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  • Writer's pictureDr. Allie

Pet Tips for Wildfire Season

Fall is upon us in Southern California, and while we may have a

reprieve from the hundred degree temperatures of summer, the season

also brings with it the threat of wildfire. When preparing for an

emergency evacuation, we must not forget our four legged friends. Read

on to make sure your pets are prepared!


The single most important step in preparing for an emergency is proper

identification of your pets. In emergency situations, pets are at

higher risk of being separated from their owners. Sometimes owners are

not home when disaster strikes, or your animals may be evacuated to a

county shelter or evacuation center. Proper identification is crucial,

and multiple types of identification are recommended. The easiest

identification for most pets is to keep their collars or halters

updated with the pet’s name and owner’s contact information. With

horses and other livestock, placing duct tape on their hooves or in

their mane with owner’s contact information written in sharpie works

well too. There are also many reflective emergency identification

collars and leg bands available online for all species including dogs,

horses, and small livestock. Check out the EquestriSafe Website for

ideas. Remember that if your animals are evacuated to a shelter or

evacuation center, you must prove ownership to retrieve them. The best

way to do this is with a microchip. A microchip can be read by a

scanner that all shelters or veterinarians have, and identifies the

animal and their owner. Ownership can also be proven by vet records or

photos, so keep a copy of these in your emergency kit just in case.


Many of us have emergency kits prepared for ourselves and for our

human family members, but does yours contain important supplies for

your furry family members as well? As we saw after the Woolsey fire,

it is very possible to be evacuated from our homes, and have limited

access to necessities, for many days. It is important to have an

adequate supply of food and water for your animals for one to two

weeks. For dogs and cats, this means having extra canned or dry food

that they are used to eating. For horses and livestock, this means

having extra hay or pellets on hand. Water can become a big issue,

especially if utilities are cut off. Horses drink up to 10 gallons per

day, and dogs, depending on their size, can drink up to one to two

liters per day. If you have large animals, consider investing in water

barrels that store 50 gallons each. For small animals, having a few 3

or 5 gallon water jugs from the grocery store may be sufficient.

Having a “Go-Bag” that contains necessities packed and ready to go is

also a good idea. Consider making a “Pet Emergency Notification Card”

for each animal that has their info on it including pet’s name,

identifying markings, microchip, medical info, veterinarian info, and

emergency contacts. Keep a copy of these in your “Go-Bag” as well as

keeping copies in your home or barn.

“Go-Bag” Essentials:

Animal identification - metal tags, bands, collar, etc.

Collar/Leash, Halter/Lead Rope for each animal

Food and water bowls; Buckets

Important Medications - enough supply for at least 1-2 weeks

Pet First Aid Kit

Emergency Notification Card containing contact information, microchip

information, pertinent medical information at a glance

Photocopied veterinary records such as rabies certificate, proof of

vaccinations, prescriptions for medications, proof of ownership or

adoption, pet descriptions, microchip information

Recent photographs of each pet


Small litter box and bag of litter for cats

Water - enough for up to 1-2 weeks per pet

Food - enough for up to 1-2 weeks per pet, in waterproof containers

Manual can opener if needed

Crate/Kennel or Carrier with bedding


The question on everyone’s mind is always when to evacuate. In

general, if you have animals, it is a good idea to start the

evacuation process once an evacuation warning is issued, or sooner if

you are aware of a nearby wildfire. Animals can be unpredictable, and

can take time to catch, contain, and evacuate safely. Remember that if

you choose to wait, consider that smoke inhalation can be just as

dangerous and deadly as the fire itself. Smoky air contains

particulates that can cause a number of health problems when inhaled,

ranging from mild irritation to severe illness. Small particulate

matter is able to reach the deep airways of the lungs causing reduced

lung function, persistent cough, wheezing, and increased risk for

pneumonia. Carbon monoxide, which is produced by fire, particularly

smoldering fire, can be fatal. Remember, that even after the fire

passes, it takes many days to weeks for the air quality to recover, so

limit exercise while there is still smoke lingering in the air. Lung

damage from smoke inhalation, even mild, can take 4-6 weeks to heal,

so make sure to give your pets, and yourself, plenty of time to

recover before attempting exercise again.

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