As pet professionals, you can play a vital role in encouraging pet owners to consider how they will care for their pets during a bushfire state of emergency.
Certainly, it doesn’t mean a pet owner doesn’t love their pet if they haven’t considered what action they will take during a bushfire state of emergency — or any other natural disaster for that matter.
Often these are things we simply don’t think about. However, Australia’s recent and continuing bushfires should prompt a moment of reflection — for pet professionals and pet owners alike.
Have a conversation with your clients and customers about the importance of having a bushfire plan and ensuring it includes their pets.
“People living in bushfire zones will have planned ahead and will be prepared for such emergencies, but we can’t stress enough how critical it is that pets are also included in any emergency plans,” says Dr Julia Crawford, President of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA).
Bushfire planning for pets
With bushfires still raging across many parts of Australia, there’s no better time to discuss creating a bushfire plan.
Ask owners what they’ll do with their pets if they need to evacuate their home. Advise that it’s helpful to confine pets early, to avoid having to find them last minute. Plus, promote the fact that using a lead or pet carrier is the best way to keep pets safe.
If a client or customer has many animals, which they plan to move in the instance of a bushfire, remind them that the relocation must be done before the fires get close.
Planning ahead means knowing what locations will offer refuge for pets and humans (as some disaster rescue centres do not allow pets). Pet owners may need to make pre-arrangements with a friend or family member.
Cages and leads should be readily accessible and the pet’s identification should be up-to-date and on them at all times!
Encourage pet owners to draw up a list (if they haven’t already) of essential items for their pet. According to the Country Fire Authority (CFA) emergency kits for pets should include:
- Food and water
- Bowl for each pet
- Spare collar and lead
- A carrier for cats and smaller pets
- Bedding and a woollen blanket
- Pet first-aid kit
- Favourite toy
- Any medications the pet is taking
- A written list of the medications (in case they get lost)
- Pet’s medical history including proof of vaccination
- Vet’s contact details.
Advise on how to keep pets cool
While it’s imperative to know what to do with pets in an emergency, such as a bushfire, it’s also essential pet owners are made aware of how to care for their pets in extreme heat.
“It’s crucial to remember that our pets can’t perspire in the way humans do and produce only a tiny amount of sweat through their footpads. They cool themselves down by panting, but sometimes this isn’t enough, and they start to overheat,” says Dr Crawford.
Make sure pet owners know the signs of heatstroke and are aware that it can come on quickly. Symptoms of heatstroke include:
- Excessive panting
To assist their pet, owners can be advised of the following actions.
- Ensure pets have continuous access to fresh water
- Make sure they have shade or a cool area to lie in
- Place cool, damp towels or cloths on their body (ideally on the hair-free parts)
- Use cool water to wet dogs throughout the day
- Place ice cubes in their water
- NEVER leave pets in vehicles
Bushfire planning: useful tips
Here are a few additional tips and hints to help keep your customers and their pets safe.
- Make sure they are aware of any potential bushfire risks near them
- Suggest they contact their local RSPCA or Council office to find out the locations of animal refuges in the area
- Tune into the local radio for bushfire updates
- Encourage them to know when they will activate their bushfire plan (i.e. what is the trigger?)
- Advise them to download a bushfire survival guide