person to grab each pet, and practice with the pet at least once a month. Keep the plan consistent and practice often. Remind the responsible person to look first in the animal’s bed, then in the animal’s safe place. If possible, keep the animal’s sleeping area close to the safe place, to avoid moving through too many areas of the burning home.
3. Treat Smoke Alarms Differently
It’s always wise to change the batteries in the smoke alarm twice a year, and make sure they work once a month. However, when dealing with pets, you must treat the smoke alarm as a source of fear. While humans understand that the smoke alarm is a source of safety, it will scare animals who don’t understand its purpose. Remember to care for it, make sure it works, and understand that when it goes off, your animal will retreat to his or her safe place. You may have to look for the animal in his or her bed, then in his or her safe spot. Again, if these areas are close to each other, the task will move faster.
4. Inquire About Pet Oxygen Masks
Veterinarians and emergency personnel have realized that smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide are as deadly to pest as it is to humans, despite the animal living closer to the ground. In response, a number of organizations are providing pet owners with oxygen masks specifically for an animal’s muzzle. It’s important to ask if the emergency personnel has this option for your pet as he or she is transported to the veterinarian’s office. The provided extra oxygen is just as important to your pet as it is to you, and it increases the pet’s chances of survival. If the local emergency departments do not carry this equipment, consider raising funds to help them get the equipment. Alternatively, keep a bag with the equipment inside near your escape route to grab on the way out of the building.
5. Understand Your Pet
It goes without saying that we love our pets and we know their personalities. However, it’s important to learn what your pet will do when he or she is frightened. It’s also important to remember that your pet is an animal of instinct. If he or she is safely outside the home, there is still a chance he or she will go back inside. The safe place mentioned before is all your pet will remember, and will return to that safe place if allowed. This means that, if he or she hides in the tub during a scary thunder storm, he or she will run back into the burning house to get into the tub, despite the danger. Make sure to hold your pet tightly to avoid this situation. Understand your pet, reassure your pet, and remember that he or she can feel your fear. Your pet will be as anxious as you are, so keeping him or her safe is an extra challenge in the face of a fire.
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Our practice is unique in that we provide medical care to multiple species in the greater Tucson area. Three of our veterinarians specialize in the care of dogs and cats and the other three veterinarians specialize in the care of horses and livestock.