Pets and House Fires

Written on July 14, 2016 by Dr. Krista Vernaleken Hospital: Bulger Veterinary Hospital

Just like our human families, pets are susceptible to the dangers of house fires, like burns, smoke inhalation, and asphyxiation. Did you also know that some house fires are actually started by pets (accidentally, of course!)

Fire Prevention

Many of the general measures to prevent house fires will prevent pets from inadvertently starting a fire. If a candle is lit in my house, my super-clumsy and super-cute dog will happily knock it over for me. Don’t allow a pet to be unattended in the presence of an open flame – this includes fireplaces, candles, and stove-tops. firefightersYou just can’t assume that your pet will avoid the heat of a fireplace, fire pit, or other flame. Be very careful with smoldering ashtrays that a well-meaning pet might knock over. And don’t forget about space heaters – what may be a very safe device when operated appropriately is dangerous if knocked over. Use child-proof knobs or remove stove knobs, to avoid an eager and hungry pet from climbing onto the stove-top in search of a tasty snack and clicking on the stove.

Puppies and kittens may present a bigger challenge – they do like to chew on everything, including power cords. While this can be an immediate danger to them (electrocution) they can also damage cables just enough to trigger a fire. Keep those cables away from your puppy or kitten and check them regularly for tiny tooth marks.

Planning and Safety

If a fire should occur, protect your home and your pets with smoke detectors, and check and replace the batteries regularly. Get window stickers (some fire departments even provide these to you) to indicate how many pets you have to any rescuers. Nowadays, there are so many connected devices that you can even get wi-fi home monitoring systems that will send any smoke alerts to your smartphone and to local fire departments when you’re not there.

Lots of pets run around “naked” (without collars) in the house, but do consider that this makes it harder for firefighters to control pets. Consider keeping a collar on your pet, or at least hanging visibly near entrances to the home. For cats, having a carrier easily accessible rather than tucked into some basement is helpful. And knowing where your pets like to hide when they’re scared can also be helpful for fire fighters.Minolta DSC

For any pet present during a house fire, please bring them to be evaluated immediately. Injuries can be nonexistent, mild, or very serious, but early treatment with oxygen and other emergency measures can make the difference. 

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